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1956 Studebaker truck

Classic Styling of a 1956 Studebaker Pickup

Story Bill Holder / Images Phil Kunz - May 31, 2012 10:00 AM

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Mention the name Studebaker and your immediate thoughts turn to those nifty low-slung Hawk models of the 1960s.

Less known are the classically beautiful pickups built in the mid-1950s. One of the best was the 1956 model, which had a multitude of improvements over the previous model. There was a new name “Transtar”, but the company called it the 2E model.

The basic styling dated back to the end of the previous decade, but it had a three-inch widening of the bed. The change obviously required a new tailgate to fill the gap. The hood was updated with a more curving look, while the grille now carried somewhat-triangular parking lights.

A nifty rain deflector option was offered on the top of the side windows. Those might seem like an owner-added item, but they were definitely a factory option. While many restorations of this era required the owner to switch to a 12-volt system, this truck already had it in place.

With the cars of this period turning to two-tone paint schemes, Studebaker figured that it might work on pickups too. For the ’56 models, the grille, bumper, part of the interior, and wheels acquired that second color.

Another nice factory touch is the slight lips on the wheel cut-outs. Then, there’s that cab which looks like it was chopped to a lower height in some body shop.

This sterling example of the 1956 breed is owned by Greg Houston of Columbus, Ohio, who purchased it in 2009. He’s a real Studebaker fan with two others besides this truck (a 1954 two-door sport wagon and a stylish 1961 Hawk). Like this truck, those are also in great condition.

“I got this half-ton truck pretty much the way you see it here,” he said. “It was restored by a father-son team from Quebec, Canada. It was pretty expensive, that’s for sure, but I figured it would be better in the long run than buying a basket case and having to do a complete restoration and look for parts.”

There are some small changes made from stock, Houston explained. “The restorers decided that they would mount the spare tire on the right side of the truck as opposed to the factory’s underbody location. They liked it that way, and so do I, so that’s where it’s staying. I also think that they installed the dual exhausts which exit under the rear bumper.”

There were a number of advances on this model which made it more attractive to Houston. They included improved vision with a large back window, interior running boards, and the adaptation from a button to key starting. It’s interesting that button starting has come back into vogue with 21st century vehicles.

Greg admitted that his Sea Green machine was fairly well optioned. “There is no radio, but it does have a map light, complete gauges, a ‘Climatizer’ heater, electric windshield wipers, and the rain deflectors.”

The standard engine was a straight-six engine, but a 259cid V-8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor was an option, which this truck fortunately has. The original engine still resides in the truck.

It’s hooked to a three-speed manual transmission with an overdrive, which is shifted on the column. Greg explained that it’s a great driver and cruises nicely at 70 miles per hour. It certainly attracts a lot of attention when it’s out on the road.

It also has gotten appreciative glances from car show judges in the few competitions it’s attended. In September of 2010, it won second in its class at the Glenmoor Gathering Concours show at Canton, Ohio. At the Dayton Orphan Car show, it was the “People’s Choice”.

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