We’ve relished beating up on the poor Champ a couple of times here before, But every time I see one, especially from certain angles, I just have to stop and try to take in this Frankenstein of pickups again. And try to fathom why Studebaker thought they could still make these in volumes high enough to justify.
They were obviously banking on the Studebaker faithful, which was something more akin to a church than the average brand loyalty.
In case you’re still a Champ virgin, let’s review its challenged short life. It arrived in 1960, to replace the venerable R series, whose cab was now utterly outdated. Studebaker couldn’t afford a new cab, so they grafted on the Lark’s front body half. An expedient solution, and not really all that bizarre, considering that back before the war, it was quite common for a pickup to do that, given the pickup’s origins as essentially a body style variant and not a unique vehicle. The Champ’s bed was the same one from the R-Series.
By 1961, smooth-side wide beds were rapidly taking over the pickup market, and Studebaker wanted one. Once again, they couldn’t afford to make their own, so they bought the tooling for Dodge’s now-obsolete bed. And that bed was several inches wider than the Lark body; the resulting mismatch can be clearly seen here.
It’s so egregious, that at least one Studebaker acolyte did what the factory failed to do: narrow that Dodge bed to make it fit better. How hard would that have been in the first place?
Better, if not exactly perfection.
For what it’s worth, Champ sales had a decent start (for Studebaker) in 1960, but sales fell of the cliff starting in 1961. I’m not assuming the mismatched bed was the only reason, but it sure couldn’t have helped.
This is the best way to appreciate the Champ.
And appreciate it I do. I actually wrote up one and titled it “I’m a Chump For This Champ”. A long bed Champ would serve me very well indeed. And we all know I’m a chump.
Here’s some more reading on the Champ: