The first group of Studebaker 4X4's

The first group of Studebaker 4X4's

Frank Drumheller
Frank Drumheller

March 16th, 2012, 9:22 pm #1

I had a little time on my hands this week. Having completed some research on 4X4 trucks for several STT fans got me wondering about the first commerically built Studebaker 4X4 truck. So I began looking further in some of my materials and developed this little capsule of Studebaker truck history. I hope it has some meaning for you.

In the mid-1950's, a growing need and interest in 4X4 vehicles caught the attention of the American truck industry. Yes, the history of American 4X4 truks began some 35 years earlier with the Nash Motor Co. and several other long forgotten manufacturers. In the mid-1930's, Dodge began experimenting with 4X4 drive trains for US Army trucks. In fact, by 1936, the US was using a number of production 4X4 trucks in the military fleet. As WWII approached, Bantam Motor Co. became involved in experimental 1/4 ton 4X4 vehicles. This effort evolved into the most famous of 4X4 vehicles, the Jeep.

Following the war years, Jeep and Dodge modified their 4X4 vehicles for domestic use. These vehicles used in-house 4X4 components. Beginning in about 1947, both GMC and IH trucks began showing up using aftermarket 4X4 drivetrain kits. These kits, from independent manufacturers such as NAPCO, Rockford, Spicer and others, incresingly became popular for use in traditional 3/4 and 1 ton trucks modified into 4X4's by customers and aftermarket shops. By 1955, some outfits were converting 1/2 ton trucks into 4X4 vehicles.

By 1954, GMC recognized the marketing potential for their own line of cataloged 4X4 vehicles. By 1957, both Chevrolet and Ford began advertising catalogued 4X4 models in their showroom literature. Of course, by this time, Dodge and IH had also moved 4X4 drivetrains under their regular models in the 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 ton chassis. Even Studebaker by 1956 saw potential in offering a line-up of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. As a result, Studebaker began experimenting with 4X4 drivelines in early 1957 for regular production models.

Studebaker chose the popular aftermarket NAPCO brand of 4X4 drivetrain for their trucks. Studebaker 4X4 trucks were ready for consumer purchase by the end of the 1957 calendar year, which was mid-way of the 1958 model year. 4X4 models were then offered as catalogued models through the 1963 model year.

During the spring and summer of 1957, Studebaker built several phototype 4X4 vehicles in order to settle on specifications, models and options for a full line of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. I have not been able to pinpoint the number of phototypes assembled or what became of them. It's possible the phototypes could have been reserialed and later sold as consumer models. If anyone has any information on prototype 4X4s, please share with us.

The first recorded consumer Studebaker 4X4 truck was built on October 17, 1957. The truck was a model E14D-131-C2, serial number 3E14D-2818. Unfortunately, the engine number is not recorded in the records I have. In layman's terms, this truck was a one-ton rated truck with a standard cab and 245 cu. in. Commander 6 engine. It was equipped with single rear wheels with 900X16-10 ply tires, 5.14:1 rear axle, pickup box, paint code 5867 (Sherwood Green) and trim code 6060. This truck was shipped to SBN (South Bend in-house). I do not have any information on what ultimately happened to this first assembly-line produced truck.

The second 4X4 truck off the assembly line was built on October 25, 1957. This truck was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E12D-3629, engine number 3E6595. This, of course, is a 3/4 ton rated truck with a standard 259 V8 engine. The truck was equipped with extra cost 750X17-8 tires, wide box, standard 4.88 rear axle and code 5866 Apache Red paint with trim code 6066 on a Deluxe cab. This truck was the first export 4X4 built and was shipped to PC De Zayes (?) South America.

The first week of December 1957 saw 4X4 production ratchet up as two (2) Studebaker 4X4 trucks rolled off the assembly line, the first ones since October 25th. I have no way of knowing the sequence in which these two came off the line. So, as an arbitrary guess, we'll say the third 4X4 truck built was for a domestic customer (also a first) in Welch, WV. The truck was completed on December 5, 1957. It was a model 3E11D-122-C2, serial number E11D-13091, engine number 4E6221. This truck is a 3/4 ton with a 245 Commander Six engine with a standard cab. It was equipped with upgraded 750X17-8 ply tires, single axle with the standard 4.88:1 ratio, wide box, paint code 5866, Apache Red and trim code 6060.

