Studebaker’s roots trace well back before the days of the automobile. The South Bend, Indiana firm got its start way back in 1852 building horse-drawn wagons and carts. Thanks to its superior quality, the Studebaker brand became a trusted and well respected marque all across America, which made their transition to automobile manufacture in 1902 a relatively smooth one. Initially, they formed partnerships with other manufacturers which were sold out of Studebaker showrooms, but quality problems arose and in order to protect their hard-earned reputation, Studebaker eventually took over all aspects of car production in 1912. Early Studebaker cars and light trucks quickly picked up with the wagons left off – and remained well regarded as high quality machines that were designed and built to last.
Studebaker had the jump on both GM and Ford by a solid 20 years when they introduced the Coupe Express to the market in 1937. When enthusiasts think of the origins of car-based “Ute” pickups, the first thought is often the Ford Ranchero of 1957 or the Chevrolet El Camino which truly popularized the concept in America. But it was Studebaker who paved the way in America. The handsome Coupe Express utility pickup was based on the six-cylinder 5A Dictator chassis, and shared its front-end sheetmetal with the passenger car. A new panel was made to enclose the cab and a robust 16 gauge, double-wall, all steel pickup bed was fitted out back. A single sidemount spare wheel kept the bed open for cargo. The styling was sleek and swoopy, with a bit of a factory hot-rod look about it. Combining car-like comfort with a ½ ton capacity truck, the Coupe Express was a novel idea for the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well received by buyers and just over 5,000 examples were built over three years, with 3,125 built in 1937.
The 1937 Coupe Express presented here is a fantastic example of this rare and supremely cool Studebaker. It is very well presented having been treated to a high-quality, well documented, nut and bolt restoration in 1994, and it includes a veritable bed load of trophies and awards to back up its quality. It is finished in original Studebaker gray with gray painted wheels, proper blackwall tires, and a subtle red pinstripe around the beltline. Paint quality is very good, remaining straight and very clean since the restoration was completed. Chrome trim is also excellent, and it wears a proper side-mount spare tire with color-matched cover on the passenger side. The interior has been fully restored to a high standard in gray leather which is believed to be a rare factory option. It has clearly seen only minimal use since the restoration, and remains in beautiful condition, just barely showing signs of break in on the leather.
The engine, a 218 cubic inch L-head inline six, presents nicely in the tidy and clean engine bay. Some wear is evident in a few spots, but overall presentation is top quality. The engine is mated to a 3-speed transmission and feeds power through a stout 4.55:1 rear axle. The undercarriage has been restored to the same standard as the rest of this fine truck, and remains in wonderful order today.
Extensive documents are included in the sale, including restoration receipts, awards, ribbons and trophies, club regalia and photos of the restoration. This delightful truck was clearly owned by a proud and passionate enthusiast. With the Coupe Express, Studebaker successfully blended an unusual mixture of art-deco styling and pickup truck utility into what has become a very cool and highly desirable package.