Since a number of you expressed that you’d never seen a Studebaker pickup before, here’s the version that replaced the one in the CC the other day. Obviously, the new-for 1960 Champ used the Lark’s front half, and the rear half was courtesy of Dodge, beginning with the 1961 model. The first year 1960 still used the previous generation’s stepside bed. Which of course explains why the two don’t exactly match up. But when you’re Studebaker, and things aren’t exactly looking rosy, you do what needs to be done, until you don’t anymore. And the result was an obvious mis-match. But this example doesn’t show that so much. There’s something odd going on here…
This one’s bed does not stick out on the sides past the cab like it should. Here’s a couple of pictures of how they originally looked:
It’s all-too obvious even in their ads.
And in this shot. So has the one that ggh06 shot and posted at the cohort been the beneficiary of some expensive cosmetic surgery? I can’t help but to assume so. Oh, the price of vanity!
I can definitely see some cosmetic surgery above the bed’s beltline from the rear 3/4 view. I think it’s an improvement. In the day, I may have bought one (being the underdog truck) . . . . of course, in the day, I was four years old !!! I like Champ trucks!
Rossi Studebaker used to be in downtown San Rafael and as a four-five year old tyke, I do recall seeing a few of these running around Marin. Rossi also sold Mercedes-Benz . . . . . the evolved into R.A.B. Motors and continues to this day as a very successful Benz dealership . . . .
Obviously it did. And it’s an obvious improvement.
Of course, the box is now not-standard-size width. With a CC, that doesn’t matter; but in its day, it would probably have greatly compromised usefulness.
QUESTION: Why didn’t Studleybaker just use the rear-quarter stampings off its two-door Lark wagon and fashion a box out of THAT? Cripes, they could have hanged the stampings on the side of a widened stepside box! So easy…so cheap…probably less time than begging Dodge to sell them boxes!
Doubt the Lark wagon panels would have been anywhere near long enough
The folks at Hot Wheels and/or Johnny Lightning (they probably use the same stamping) took care of the mis-match; I don’t think you’ll find any die cast Champs that look as awkward as the real thing.
You’re right. I did a Mini CC on the JL Studebaker Champ camper, and its bed is much better integrated than the real thing: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/miniature-curbside-classic-vw-and-studebaker-campers/
I recall reading that the Dodge-sourced box was actually purchased from an outside supplier, and was actually not available until the 61 model. I believe that the 60 Champ still used the old Stude narrow cargo box.. It was an obsolete part for Dodge, which had gone to a new design itself for 1961.
I agree that this one has been narrowed. The rear tires seem to stick out from the fenderwells just a bit, which messes up the look for me. I wonder why the guy bothered. It’s not like the thing is suddenly beautiful now. It is sort of like a jet-black hairpiece on a paunchy 60 year old – dude, you looked fine before. Not an improvement.
Ahhhh – a week full of Studes and Mopars – I’m in Heaven. 🙂
“The rear tires seem to stick out from the fenderwells just a bit, which messes up the look for me. I wonder why the guy bothered. It’s not like the thing is suddenly beautiful now.”
From the photo, to my eye…it gives the illusion of wide wheels.
It may well look flaky in person; but that was my thought looking at the rear-quarter-angle shot.
It does seem a bit of work for minimal, nebulous returns. A custom box following the body-stamping line would be a better effort…maybe even keeping the crude gate with STUDEBAKER stamped on it, just for atmosphere…
At least they did not narrow it so much that the tailgate just said STUDBAKER. 🙂
Remember the thread about custom-named cars with removable chrome letters? Think of what a disgruntled Studebaker owner could do with T, U, R, D and B, A, K, E, D.
Much better with the old style step-side box than this- even though they narrowed it the curvature still doesn’t match.
OK, I thought there was something a little odd going on there, but I’m not familar enough with the model to have sussed it out. The other telltale is that the rear wheels stick out past the fender cutouts (eta: ninja’d by jpcavanaugh). It doesn’t appear the tires are much wider than usual, so yeah, the bed’s been narrowed somehow. Good catch.