On the same day, the fourth Studebaker 4X4 came off the line. This truck was almost a exact copy of the second Studebaker 4X4 built in October, 1957. This truck was built for a customer in Mobridge, South Dakota. This was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E3-6845, engine number 3E6845. Same specifications as #2 except this one was paint code 5879- two tone Academy Blue and Waterfall Blue. This truck had the distinction of being the first two tone 4X4 Studebaker built.

Beginning on December 10, 1957, production really became serious. Weekley production runs were in multiples for many months to come.

As I leave this topic, none of the first four (4) Studebaker 4X4 trucks are accounted for in the present STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER. I'd love to know what happened to each of them.

In the next week or so, I plan to do an article on the last 4X4 trucks built by the Studebaker Corp. I hope you enjoyed this essay. Corrections or comments are always welcomed. If anyone has additional information on these first four 4X4 trucks, please share with us.

Frank Drumheller
Locust Grove, VA
Keeper of the STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER
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Mark H
Mark H

March 16th, 2012, 10:34 pm #2

Frank,
Thanks so much for taking the time to put together all this research! I look forward with anticipation on the full article you're putting together. I'm not sure where I originally heard / read this, but didn't David Spilinski own one of the first prototype 4X4's?

Mark H
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Frank Drumheller
Frank Drumheller

March 17th, 2012, 12:40 am #3

Thank you for your nice comments. Now that you mention it, I believe I have heard the same thing- David owned on the the phototypes. That was some time ago but I have no documentation. Perhaps your comment will spur someone who can either verify this story or at least add some more information. I take it that David is still living, but do not know if he's still active in Studebaker doings.

Again, thanks for the swift comeback. Frank
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Skip Lackie
Skip Lackie

March 17th, 2012, 3:21 pm #4

I had a little time on my hands this week. Having completed some research on 4X4 trucks for several STT fans got me wondering about the first commerically built Studebaker 4X4 truck. So I began looking further in some of my materials and developed this little capsule of Studebaker truck history. I hope it has some meaning for you.

In the mid-1950's, a growing need and interest in 4X4 vehicles caught the attention of the American truck industry. Yes, the history of American 4X4 truks began some 35 years earlier with the Nash Motor Co. and several other long forgotten manufacturers. In the mid-1930's, Dodge began experimenting with 4X4 drive trains for US Army trucks. In fact, by 1936, the US was using a number of production 4X4 trucks in the military fleet. As WWII approached, Bantam Motor Co. became involved in experimental 1/4 ton 4X4 vehicles. This effort evolved into the most famous of 4X4 vehicles, the Jeep.

Following the war years, Jeep and Dodge modified their 4X4 vehicles for domestic use. These vehicles used in-house 4X4 components. Beginning in about 1947, both GMC and IH trucks began showing up using aftermarket 4X4 drivetrain kits. These kits, from independent manufacturers such as NAPCO, Rockford, Spicer and others, incresingly became popular for use in traditional 3/4 and 1 ton trucks modified into 4X4's by customers and aftermarket shops. By 1955, some outfits were converting 1/2 ton trucks into 4X4 vehicles.

By 1954, GMC recognized the marketing potential for their own line of cataloged 4X4 vehicles. By 1957, both Chevrolet and Ford began advertising catalogued 4X4 models in their showroom literature. Of course, by this time, Dodge and IH had also moved 4X4 drivetrains under their regular models in the 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 ton chassis. Even Studebaker by 1956 saw potential in offering a line-up of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. As a result, Studebaker began experimenting with 4X4 drivelines in early 1957 for regular production models.

Studebaker chose the popular aftermarket NAPCO brand of 4X4 drivetrain for their trucks. Studebaker 4X4 trucks were ready for consumer purchase by the end of the 1957 calendar year, which was mid-way of the 1958 model year. 4X4 models were then offered as catalogued models through the 1963 model year.

During the spring and summer of 1957, Studebaker built several phototype 4X4 vehicles in order to settle on specifications, models and options for a full line of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. I have not been able to pinpoint the number of phototypes assembled or what became of them. It's possible the phototypes could have been reserialed and later sold as consumer models. If anyone has any information on prototype 4X4s, please share with us.

