Hat tips today to “Dr. Mc” & “B-Squared”
His Studebaker Is Rare –
His Matchbox Toy Rarer
The restored 1938 Studebaker truck was so striking that Matchbox modeled one of its toys on it, and made a special hand-painted set in dark blue for the truck’s owner.
Original story by A.J. Baime at the Wall Street Journal
Photo credits to Shane Lavalette for the Wall Street Journal
Jerry Kier, 86, a retired automotive supply company owner in Penfield, N.Y., on his 1938 Studebaker Coupe Express pickup, as told to A.J. Baime.
“I started out working in a service station in high school, and after that, I owned my own business. I was what I call a mobile jobber. I had automotive supplies in my van and I would come to your business. Whatever you needed, I had it: brake fluid, spark plugs, etc. I did that for 35 years, and throughout that time, I was in the Studebaker Drivers Club.
I got my first Studebaker from my aunt in 1973 – a 1962 Lark—and I still have it. Then I bought a 1955 Studebaker Speedster, which I also still have. One day a friend from the Studebaker club who was living in California advertised this 1938 pickup. I sent him a check for $2,500—a high price, but I wanted that truck. It cost $800 to have it shipped across the country. It arrived in December of 1989.
The whole family started in on an amateur restoration, which took six years. My three sons helped. I remember my wife Marlene coming home from work (she was a nurse), and I said, “Let’s go, we are dropping that engine into the frame today.” She said, “I just got home from work.” I said, “Go change your clothes!” And she did.
We started taking the truck to car shows and it won so many accolades I cannot even recall. Young people would say, “What is a Studebaker? Was it built by General Motors ?” Because young people today often don’t know that many American independent car makers used to exist: Essex, Hudson, Packard. They are all gone now. Studebaker started out making wagons and wheelbarrows, in the 1800s. The company later made cars in South Bend, Ind., until it closed in 1966.
In 1999, I got a call from the people at Matchbox toy cars. They had seen my truck in a magazine and wanted to make a toy model from it. So they came to my house and spent all day measuring. They said, “We are going to make it in yellow.” I said, “No way, it has to be blue like the original.” [The Studebaker is a dark blue that looks black in some lights.]
They ended up making it in yellow, but they sent me six hand-painted versions in blue. I gave one to each of my three sons, one to a special friend in the Studebaker club, and I have two. I doubt there are many people who have a Matchbox version of a vehicle they own. For me, it has been very rewarding.”
The idea of putting a passenger car front clip (from the “B”-pillar forward) on a pickup truck chassis & box is generally credited to Ford of Australia with their “Ute” of 1934. Studebaker picked up the theme in the U.S. in 1937 with the Coupe-Express which they built for three model years: 1937, 1938 & 1939. Studebaker planned on reviving the Coupe-Express with the all-new ’57s which would have shared a common body shell with Packard and Clipper. The ’57 Coupe-Express would have gone head-to-head with Ford’s ’57 Ranchero.
1937 Coupe-Express (above); 1938 Coupe-Express (below)
1939 Coupe-Express (below):
Below: the planned revival of the Coupe-Express didn’t come off when Studebaker-Packard couldn’t get funding to tool for the planned all-new ’57s.
(Below) A camper option was planned for the ’57 Coupe-Express.