Count me as another one who’s flabbergasted that Studebaker couldn’t justify the apparently enormous cost of designing and building…a square metal box. Jeepers.
As a lover of all things Studebaker, even I wonder about the thought processes of Studebaker’s management team. They may have had a reason for doing certain things at the time, but in the twenty-first century, there are many of us wondering about their decisions. It seems like a majority of the time, poor decisions were made.
Don’t you worry none; all those bad decisions…ALL of them…were made deliberately and with the eye on the end result.
It was a deliberate attempt to sabotage and destroy the Studebaker automobile business. To get rid of the dealers; the dealers being the potential litigants when Studebaker management did what it so-badly wanted to do, close the doors and focus on being a small conglomerate or investment pool.
Want proof? When the UAW contract expired in South Bend, there WERE no talks. Just an announcement that when the contract was done, so was the plant.
Canadian operations general manager Gordon Grundy insistently, repeatedly reported to the board that his plant could turn a profit on an existing model with a miniscule breakeven point of 30,000 cars. Yet it took advice from their legal department to convince the Studebaker board to even try.
And when, with poor sales, Grundy suggested to Chairman Byers Burlingame that perhaps, maybe, Studebaker ought to recruit more DEALERS…Burlingame wrote back a scathing NastyGram.
In 1966, Grundy asked for a few hundred thousand dollars so that his millwrights could cobble together a minor facelift on the 1967 models. By then there was no Styling Department; and the Engineering Department was a couple of guys trying to find which Big Three component could be used where with minimal cost.
The board received Grundy’s request with the announcement there would BE no 1967 models. Two weeks later the order was given: CLOSE.
Studebaker became a shallow-pocketed conglomerate of yard-tractors, engine-oil additives, water pumps and an obsolete locomotive line. It was a minnow swimming with sharks and was soon swallowed up.
Ha, nice summary. By the way, the Canadian plant finally got demolished in the last few months. I should update my CC on that.
Personally I think the truck looks worse with the modification, the wheels look wonky now and spoils the intentionally gloriously ugly look of the original artists vision…
I would argue that this issue of the pickup box for the Champ actually took place during the tail end of Harold Churchill’s era. In the late 50s, I think that Studebaker management still very much wanted to make it in the auto business, but were fighting some serious financial headwinds. The Lark program was fairly aggressive, and was moderately successful, at least early on. The Champ was probably on the drawing board in 1959. They probably did not have the money to do a fresh pickup box design, especially with the anticipated low volume. I do not believe that Stude had a full-width pickup box before the 61 Champ, so any new part would be clean sheet.
I would guess that the supplier of the Dodge boxes could make a heckuva deal. It got to continue production of a part that had long since been paid off, and was probably also selling some to Dodge for crash parts inventory. I think that the conclusion was that good enough would have to be good enough, and it was a lot more modern looking than the truck with the old 1950s box.
I believe that your narrative picked up around mid 1960 when the Detroit compacts hit the market and smacked the Lark upside the head in sales. At that point, they probably figured that things would not end well.
Even beyond that, you had Sherwood Egbert, the guy hired TO wind down the Studebaker auto division, suddenly becoming a born-again pistonhead. So you had violent combat right in the boardroom…Egbert wanting the Avanti, wanting it YESTERDAY…superchargers on the Larks; more halo, more flash, more sass…and the board just wanting to sit there and count the pennies they made from Gravely and STP.
Since the Champ came out in, I believe, 1960 with a Stepside box…the Dodge box was an afterthought. A year is long enough to put a stamping on the side of a pickup box, dontcha think?
But just new stampings on the side of the old narrow box would have been worse than useless. Sure, it would have looked stylish, but inside of the hugely thick bed walls, would have been the old skinny payload area. They already had an old narrow box for free. What they needed was a “modern” full-width box with its increased payload area. This is what the Dodge box accomplished.
Are you kidding? Stude couldn’t afford to build and stamp their own side box dies? Now THAT’S desperation!
Too bad, for it could have been so much better-looking than even the sort-of-corrected top photo.