The first recorded consumer Studebaker 4X4 truck was built on October 17, 1957. The truck was a model E14D-131-C2, serial number 3E14D-2818. Unfortunately, the engine number is not recorded in the records I have. In layman's terms, this truck was a one-ton rated truck with a standard cab and 245 cu. in. Commander 6 engine. It was equipped with single rear wheels with 900X16-10 ply tires, 5.14:1 rear axle, pickup box, paint code 5867 (Sherwood Green) and trim code 6060. This truck was shipped to SBN (South Bend in-house). I do not have any information on what ultimately happened to this first assembly-line produced truck.

The second 4X4 truck off the assembly line was built on October 25, 1957. This truck was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E12D-3629, engine number 3E6595. This, of course, is a 3/4 ton rated truck with a standard 259 V8 engine. The truck was equipped with extra cost 750X17-8 tires, wide box, standard 4.88 rear axle and code 5866 Apache Red paint with trim code 6066 on a Deluxe cab. This truck was the first export 4X4 built and was shipped to PC De Zayes (?) South America.

The first week of December 1957 saw 4X4 production ratchet up as two (2) Studebaker 4X4 trucks rolled off the assembly line, the first ones since October 25th. I have no way of knowing the sequence in which these two came off the line. So, as an arbitrary guess, we'll say the third 4X4 truck built was for a domestic customer (also a first) in Welch, WV. The truck was completed on December 5, 1957. It was a model 3E11D-122-C2, serial number E11D-13091, engine number 4E6221. This truck is a 3/4 ton with a 245 Commander Six engine with a standard cab. It was equipped with upgraded 750X17-8 ply tires, single axle with the standard 4.88:1 ratio, wide box, paint code 5866, Apache Red and trim code 6060.

On the same day, the fourth Studebaker 4X4 came off the line. This truck was almost a exact copy of the second Studebaker 4X4 built in October, 1957. This truck was built for a customer in Mobridge, South Dakota. This was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E3-6845, engine number 3E6845. Same specifications as #2 except this one was paint code 5879- two tone Academy Blue and Waterfall Blue. This truck had the distinction of being the first two tone 4X4 Studebaker built.

Beginning on December 10, 1957, production really became serious. Weekley production runs were in multiples for many months to come.

As I leave this topic, none of the first four (4) Studebaker 4X4 trucks are accounted for in the present STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER. I'd love to know what happened to each of them.

In the next week or so, I plan to do an article on the last 4X4 trucks built by the Studebaker Corp. I hope you enjoyed this essay. Corrections or comments are always welcomed. If anyone has additional information on these first four 4X4 trucks, please share with us.

Frank Drumheller
Locust Grove, VA
Keeper of the STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER
Frank-
I think future historians will appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to document the history of the earliest Stude 4WD trucks actually sold to the public. I have a couple of additions, however.
1. First, I think it would be useful to know when NAPCO 4WD conversions first became available for Stude trucks. The NAPCO entry on Wikipedia notes that NAPCO made conversion kits for Chevy, GMC, and Stude trucks as early as 1942, but doesnt make clear whether they were experimental or real production models. GM started making their own 4WD equipment around 1957 and made other changes that pretty much made the NAPCO conversions of new Chevy and GMC trucks impossible. Stude was left as one of the last markets for NAPCO conversion kits.
2. Its worth noting that long before the introduction of their 3E-series 4WD trucks in late 1957, Stude already had had considerable experience building 4WD trucks using NAPCO hardware. In late 1954, the company built 1199 model 3R48 3-ton, 4WD, RHD cab/chassis trucks for the Indian Army. These presumably used NAPCO kits. The 3R48s were followed later in the decade by several runs of similar 4WD model 2E46 trucks in 1956 and model 3E48 trucks in 1957. All of these were crated, knocked down for export, and were based on the several thousand model 2R28 RHD trucks built for India during 1951-53. One completely assembled 2R28 truck was built in December 1953, and may have served as the prototype for all those that followed. I dont know if the 2R28s were 4WD or not, but all of the subsequent models mentioned above were.
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Zane
Zane

March 17th, 2012, 4:57 pm #5

I had a little time on my hands this week. Having completed some research on 4X4 trucks for several STT fans got me wondering about the first commerically built Studebaker 4X4 truck. So I began looking further in some of my materials and developed this little capsule of Studebaker truck history. I hope it has some meaning for you.

