Folks either know about Studebakers or they don't. The old guys-the real old guys-say Studebakers haven't been any good since they took the tongue out. For those of you who don't get it, the expression refers to the tongue in a horse-drawn wagon.
The origin of Studebaker pickups can be traced back to 1852 in Placerville, California, where John Mohler Studebaker sold his first wheelbarrow. John's device looked like a wood-floored pickup bed on two wheels with no engine. In 1858 "Wheelbarrow" Johnny sold his manufacturing business and joined his brothers in South Bend, Indiana, to build wagons for the U.S. Army. By the end of the Civil War, the Studebaker brothers had become multimillionaires, and Studebaker was the world's dominant name in horse-drawn vehicles. By 1870, John's youngest brother, Jacob Franklin Studebaker, had established the world's first Studebaker dealership in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Our story about St. Joe resident Dwight Hamann's 1949 Studebaker pickup begins 155 years later.
While driving through the outskirts of St. Joe, Dwight spotted the Studebaker pickup abandoned in a field. Its second owner parked the Stude there in '70 after driving it since '57. Dwight paid the guy $200 and hauled it away-after removing a big tree that had grown up between the frame and engine, that is.
Dwight started the project by grafting a '70 Nova subframe onto the truck's nose and stuffing a 402-inch Chevy big-block engine into it. Dwight told us "life gets in the way," so his progress on the truck didn't always move as fast as he would have liked it to. Dwight was kicking around a lot of the '49 Stude's major components for a project like this. The pickup's Ford nine-inch rearend is from a '69 Cougar Dwight stripped several years ago. For rear disc brakes, he robbed a set from an 8.8-inch Ford Explorer rearend and hogged them out to fit.
Dwight originally ran a TH350 behind his "rat" motor until the 350 snapped in half while shifting into high. Not wishing to continue snapping trannies into halves, Dwight upgraded to a beefed 200R four-speed auto from Pro-Street Transmissions in Independence, Missouri.
Dwight's 402-inch big-block engine was running in a '68 Camaro. Long story short, someone wanted the Camaro, but Dwight didn't want to part with his trusty 402. He yanked the motor out and shelved it until the Studebaker came along. The "rat" motor was kind of tired, so before he could drop it in the Studebaker, he had to rebuild it. Dwight hauled his core motor up to Leaverton's Auto Supply in St. Joe, where the block was hot-tanked and bored to 0.30-over for a set of 9.75:1 Keith Black pistons fitted with Sealed Power rings. Cam bearings were knocked in, readying it for Steve Schott to slip in a Lunati bumpstick with a 544 lift and 230 duration. The cylinder heads were plugged with triangle-cut stainless steel valves, with a Power Plus intake manifold gapping the intake valley. For carburetion, the Studebaker uses a 780-cfm Holley with a K&N filter. Jet-Hot coated Dynomax headers dump into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers.
From its '46 Ford front bumper...
From its '46 Ford front bumper back Dwight's '49 is so fine.
A brand-new reproduction Studebaker...
A brand-new reproduction Studebaker tailgate from Mac Tool & Die of Moberly, MO, splits up a pair of '93 Caddy taillights. Dwight incorporated a hidden hitch into the custom roll pan.
Steve Schott built the '49's...
Steve Schott built the '49's Lunati-cammed 402-inch big-block Chevy. The oil pan holds six quarts. The A/C compressor is a fully polished Sanden 508.
Dwight does auto body and paint work for a living. The average person might think Dwight's color choice was an easy decision. In reality, that wasn't the case. Dwight sprayed everything from orange, to red, to green on beat-up Studebaker fenders before he arrived at the brilliant pearl blue finish that graces his truck today. If you'd like to use this blue on your truck, it's a PPG fleet color, paint code number 190107, with PPG DBC 2042 clear on top.
Before Dwight painted the Stude, he had to unwind years and years of rust and abuse. Of course, when you pull a truck out of a field, you may have to repair a few bullet holes. After Dwight got the cab and front end ready for paint, his next move was to prepare the bed. Unlike 1852 Studebaker wheelbarrows, the '49's bed is steel. This, along with the absence of running boards, is where Studebakers got the jump on trucks of their day. Dwight shaved the stake holes and frenched the antenna for his Pioneer sound system with MP3 player into the front passenger-side stake hole. He cut out the Stude's steel bed floor. Then Dwight laid in a sheet of steel, welded it in and shot the bed with blue-tinted spray-in bedliner.
Dwight's '49 Studebaker pickup is as sweet as they come. In the eyes of many people, these trucks are in a category all their own. Think about it, how many trucks can you name that look like they came from the factory with a chopped top and a lowered stance? In the first three months Dwight's Studebaker was running, he put over 7,000 miles on it. Dwight says, "The fun thing about building the old girl is always having someone check her out, admire her, or just plain shoot the bull."
Hey, who knows, maybe someday a guy will walk up to Dwight and say, "Yep, 155 years ago my great great grandfather Jacob Studebaker opened up the world's first Studebaker dealership right here in St. Joe."
Replated original emblems...
Replated original emblems trim the '49. All the chrome plating is by Complete Bumper of Kansas City, KS. Thanks, Fred!
Rolling stock consists of...
Rolling stock consists of Chevrolet Rally Sport wheels shod with BF Goodrich T/As. Check out the tri-bar spinner.
A four-spoke Camaro steering...
A four-spoke Camaro steering wheel on a Buick Century tilt column faces Dolphin gauges clustered in an instrument panel Dwight fabricated. Under-dash ARA air conditioning keeps the Stude's cab cool on muggy Missouri summer days.
It's not kangaroo-Rick's Upholstery...
It's not kangaroo-Rick's Upholstery in St. Joseph stitched Australian steer-hide leather to cover Dwight's '90 Sable bucket seats with fold-down armrests.
Modern conveniences abound...
Modern conveniences abound in the cab, including power windows with keyless remote locks. Look above the passenger side's leather door panel, stitched by Rick Angst, and you'll notice Dwight eliminated the '49's vent windows with one-piece tempered glass from Render Auto Glass in St. Joseph. In addition, Render supplied the laminated glass windshield halves that replaced the '49's original bullet-ridden windshield.