The 1974 “coffin nose” AMC Matador/Ambassador sedans and wagons were conceived under similar circumstances. AMC could afford to tool for (two) new hoods, but not two new sets of fenders.
Sure, AMC could have just dropped the Ambassador after ’73 and given the Matador a non-stupid front end, but AMC and Studebaker didn’t get to where they ended up by making lots of shrewd financial decisions…
While narrowing a box wouldn’t be too horrible at for body fabrication I would have thought just fitting a nice step side box would have yielded a better result. It would have matched the curvy lines of the front much better.
I don’t know. I suppose it depends on how far someone wanted to go with the project. Taking out a section of the pickup box at the front would be tough enough. The question is, do you want to keep the box the same width at both the front and rear to keep the proportions right?
If so, then there’s going to be an issue with the tailgate. Taking out an equivalent big chunk from the middle of the tailgate would result in the stamped lettering not being spaced correctly (even completely omitting a letter or two).
That means that the tailgate’s width needs to be narrowed by taking an equal amount of metal from the sides, instead, then smoothing the edges and re-welding the hooks for the clasps/latches.
In all, it’s a pretty major project for a vehicle that would only be worth a fraction of all the expense and effort expended.
Here is a quick and dirty edit to show the step side box
Or, what they actually offered in 1960:
This picture gives the Champ a really frog-like stance.
Don’t speak ill of the dead. I would still let someone talk me into taking this. I always thought Stude was a really good company. The hawks with the blown v8’s IIRC were about the warmest setup there was. There was one old guy that raced a 51-289 with a double turbo until he ran off the track a couple years ago. Commenter above has it right though. It was a suicide.
That would be Ted Harbit and the Chicken Hawk. Ted’s actually pretty young for an old guy!
Say what you will about the mismatched front and rear, but you have to admit the Lark made a more handsome truck than car.
And the big blooper here was probably, in that the Avanti Motor Company, which had gotten the rights to the Champ truck…chose not to manufacture it.
They had the tools; even the frames, stockpiled. The frame supply was more than the total Avanti II sales to its end. Had they resurrected the curious truck…perhaps it could have been the basis for a resurrected Studebaker. Especially after Studebaker Canada said the hell with it.
I actually like the Champ with the mismatched box and were I shopping for a Studebaker pickup I would actually choose it over the older models. Now does anybody know if they did a 4×4 version, or should I brush up my college French and start looking for a Dangel converted Peugeot?
Back in 1988, while spending a couple of days in Hannibal, Mo., I came across one of these; it was in immaculate condition. I had never seen one before, and I had never seen one since-until now.
The only one I’ve ever seen in person was on the side if the road last year outside of Reading, PA. It looked immaculate except for the fact that it had broken down. I hope it was a minor problem.
Not only does this tailgate appear to have been narrowed by trimming the sides it also looks to have been tack-welded into place. Look closely at the right side where it meets the box, and also note the absence of chains and hooks to secure it.
The bed on the pictured Champ appears to be a 1965 Champ bed, which was more fitted to the Champ’s cab. The 1965 Champ was an export-only model, sent to South America as a knocked-down kit, requiring final/re-assembly. To my knowledge, the only other body-level difference between the export-only ’65 model and the original Champs was the grille, instead of horizontal bars, it used a wire-mesh grille with several vertical, not horizontal bars.
So, the Hot Wheels die-cast version of the Champ looks more like the export model while the Johnny Lightning die-cast version looks more the like the domestically sold Champ models.
One of my future projects is cutting off the bed of a Johnny Lightning Champ and affixing it to the narrow bed from a Cast Line/M-2 50’s model to depict the 1959 Champ. The Cast Line/M-2 cab is a standalone shell, thus allowing many custom variations of the original model. I am planning on several such variations, including a semi-rig, a fire pumper, a grain hauler, a box truck, heavy wrecker and a short bed dumper. Note that the wheel wells require grinding out to fit the larger ‘big-rig’ style wheels. In reality, Studebaker mated a different fender to the cab for its medium duty truck line.