In the mid-1950's, a growing need and interest in 4X4 vehicles caught the attention of the American truck industry. Yes, the history of American 4X4 truks began some 35 years earlier with the Nash Motor Co. and several other long forgotten manufacturers. In the mid-1930's, Dodge began experimenting with 4X4 drive trains for US Army trucks. In fact, by 1936, the US was using a number of production 4X4 trucks in the military fleet. As WWII approached, Bantam Motor Co. became involved in experimental 1/4 ton 4X4 vehicles. This effort evolved into the most famous of 4X4 vehicles, the Jeep.

Following the war years, Jeep and Dodge modified their 4X4 vehicles for domestic use. These vehicles used in-house 4X4 components. Beginning in about 1947, both GMC and IH trucks began showing up using aftermarket 4X4 drivetrain kits. These kits, from independent manufacturers such as NAPCO, Rockford, Spicer and others, incresingly became popular for use in traditional 3/4 and 1 ton trucks modified into 4X4's by customers and aftermarket shops. By 1955, some outfits were converting 1/2 ton trucks into 4X4 vehicles.

By 1954, GMC recognized the marketing potential for their own line of cataloged 4X4 vehicles. By 1957, both Chevrolet and Ford began advertising catalogued 4X4 models in their showroom literature. Of course, by this time, Dodge and IH had also moved 4X4 drivetrains under their regular models in the 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 ton chassis. Even Studebaker by 1956 saw potential in offering a line-up of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. As a result, Studebaker began experimenting with 4X4 drivelines in early 1957 for regular production models.

Studebaker chose the popular aftermarket NAPCO brand of 4X4 drivetrain for their trucks. Studebaker 4X4 trucks were ready for consumer purchase by the end of the 1957 calendar year, which was mid-way of the 1958 model year. 4X4 models were then offered as catalogued models through the 1963 model year.

During the spring and summer of 1957, Studebaker built several phototype 4X4 vehicles in order to settle on specifications, models and options for a full line of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. I have not been able to pinpoint the number of phototypes assembled or what became of them. It's possible the phototypes could have been reserialed and later sold as consumer models. If anyone has any information on prototype 4X4s, please share with us.

The first recorded consumer Studebaker 4X4 truck was built on October 17, 1957. The truck was a model E14D-131-C2, serial number 3E14D-2818. Unfortunately, the engine number is not recorded in the records I have. In layman's terms, this truck was a one-ton rated truck with a standard cab and 245 cu. in. Commander 6 engine. It was equipped with single rear wheels with 900X16-10 ply tires, 5.14:1 rear axle, pickup box, paint code 5867 (Sherwood Green) and trim code 6060. This truck was shipped to SBN (South Bend in-house). I do not have any information on what ultimately happened to this first assembly-line produced truck.

The second 4X4 truck off the assembly line was built on October 25, 1957. This truck was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E12D-3629, engine number 3E6595. This, of course, is a 3/4 ton rated truck with a standard 259 V8 engine. The truck was equipped with extra cost 750X17-8 tires, wide box, standard 4.88 rear axle and code 5866 Apache Red paint with trim code 6066 on a Deluxe cab. This truck was the first export 4X4 built and was shipped to PC De Zayes (?) South America.

The first week of December 1957 saw 4X4 production ratchet up as two (2) Studebaker 4X4 trucks rolled off the assembly line, the first ones since October 25th. I have no way of knowing the sequence in which these two came off the line. So, as an arbitrary guess, we'll say the third 4X4 truck built was for a domestic customer (also a first) in Welch, WV. The truck was completed on December 5, 1957. It was a model 3E11D-122-C2, serial number E11D-13091, engine number 4E6221. This truck is a 3/4 ton with a 245 Commander Six engine with a standard cab. It was equipped with upgraded 750X17-8 ply tires, single axle with the standard 4.88:1 ratio, wide box, paint code 5866, Apache Red and trim code 6060.

On the same day, the fourth Studebaker 4X4 came off the line. This truck was almost a exact copy of the second Studebaker 4X4 built in October, 1957. This truck was built for a customer in Mobridge, South Dakota. This was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E3-6845, engine number 3E6845. Same specifications as #2 except this one was paint code 5879- two tone Academy Blue and Waterfall Blue. This truck had the distinction of being the first two tone 4X4 Studebaker built.

Beginning on December 10, 1957, production really became serious. Weekley production runs were in multiples for many months to come.

