Vintage Truck: 1962 – 1964 Studebaker Big Diesel Trucks – Extreme Rarities

This vintage shot of a big Studebaker diesel semi truck is rare, the only one I could find. This is one of the lowest production big diesel trucks ever. There’s no readily available production breakouts of the various weight classes of Studebaker diesel trucks, since they also offered a smaller version on 1 – 1.5 ton trucks, but total production for all sizes was only 702, from 1962 through 1964.

Studebaker was a pioneer in offering diesel engines in these size classes, as they had been the province mostly of the really large HD trucks. This move was part of new CEO Sherwood Egbert’s attempt to find niches in the market that Studebaker could exploit. Diesels in HD trucks had become quite common by 1961, but not so medium and smaller trucks. Egbert thought the time was right, and GM had the relatively compact -53 series of two-stroke Detroit Diesels that would fit; the 4-53 in the 2+ ton trucks, and the 3-53 for the 1 – 1.5 ton trucks.

We’re going to focus on the larger units, which had a GCW (Gross Combined Weight) rating of 42,000 lbs. They initially came in this Transtar version, with the same basic front end as the gas powered units.

In order to meet overall length restrictions when hauling a 40′ semi trailer, in 1963 Studebaker offered this 96BBC option, with a snubbed nose.

The “baby” DD 4-53 still weighed some 1,100 lbs. With 212 cubic inches (from a 3.875 x 4.50 bore and stroke), it was rated for 130 gross horsepower at 2800 rpm and 271 lbs-ft at 1500 rpm. Compression ratio was 17:1. Considering the 42,000 combined gross weight, gearing is paramount. The primary transmission was typically a 5-speed, and then there was either a three-speed auxiliary, or a two speed rear axle. Keeping the little DD in its power band required deft shifting.

Here’s another rare vintage shot of one working as a “goat” rig at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.