Curbside Classic: 1963 Studebaker Champ Long Bed Pickup – I’m a Chump for This Champ

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. I’ve had my fun with the Champ, suggesting one of the stepside versions be turned into a horse-drawn wagon, and calling another one out for “The Most Ill-Fitting Bed Ever”.  But that second one was from the Cohort, and it had the short 6.5′ bed. Then this summer I found myself walking around a neighborhood in Portland one evening, and I stumbled into this Champ with the 8′ bed. And a light went on! This is a Studebaker I could really use, and even want. I have a thing about big, wide 8′ beds but short, compact front ends, even if the combination ends up looking a bit unbalanced. But so am I.

So is this the most compact 8′ bed wideside bed pickup ever?

Some years back I wrote that the only pickup I could see replacing my ’66 F100 if something were to befall it was a Toyota T100. And with the four cylinder, at that. I now need to amend that: I’d be thrilled to replace my truck with this Champ if the need or opportunity arose. It’s perfect for me.

As an aside, can anyone find the overall length of the Champ with 8′ bed? I can’t. I’d love to know how it compares to the T100. I’m guessing they’re pretty close, but I suspect the Toyota is wee bit shorter. But these two have to be the two most compact conventional cab trucks to pack a full wide-body 8′ bed.

Yeah, the borrowed Dodge bed is ill-fitting, sticking out a couple of inches on either side. That works for me, as some of my clothes are just as ill-fitting. Who gives a damn? Is anyone even going to notice? They’ll be too focused on the odd cab up there. How many would even recognize what it is these days?

I guess they would from the back. But then how many folks under the age of about 50 know what a Studebaker is? Or was? Studebaker? Now if I were to paint “Toyota” in big white letters on the tailgate, folks would just nod and smile, instead of…look puzzled.

I’m going to assume I fit pretty well in this Lark-derived cab. The Lark was just a cut-down regular Studebaker, so it’s got to have adequate leg room. And the width os ok too, as I rarely have a passenger except for the dog. But then it’s been a mighty long time since I was in a Lark.

I see this one has the four speed unit, which invariably has a super-low first. In other words, a three-speed and a stump puller. I’ll take a regular three-speed and overdrive, thank you, which offers five nicely-spaced gears including an overdrive for the highway.

I’m a fan of big sixes, but after 1960 the Champ had the little 169.6 CID Studebaker ohv six, which never quite escaped its rep for cracking heads, never mind the modest torque. That malady happened because it was an ohv conversion of the old Champion flathead six, which of course had a small bore and long stroke. That meant that the two valves in the new head were too close to each other, hence the cracking.

I’d rather have the venerable 245 CID  flathead six in my Champ, but that was only available in its first year (1960), before the wide beds came along in 1962. Can’t be that hard to swap one in though. But I might be able to develop a love affair with the Stude V8, which was available in either the 259 or 289 versions. Put some dual exhausts on it and enjoy its burble. And decent power, with the 289.

This is the business end, and it’s certainly up to the jobs I would use it for: hauling dirt, compost, gravel and junk to the dump. I like that beefy bumper too, which my Ford lacks. And note the sliding glass rear window; that was a first by Studebaker, and would soon become very popular on American pickups. That might come in handy, although I’m not sure just how or when without a topper.

I’ve long pondered what would be the right Studebaker for me: ’59 Lark coupe, ’53 Starliner coupe, Avanti, ’64 Daytona. I’ve loved them all. But ponder no more; this is the one for me. At least for the moment.