As I leave this topic, none of the first four (4) Studebaker 4X4 trucks are accounted for in the present STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER. I'd love to know what happened to each of them.

In the next week or so, I plan to do an article on the last 4X4 trucks built by the Studebaker Corp. I hope you enjoyed this essay. Corrections or comments are always welcomed. If anyone has additional information on these first four 4X4 trucks, please share with us.

Frank Drumheller
Locust Grove, VA
Keeper of the STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER
Thank you Frank for putting this information together. I also heard that David Spilski owned the first(?) Studebaker 4x4. I do believe that the one that he has, has the front fenders with the large wheel openings which corresponds with the early prototype Stude 4x4 that I have seen in advertisements. I believe my Dad talked to David when he was still working for SASCO, and this is where I got my information.

Another less known company that built 4x4 conversions was Coleman. I know of some large International trucks that were equipped this way.



If you look closely, the spindle stays stationary while the wheel pivots around it. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen, and I still do not completely understand how it works without seeing a drawing or tearing it apart.




Here is another International, Owned by the same guy in Washington. This one being a school bus.



This definitely doesn't look right!
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Mark H
Mark H

March 17th, 2012, 5:46 pm #6

Frank-
I think future historians will appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to document the history of the earliest Stude 4WD trucks actually sold to the public. I have a couple of additions, however.
1. First, I think it would be useful to know when NAPCO 4WD conversions first became available for Stude trucks. The NAPCO entry on Wikipedia notes that NAPCO made conversion kits for Chevy, GMC, and Stude trucks as early as 1942, but doesnt make clear whether they were experimental or real production models. GM started making their own 4WD equipment around 1957 and made other changes that pretty much made the NAPCO conversions of new Chevy and GMC trucks impossible. Stude was left as one of the last markets for NAPCO conversion kits.
2. Its worth noting that long before the introduction of their 3E-series 4WD trucks in late 1957, Stude already had had considerable experience building 4WD trucks using NAPCO hardware. In late 1954, the company built 1199 model 3R48 3-ton, 4WD, RHD cab/chassis trucks for the Indian Army. These presumably used NAPCO kits. The 3R48s were followed later in the decade by several runs of similar 4WD model 2E46 trucks in 1956 and model 3E48 trucks in 1957. All of these were crated, knocked down for export, and were based on the several thousand model 2R28 RHD trucks built for India during 1951-53. One completely assembled 2R28 truck was built in December 1953, and may have served as the prototype for all those that followed. I dont know if the 2R28s were 4WD or not, but all of the subsequent models mentioned above were.
I believe it was in 1947 that GM first started offering their trucks for domestic sales with the NAPCO up-lift. Also, GM utilized the NAPCO 4X4 conversion on most New Trucks into early 1970.
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Frank Drumheller
Frank Drumheller

March 17th, 2012, 6:10 pm #7

Thank you Frank for putting this information together. I also heard that David Spilski owned the first(?) Studebaker 4x4. I do believe that the one that he has, has the front fenders with the large wheel openings which corresponds with the early prototype Stude 4x4 that I have seen in advertisements. I believe my Dad talked to David when he was still working for SASCO, and this is where I got my information.

Another less known company that built 4x4 conversions was Coleman. I know of some large International trucks that were equipped this way.



If you look closely, the spindle stays stationary while the wheel pivots around it. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen, and I still do not completely understand how it works without seeing a drawing or tearing it apart.




Here is another International, Owned by the same guy in Washington. This one being a school bus.



This definitely doesn't look right!
for the nice comments about my essay. When I was trying to other manufacturers who sold 4X4
aftermarket kits, for the life of me I could not think of Coleman. Coleman was one of the larger makers of 4X4 drive trains. I remember in the 50-70's the Commonwealth of Virgina used a large number of IH trucks, especially dumps, with Coleman conversions. I also remember a smaller number of GMC dump trucks in the State's fleet in the 50's. As you, I could never figure out how the Coleman system operated.

Your comments relative to David Spilski are very similiar to comments I have heard. I have to believe that he either owns(d) one of the prototypes or one of the early regular 4X4's. My money is on him buying through the Corp. the, or one of the, prototype 4X4's. If there is anyone reading this materail, who knows Dave, could verify this information, we would like to know for historical accuracy.

