by: James May
Studebaker had a long and honorable history as a trans porter of goods. From 1852 onward the company was a major mover on the North American continent. Whether it was the US Civil War, where Studebaker supplied wagons and buggies to the Union Army or getting pioneers across the prairies to the west coast in famed Conestoga wagons, Studebaker was there.
While the emphasis was on passenger cars, trucks were always part of the corporate lineup. As early as 1902 Studebaker offered a range of delivery vans ranging from a half-ton to two-ton models. By 1905 the company had developed five-ton electric tracks. These early models had a motor at each wheel. Gasoline Studebaker trucks were available in 1904. The Everitt-Metzger-Flanders concern was folded into Studebaker in 1911. Since E-M-F was building trucks, those models became part of Studebaker. Also that year Studebaker purchased an empty Ford plant in Detroit and all vehicles were built there until November of 1918.
In 1913 Studebaker introduced an engine governor that "will insure the owner against the evils of high speeds." Nineteen thirteen was al
so the first year that Studebaker used the word "pickup" to describe its trucks. Studebaker was first to offer its services to the US government when that country finally entered World War One in 1917. While many horse drawn vehicles were ordered, not a single motorized Studebaker was used in combat.
Studebaker trucks were dependable and reliable. With the purchase of pierce-Arrow in 1928 there were S.P.A. Trucks (Studebaker & Pierce-Arrow) beginning in 1930. In 1932 Pierce-Arrow was sold off, ending that venture. Another historical first, the stylish Express Coupe was offered in 1937.
Using sheetmetal from the Dictator passenger car, the lovely truck was a head turner. Two decades later Ford would dust off Studebaker's concept for its Ranchero. The rugged M series trucks came on stream in 1941 and some 200,000 specially designed Studebaker 6x4 and 6x6 vehicles served in World War Two.
The 1949 Studebaker truck line was all new to look at. Although Raymond Loewy was the corporate design head, in-house stylist Bob Bourke was responsible for the smooth, rounded lines and the massive flat-faced grille of the 2R series. Chief truck engineer Russell MacKenzie was responsible for the specifications. The powerplant was still the reliable side-valve six-cylinder engine.
The trucks were available in numerous configurations. Pickups could be half-ton, three-quarter ton, and one-ton, with eight-foot beds for the big boys. There were grain stock rack, closed van, three-cubic yard dump trucks, 12-foot platform, refrigeration van, tanker and bottler bodies. Trucks were built in their own plant on Chippewa Avenue in South Bend, Indiana. The factory was war surplus and sold to Studebaker for $3.6 million in 1948. - CTS