Twenty-nine years ago, Gil Ragland spotted a true oddity crumpled up in the corner of a local salvage yard, and for 29 years Gil had struck out trying to coax the owner of the salvage yard into letting him purchase the rare hauler. Yet, as sure as the clock ticks, the tides change. Gil happened to catch the owner in moment of weakness. She needed a grille shell painted and Gil was the man in town with the golden gun. Therefore, the two made a deal, Gil would spray the grille and walk away with an incredibly rare '61 Studebaker Champ pickup truck.
Growing up, Gil's parents were dyed-in-the-wool Studebaker fanatics. That being the case, Gil was guilty by association. Throughout the years several Studebaker hot rods have occupied the Ragland garage; however, the Champ had always eluded him. Until now that is. Being that it's been 29 years in the making, Gil had a pretty good idea of what to do to the Stude now that it was parked in the garage of his Ada, Oklahoma, home.
The first undertaking was to beef the Champ up from the ground up. Gil began by tearing the chassis down to its skivvies and then boxing the entire frame. From there he installed a brand-new Fatman Fabrications Polished Mustang II setup. The Fatman setup instantly added the benefits of disc brakes, Mustang II rack-and-pinion steering, sway bar, and coilover shocks. Out back rests a pirated '94 Lincoln rearend and suspension with all the trimmings. Isolating the rearend from the bed is a set of airbags and Gabriel gas shocks for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Powering the Champ down the road is a mild and dependable, yet aggressive '87 Chevrolet 305. The motor is mainly stock, but Gil has added a set of Sanderson headers, Edelbrock intake manifold, MSD ignition, and RV cam. Allowing the 305 to exhale is a stainless steel MagnaFlow exhaust system. Bringing the motor to life is tons of billet and chrome accessories, including a set of billet valve covers and a Cadillac air cleaner with custom K&N motorcycle filters. Mated to the 305 is a Chevy Turbo 350 outfitted with a Lokar shifter and a finned aluminum trans cooler for those long hauls down the highway.
Being that the Studebaker was in the salvage yard for a reason, and it had been sitting for nearly 30 years, you can bet that Gil had his work cut out for him. Before any custom modifications could even enter the picture Gil needed to fix the wrecked right front corner. Once the Stude was put back to its original shape, Gil then put his mind through the works. His first go-around was to remove the stock Stude headlights and install a set of frenched '54 Mercury headlights. Gil then moved onto the hood, where he blended in four '53 Buick port holes.
Out back Gil has added some subtle and some not so subtle touches. He slanted the rear end of the bed a full 31/2 inches forward. Next, the bedside tail ends where opened vertically and custom lenses, the height of the bedside, were placed in the openings. Behind each lens lie three round LED lights. Gil even incorporated a polished stainless Studebaker logo into the bottom of each lense for a factory look. Tying the rear together is a custom roll pan housing two exhaust tips. Inside the bed is striking maple wood that has been painted to match the exterior of the truck.
For the truck's hue, Gil decided to break things up a bit and two-tone the Studebaker. The top of the cab and hood have been painted PPG '06 Nissan black. As for the rest of the truck Gil sprayed it in '06 Nissan Sparkle Red. Rounding out the picture is a set of 18-inch Budnik rims wrapped in Cooper 245/45 tires.