Zane, I appreciate the IH photos. Frank
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Mark H
Mark H

March 17th, 2012, 6:25 pm #8

In the January 1996 addition of Turning Wheels, Fred Fox mentions the first 1958 4X4 studebaker truck as being owned by David S. As a side note I believe Ford also used the Napco conversion into the 1960's.
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Skip Lackie
Skip Lackie

March 17th, 2012, 8:55 pm #9

I believe it was in 1947 that GM first started offering their trucks for domestic sales with the NAPCO up-lift. Also, GM utilized the NAPCO 4X4 conversion on most New Trucks into early 1970.
I'm no expert on either NAPCO or 4x4 trucks, but I remembered reading somewhere that GM started building their own 4WD conversion equipment in the early 60s. I checked the NAPCO entry on Wikipedia and this is what it says:

"From 1956 to 1959 the NAPCO Power-Pak option could be ordered directly from GM (an official RPO 690 was assigned in 1957) and factory installed on trucks with very few modifications to the original chassis."

"In 1960 NAPCO and GM parted ways when GM redesigned the front suspension on their 1960 pickup line so that it wasn't easily compatible with the existing Power-Pak kits."
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Mark H
Mark H

March 17th, 2012, 10:13 pm #10

Anything gleaned from Wikipedia needs to taken with a 'grain of salt'; the website doesn't require a truth detector before posting information. If you would like to get good information on Napco's... Google 'Napco Owners Group'. There you find pictures of GM Napco 4x4's from 1954 to 1970 as well as a few 1960's Ford Napco's and a couple Studebakers. I have a good friend who owns a "factory installed" 1969 Chevy NAPCO.

Disclaimer>>>I'm totally positive... but before 1957, all the NAPCO conversions to GM products were conducted at the NAPCO facility in MN. It wasn't until 1957 that GM started doing Factory 4X4 Conversions in-house.
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GS
GS

March 18th, 2012, 1:56 am #11

for the nice comments about my essay. When I was trying to other manufacturers who sold 4X4
aftermarket kits, for the life of me I could not think of Coleman. Coleman was one of the larger makers of 4X4 drive trains. I remember in the 50-70's the Commonwealth of Virgina used a large number of IH trucks, especially dumps, with Coleman conversions. I also remember a smaller number of GMC dump trucks in the State's fleet in the 50's. As you, I could never figure out how the Coleman system operated.

Your comments relative to David Spilski are very similiar to comments I have heard. I have to believe that he either owns(d) one of the prototypes or one of the early regular 4X4's. My money is on him buying through the Corp. the, or one of the, prototype 4X4's. If there is anyone reading this materail, who knows Dave, could verify this information, we would like to know for historical accuracy.

Zane, I appreciate the IH photos. Frank
Although not Stude related my ex son-in-law has a 1955 equipped with one of their units. looks like they did fords from 1936 to 1959

http://www.marmon-herrington.com/about/history.php


Here's many others

http://www.therangerstation.com/resourc ... of_4x4.htm


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studemaker
studemaker

March 18th, 2012, 2:00 am #12

In the January 1996 addition of Turning Wheels, Fred Fox mentions the first 1958 4X4 studebaker truck as being owned by David S. As a side note I believe Ford also used the Napco conversion into the 1960's.
Ford partnered with Marmon-Harrington for four wheel drive conversions, and had offered them as far back as the thirties on all models... even cars. One of my first collector trucks was a '53 Ford F350 Marmon-Harrington 4x4. It was a former U.S. Forest Service truck. I still have loose fillings in my teeth from riding in that truck!
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Mark H
Mark H

March 18th, 2012, 4:55 am #13

Anything gleaned from Wikipedia needs to taken with a 'grain of salt'; the website doesn't require a truth detector before posting information. If you would like to get good information on Napco's... Google 'Napco Owners Group'. There you find pictures of GM Napco 4x4's from 1954 to 1970 as well as a few 1960's Ford Napco's and a couple Studebakers. I have a good friend who owns a "factory installed" 1969 Chevy NAPCO.

