If you have a neighbor who doesn't call the cops at the first sign of loud music, or a throaty motor for that matter, you're a fortunate individual. Pete Thomsen can say he's one of those lucky individuals who had just such a neighbor. Not only was the man who lived across the street from his dad a nice guy, he had a soft spot for cool old trucks. Pete's father had a '49 Studebaker 1/2-ton pickup that he drove as a regular old workhorse until he decided to part with it in the early '70s. His neighbor bought the truck for a modest amount and drove it 'til it blew a freeze plug. From there, like many of us can relate to, the old Stude was put out to pasture and sat, and sat ... and sat.
Thankfully, instead of calling the scrap man, Pete's old neighbor did the neighborly thing and asked him if he'd be interested in buying it back. Since this truck had not only sentimental value, but an unparalleled uniqueness, Pete's wallet didn't stay dormant for long. "I always loved that truck and thought it'd be cool to fix it up one day, so there was no hesitation about buying it," Pete recalls. Needless to say, Pete didn't go the stock route with his plans for the Stude's resurrection. He wanted something custom with subtle hints of period authenticity and one-of-a-kind visual impact.
Pete started tearing into the rusty relic right away, and with the amount of corrosion that had accumulated over the years, it was no small feat to get it to where he wanted. First, the cab and chassis were sent over to Street Rod Engineering in Lake Havasu City, California. They boxed the front end, installed a Mustang II with dropped spindles, and moved the rear leaf springs under the frame to allow for a lower stance. Along with a few other odds and ends, Pete had himself a rolling chassis. He and a friend built the Chevy 350 with an Isky cam, Holley 650 carb, and MSD ignition and matched it to a TH350 trans. Now it was ready for phase two.
For a couple of years, Pete drove it around in primer to work out the proverbial gremlins and ponder how he'd go about completing the Stude. During this period, Pete picked up a '54 Studebaker pickup, which served as a donor vehicle. Here's where the body mods really begin to take off, thanks to the folks at Hot Rod Alley in Lompoc, California.
The cab is off the '54, chopped 21/2 inches in front and 2 in back to level out the Stude's reverse-pitch roof. Now, unless you know your way around a Studebaker truck, some of the other touches aren't so apparent. The bottoms of the '54 front fenders have been added to with sections from the '49 fenders and the grille was increased in length by one section. The rear '54 fenders have been canted down 11/2 inches and tubbed to accommodate the 15x10 American Racing wheels.
About the only thing on the body that hasn't been touched is the hood, but even that has been embellished with a '60s Studebaker Hawk V-8 logo. And those octagons in the back aren't stop-sign holders. They're old film reel canisters from the '40s Pete uses to house a car show detailing kit.
The mods don't slow down inside the cab, either. The gauges are Auto Meter, the steering wheel is a Nardi from an old Ferrari, and the clock is from a '49 MiG fighter jet! The radio may appear stock, and to an extent it is. The face was cut off a '50 Stude radio and made to flip down to reveal the new Pioneer CD player. The seats are one-off bombers that, after some experimentation, turned out to be a perfect fit, which Pete fabbed a base and sliders for. The window cranks are stock, but operate the power windows. And the door handles weren't left alone either. On the outside, they came from a '50 Studebaker Starlight coupe, which pull out and on the inside they're the stock '54 handles, which move up and down to operate. Trying to get mechanisms that move in different planes to work together was no cakewalk, but Hot Rod Alley made it happen. The tweed carpet and canvas on the headliner give it the ultimate old-school feel.
Now you may be scratching your head wondering if the color is OE Stude. The answer is, well, sort of. Initially Pete planned on doing it blue, but he wanted to give a nod to his old man as well as put his own touch on it. Hot Rod Alley matched the original shade of green and added a little silver to make it stand out. The first time Pete's dad saw the truck in this color, he had tears in his eyes. Can you get a better compliment than that?
Upon seeing his formerly tired yard art turned into a work of art, Pete's old neighbor couldn't help but express some regret in parting with this rare beauty ... totally understandable. A word to the wise: be good to your neighbors. Karma may reward you for it one day. Just ask Pete.