The Studebaker name has a rich history in transportation. Their first creations were utility wagons and carriages. By the mid 1860s, they became government contractors, building wagons for the Civil War and later the Spanish-American War. There is a sequence of fascinating invention and intrigue all along their eventful timeline.
In 1962, however, things were looking bleak. After the introduction of Studebaker's highly touted coupe, the Avanti, operations began to decline until, in 1963, the company would close its doors for good.
The last full year of production had three main segments in the trucking sector: pickups, large gas trucks, and large diesel trucks. Studebaker pickups in the 1940s-'50s were noted for their smooth flowing lines. The roof and fenders were generously curved. In 1960, a boxy redesign borrowed significant styling cues from the recently introduced Lark sedan. The new fascia on the Champ pickup series features a flat roof, trapezoidal grille insert, inboard turn signals, headlight eyebrows, wraparound windshield, and painted bumpers. Champ pickups were available in 1/2- or 3/4-ton configurations. Power came from a 170-cubic-inch, 110-hp I-6 as standard, but V-8 options were also available. The 1962 press materials state:
"The Studebaker Champ combines a comfortable, attractively styled cab with the functional strength of a solidly built, rugged truck. The sturdy frame assures long life, cargo-carrying dependability."
The larger trucks continued to offer the old styling with an option of gas or diesel operation. The gas engines used in the Transtar trucks were V-8s in either 259- or 289-cubic-inch displacements with a maximum output of 210 hp at 4500 rpm. The Series 53 four-cylinder diesel engines were supplied by GM's Detroit Diesel plant and produced 130 hp at 2800 rpm with 271 lb-ft of torque at 1500 rpm.
At the same time these trucks were produced, Studebaker's automotive unit became synonymous with speed and grace, thanks to the Avanti's land-speed records. The trucks, however, were not best-sellers. In the early '60s, Studebaker production numbers were less than half of rival Willys.
Today, the sleek pickups have a small but devout following. They appear occasionally at car shows and more often at vintage truck events.