Disclaimer>>>I'm totally positive... but before 1957, all the NAPCO conversions to GM products were conducted at the NAPCO facility in MN. It wasn't until 1957 that GM started doing Factory 4X4 Conversions in-house.
is what I meant to say
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Frank Drumheller
Frank Drumheller

March 18th, 2012, 10:19 pm #14

I'm no expert on either NAPCO or 4x4 trucks, but I remembered reading somewhere that GM started building their own 4WD conversion equipment in the early 60s. I checked the NAPCO entry on Wikipedia and this is what it says:

"From 1956 to 1959 the NAPCO Power-Pak option could be ordered directly from GM (an official RPO 690 was assigned in 1957) and factory installed on trucks with very few modifications to the original chassis."

"In 1960 NAPCO and GM parted ways when GM redesigned the front suspension on their 1960 pickup line so that it wasn't easily compatible with the existing Power-Pak kits."
done so much in researching the Studebaker story, I do value your comments and the support you've given. I am not an expert on NAPCO or any of the other producers of 4X4 systems for after-market use. I do believe the Studebaker Corp. made the right decision to go with NAPCO, as the system has proven to be a tough one.

But I'm sure the Ford enthusiasts feel the same way about Marmon-Harrington, whose system they used for decades. The Dodge boys feel the same pride about their in-house built system used since the early '30's.

Again, I appreciate your input. Frank
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Skip Lackie
Skip Lackie

March 18th, 2012, 11:12 pm #15

I have no opinions on NAPCO or how it compared to other 4WD conversion companies. My point was that in any attempt to write a comprehensive history of Stude's 4WD trucks, several other facts should be acknowledged.
1. NAPCO had already been building 4WD conversion kits for Stude trucks for some time, though they were not offered as a Stude factory option during the early years. But this gave NAPCO some experience and familiarity with the layout of Stude trucks. Apparently none of the other 4WD conversion kit providers went after the Stude market.
2. The fact that Stude built several thousand two and three-ton 4X4 military trucks for the Indian Army during 1952-1957 gave them plenty of experience on how to make the 4WD conversions rugged and reliable. If those trucks hadn't been successful, India would not have continued to order similar trucks. Given the fact that NAPCO was the only company offering 4WD conversions for Stude trucks, the choice of NAPCO to provide the hardware for both the Indian military trucks and the subsequent domestic civilian trucks wasn't very difficult. A marriage made in heaven as they say.
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truckdog62563
truckdog62563

March 19th, 2012, 11:10 am #16

Ford partnered with Marmon-Harrington for four wheel drive conversions, and had offered them as far back as the thirties on all models... even cars. One of my first collector trucks was a '53 Ford F350 Marmon-Harrington 4x4. It was a former U.S. Forest Service truck. I still have loose fillings in my teeth from riding in that truck!
Fords were converted by them all. Marmon-Herrington was the factory approved conversion company, but the others adapted their equipment to the Ford product line as well. As said, Ford moved the half ton and 3/4 ton 4x4 business in-house in 1959 which about killed Marmon-Herrington. But they survived and have continued to do conversions on the tonner and larger models to this day. Napcos were fairly common too before '59, Colemans less so and mostly on the big models, and the rarest were the Fabcos. I've archived pictures of three Fabcos to my recall.

If anybody is interested, my friend Mark Mossell has started a Marmon-Herrington Registry and has some of the survivors pictured in his Hub Garage folder. Here's the link. Stu McMillan

http://www.hubgarage.com/mygarage/thechassisman
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jack vines
jack vines

March 20th, 2012, 4:01 pm #17

I had a little time on my hands this week. Having completed some research on 4X4 trucks for several STT fans got me wondering about the first commerically built Studebaker 4X4 truck. So I began looking further in some of my materials and developed this little capsule of Studebaker truck history. I hope it has some meaning for you.

In the mid-1950's, a growing need and interest in 4X4 vehicles caught the attention of the American truck industry. Yes, the history of American 4X4 truks began some 35 years earlier with the Nash Motor Co. and several other long forgotten manufacturers. In the mid-1930's, Dodge began experimenting with 4X4 drive trains for US Army trucks. In fact, by 1936, the US was using a number of production 4X4 trucks in the military fleet. As WWII approached, Bantam Motor Co. became involved in experimental 1/4 ton 4X4 vehicles. This effort evolved into the most famous of 4X4 vehicles, the Jeep.

Following the war years, Jeep and Dodge modified their 4X4 vehicles for domestic use. These vehicles used in-house 4X4 components. Beginning in about 1947, both GMC and IH trucks began showing up using aftermarket 4X4 drivetrain kits. These kits, from independent manufacturers such as NAPCO, Rockford, Spicer and others, incresingly became popular for use in traditional 3/4 and 1 ton trucks modified into 4X4's by customers and aftermarket shops. By 1955, some outfits were converting 1/2 ton trucks into 4X4 vehicles.

