(a.k.a. Red Car Day at Chez la Vache!)
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Last Tuesday's post was about the still-beautiful 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner, which is in «Louis'» opinion, the most beautiful car ever built. Robert Bourke, the stylist of the Starliner, also designed the 1949 Studebaker trucks. Just as Studebaker was the first manufacturer to introduce an all-new car after World War II, Studebaker was the first with an all-new postwar truck. «Louis'» paternal grandfather had a '49 Studebaker truck, very similar to the one pictured below, blue with the red wheels, and often caked with mud from the fields. The one in the photo below appears to be a 3/4 ton model, while the Studebaker «Louis'» grandfather owned was the lighter-duty 1/2 ton model.
Studebaker's fresh new truck was a real step ahead of the competition in 1949. Sadly, Studebaker's fortunes began to decline shortly after this truck was introduced and Studebaker kept this body style through 1960 for the half-ton models and until the bitter end of their truck production in 1964 for the heavier-duty models.
(Yes, «Louis» used this photo last week when writing about the Studebaker Starliner...)
One memory «Louis» has of his grandfather's Studebaker truck is how it always reeked of cheap cigars. His grandfather loved to smoke Roi-Tan Cigars. His grandmother absolutely HATED this and refused to let him smoke in or near the farm house. So grandfather kept a box of cigars under the front seat of this Studebaker truck and, when the need for nicotine kicked in, he would drive out to the fields and light up. When he returned to the farm house, his clothes and hands retained the smell of the cheap cigars. He was fooling no one - least of all grandmother! She would get a whiff of the cigar from him and launch into a tirade about his smoking. But grandfather kept smoking and grandmother kept yelling! Nothing changed...
For the 1961 model year, someone at Studebaker got the bright idea that they could freshen the by now very aged pickup by fitting the body clip of the Studebaker Lark onto the pickup chassis. It was a clever idea and it worked! It gave Studebaker both a fresh-looking truck to sell - and a boost in pickup sales. The irony is that the Lark body shell dated to the 1953 Bourke-designed Studebakers and thus was already eight years old...
Studebaker trucks were rugged. In World War II, Studebaker built military trucks, many of which were shipped to Russia. In Russia, the Studebaker trucks proved rugged enough to stand up to the horrible Russian roads and winters. The Russians became so fond of the Studebakers that even today, the word "Studebaker" is synonymous with "truck" in the Russian language. Stalin sent a leather-bound volume of photographs of Studebaker trucks at work with the Red Army to Studebaker after the war as a "thank you" to Studebaker for supplying his army with such good trucks. (Something of a dubious honor given Stalin's murderous history...)