Motor City

The Inn at St. John's
30 July 2016
Lot 136

1937 Studebaker J5 Coupe-Express

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$77,000 USD | Sold

United States | Plymouth, Michigan

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Engine No.
T-1963
  • One of just 3,125 built for 1937
  • Stylish Raymond Loewy design; forerunner to the Ranchero and El Camino
  • An older restoration that still presents nicely
  • A high-style favorite among Studebaker aficionados
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90 bhp, 218 cu. in. L-head inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission, solid front axle suspension with Houdaille shock absorbers, hypoid rear axle, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 116 in.

Having re-tooled its entire lineup in 1936, Studebakers for 1937 received a streamlined facelift, for which famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy was responsible. In addition to a more pointed grille, an alligator hood, opening from the front, and extended hood louvers were added to what was already a handsome automobile. A new model was added, too, called the Coupe-Express. This dual-purpose vehicle offered passenger car comfort and three-passenger seating in a commercial car that offered greater hauling capacity than the typical business coupe of the times.

In reality, Studebaker foretold the coming Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino pickups . . . 20 years ahead of its competitors. The unique model was manufactured from January to July 1937, with just 3,125 built. Production continued through 1939 with just over 5,000 in total of the stylish pickup produced. It was quite a high-style bargain at $695 before options. All Coupe-Express models came with the spare tire mounted on the right front fender. Based on the six-cylinder 5A Dictator chassis, it shared its front-end sheet metal with its passenger car sibling. A new panel was fabricated to enclose the cab, while a robust 16-gauge, double-wall steel pickup bed was fitted, enabling a carrying capacity of half a ton.

A favorite among Studebaker aficionados, this Coupe-Express is nicely presented. It was the beneficiary of a high-quality, well-documented restoration in 1994; proof is in the veritable pickup load of trophies and awards to back this up! Finished in original Studebaker Gray with appropriate blackwall tires on grey painted wheels, the beltline is subtly highlighted with red pin striping. Though an older restoration, the paint quality remains very good and the chrome trim is excellent. The side-mount spare tire is fitted with a color-matched cover while the interior has been fully restored to a high standard in grey leather—believed to be a rare factory option. Since restoration, the vehicle has seen limited use and remains in beautiful condition, just barely showing signs of break-in on the leather seating.

Underhood, the 218-cubic inch L-head inline six-cylinder engine presents nicely with a tidy engine bay showing signs of limited use. The six is mated to a three-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. 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 and will no doubt serve its new owner proudly.