By 1954, GMC recognized the marketing potential for their own line of cataloged 4X4 vehicles. By 1957, both Chevrolet and Ford began advertising catalogued 4X4 models in their showroom literature. Of course, by this time, Dodge and IH had also moved 4X4 drivetrains under their regular models in the 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 ton chassis. Even Studebaker by 1956 saw potential in offering a line-up of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. As a result, Studebaker began experimenting with 4X4 drivelines in early 1957 for regular production models.

Studebaker chose the popular aftermarket NAPCO brand of 4X4 drivetrain for their trucks. Studebaker 4X4 trucks were ready for consumer purchase by the end of the 1957 calendar year, which was mid-way of the 1958 model year. 4X4 models were then offered as catalogued models through the 1963 model year.

During the spring and summer of 1957, Studebaker built several phototype 4X4 vehicles in order to settle on specifications, models and options for a full line of 1/2 to 1 ton trucks. I have not been able to pinpoint the number of phototypes assembled or what became of them. It's possible the phototypes could have been reserialed and later sold as consumer models. If anyone has any information on prototype 4X4s, please share with us.

The first recorded consumer Studebaker 4X4 truck was built on October 17, 1957. The truck was a model E14D-131-C2, serial number 3E14D-2818. Unfortunately, the engine number is not recorded in the records I have. In layman's terms, this truck was a one-ton rated truck with a standard cab and 245 cu. in. Commander 6 engine. It was equipped with single rear wheels with 900X16-10 ply tires, 5.14:1 rear axle, pickup box, paint code 5867 (Sherwood Green) and trim code 6060. This truck was shipped to SBN (South Bend in-house). I do not have any information on what ultimately happened to this first assembly-line produced truck.

The second 4X4 truck off the assembly line was built on October 25, 1957. This truck was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E12D-3629, engine number 3E6595. This, of course, is a 3/4 ton rated truck with a standard 259 V8 engine. The truck was equipped with extra cost 750X17-8 tires, wide box, standard 4.88 rear axle and code 5866 Apache Red paint with trim code 6066 on a Deluxe cab. This truck was the first export 4X4 built and was shipped to PC De Zayes (?) South America.

The first week of December 1957 saw 4X4 production ratchet up as two (2) Studebaker 4X4 trucks rolled off the assembly line, the first ones since October 25th. I have no way of knowing the sequence in which these two came off the line. So, as an arbitrary guess, we'll say the third 4X4 truck built was for a domestic customer (also a first) in Welch, WV. The truck was completed on December 5, 1957. It was a model 3E11D-122-C2, serial number E11D-13091, engine number 4E6221. This truck is a 3/4 ton with a 245 Commander Six engine with a standard cab. It was equipped with upgraded 750X17-8 ply tires, single axle with the standard 4.88:1 ratio, wide box, paint code 5866, Apache Red and trim code 6060.

On the same day, the fourth Studebaker 4X4 came off the line. This truck was almost a exact copy of the second Studebaker 4X4 built in October, 1957. This truck was built for a customer in Mobridge, South Dakota. This was a model 3E12D-122-C4, serial number E3-6845, engine number 3E6845. Same specifications as #2 except this one was paint code 5879- two tone Academy Blue and Waterfall Blue. This truck had the distinction of being the first two tone 4X4 Studebaker built.

Beginning on December 10, 1957, production really became serious. Weekley production runs were in multiples for many months to come.

As I leave this topic, none of the first four (4) Studebaker 4X4 trucks are accounted for in the present STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER. I'd love to know what happened to each of them.

In the next week or so, I plan to do an article on the last 4X4 trucks built by the Studebaker Corp. I hope you enjoyed this essay. Corrections or comments are always welcomed. If anyone has additional information on these first four 4X4 trucks, please share with us.

Frank Drumheller
Locust Grove, VA
Keeper of the STUDEBAKER 4X4 TRUCK REGISTER
A local guy wants to sell me a 1957 GMC Napco 4X4. My first thought was to put the Napco under a Stude. However, a quick research shows the GMC would be worth a bunch more at resale than an equivalent Stude.

jack vines
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