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1958 Studebaker Transtar 3E6D 4x4 - Backward Glances

Posted in Features on March 11, 2015
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Photographers: Jim Allen Collection

Say “Studebaker” in a group of modern four-wheelers and everyone will know the name. A few can name some of the better-known Studebaker cars and most will recall that Studebaker built trucks. Fewer will know they had a four-wheel-drive option.

Studebaker entered the motor vehicle business in 1902, after 50 years building horse-drawn wagons and tack. Horse-drawn equipment would remain the core of the Studebaker Company until after World War I when the motor age became the focus and it became an auto-industry “Big Deal.” Studebaker built all-wheel-drive military trucks for World War II, along with the legendary M-29C Weasel.

By the late ’50s, Studebaker was fading fast but was still marketing a full line of car and truck models. Always looking toward increasing market, Studebaker partnered with NAPCO (Northwestern Auto Parts Company) of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to offer four-wheel-drive in its light trucks. As far back as 1951, NAPCO had been offering four-wheel-drive conversion kits for several makes of trucks. By the late 1950s, Chevrolet and GMC were probably its biggest customers but NAPCO was happy to have Studebaker’s business and the 4x4 kits were installed on the assembly line. Dealers could order crated kits to be installed locally at their service department on suitable 4x2 Studebaker trucks.

The long wheelbase 1⁄2- and 3⁄4-ton trucks sat on a 122-inch wheelbase and had an 8-foot bed. The bed was a little wider than most of the stepside-type beds of the day and Studebaker advertised that as a bonus. Though only a 1⁄2-ton, this truck has a generous payload of over 1,500 pounds. The rear springs were progressive and delivered a decent ride for a truck of the era but still offered a good payload capacity. This rear bumper is incorrect. The original style is similar but narrower.

The Studebaker 4x4s were announced July 1957 and went on sale late in the year as ’58 models. The first was built October 1957 as an engineering test unit and still exists in a private collection. Production 4x4s began rolling off the line during December 1957 according to orders received, which was not many. Studebaker was not building or selling many trucks and only a small percentage were 4x4s. In fact, for the ’58 model, a total of only 147 4x4 Transtar trucks were built, 93 of those going overseas. Only 6,504 Studebaker trucks of all types were produced for that year, just over 1,900 of them for export.

For ’58s, the four-wheel-drive option was available on short (112 inches) and long (122 inches) wheelbase 1⁄2-ton, 3⁄4-ton and 1-ton trucks (131-inch wheelbase with a 9-foot bed). The trucks came in chassis cab, pickup, platform and platform stake configurations with the choice of a standard 245ci L-head “Work Star” six or a 259ci “Power Star” V-8. The only transmission offered for the 4x4s was a four-speed Warner Gear T-98A. A divorced Spicer 23 transfer case split power to a Dana 44 front axle (converted by NAPCO for the Studebaker application), a semi-float, tapered axle Dana 44 rear for the 1⁄2-tons and a Dana 60 full-float for the 3⁄4-ton. The 1⁄2-tons, short or long wheelbase, had a 5,400-pound GVW and the 3⁄4-tons were rated 7,400 pounds. The 1-ton 4x4s had a 9,400-pound GVW.

It’s a 289ci V-8. No, not the Blue Oval one but the other 289 from Studebaker that predated Ford by several years. This is not the original engine for this truck, the original 106hp, 245ci six having been swapped out in the 1970s by the third owner. The 289 was available in the larger trucks for ’58 but the standard V-8 was the similar 259ci engine, which had the same bore but a shorter stroke (3.25 versus 3.625 inches). The power difference was 182 gross horsepower compared to 210 hp. For ’59, the 289 was optional in the light trucks and a four-barrel version could be ordered that produced 225 hp.

The E-series trucks debuted in 1955, with the Transtar name coming in 1956. Studebaker nomenclature of the time gives you a pretty good way to decode the truck. For ’58, a four or five element prefix was used in front of the sequential serial number. The first digit indicated the series year after the start of the E-line and ’58 was the third year after so was a 3. This was not absolute because both ’57 and ’58 trucks are “3E” and ’59 and some ’60 trucks are “4E” The second element was the series and “E” was the series all the way through for the 4x4s. The third element was the engine and weight class. For ’58 4x4s, 6 was a six-cylinder 1⁄2-ton, 7 was a V-8 1⁄2-ton, 11 was a six-cylinder 3/4-ton, 12 was a V-8 3⁄4-ton, 13 was a six-cylinder 1-ton, and 14 was a V-8 1-ton. The last element, “D” indicated four-wheel drive.

The 1958 Transtar 3E6D truck you see here belongs to Daryl Lahr, a well-known Studebaker restorer and expert who found it in Oregon in 1988, restored it in 1991, and placed it on display in the National Automotive and Truck Museum (NATMUS) in 1994. Built on July 15, 1958, the truck was shipped to the Studebaker distributor in The Dalles, Oregon. It had three more owners after that, including Daryl.

After World War II, Studebaker had struggled to breathe in a market where the Big Three were increasingly sucking up all the oxygen. After attempting to start the ’64 model year, Studebaker’s finally quit operations in the United States on December 20, 1963. Truck production stopped in 1963 as well. Studebaker continued to build cars in its Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, plant into 1966, and sales were decent in Canada but not quite enough to keep the company going. All told, only 358 4x4 trucks were built by Studebaker. From 1960, only a handful was done on with the 1-ton chassis. They are one of the rarest collectible 4x4 trucks out there.

Special thanks to Frank Drumheller, Malcolm Berry and Phil Harris for the quick research work.

You can find this truck, along many other fascinating 4x4s, trucks, and cars at the National Auto and Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana. It’s in the old Auburn/Cord factory and right behind the Auburn Cord Deusenberg Museum. Auburn is just north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and right off Interstate 69. Last year, it completed this exterior display of a vintage Gulf Station. fw

The Details
Vehicle: 1958 Studebaker 3E6D 4x4 Truck
Owner: Daryl Lahr
Estimated value: $15-20,000
Engine: 245ci Work Star Six (289ci Torque Star V-8 current)
Power (hp): 106 @ 3,400 rpm (182 @ 4,000 rpm current)
Torque (lb-ft): 204 @ 1,400 (288 @ 2,600 current)
Bore & stroke (in): 3.31 x 4.75 (3.56 x 3.625 current)
Comp. ratio: 7.5:1 (original and current)
Transmission: 4-spd manual, Warner T-98A
Transfer case: 2-spd, Spicer 23
Front axle: Spicer-NAPCO 44F
Rear axle: Dana 44-1
Axle ratio: 4.89:1
Tires: 6.50-16 6-ply
L x W x H (in): 193x75.6x 78.25
Wheelbase (in): 122
GVW (lbs): 5,400
Curb weight (lbs): 3,660
Fuel capacity (gal): 18

PhotosView Slideshow

Special Thanks To:
National Auto and Truck Museum
Auburn, Indiana
natmus.org

Fairborn Studebaker
937/878-1576, fairbornstudebaker.com

Studebaker International
317/462-3124, studebaker-intl.com

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