Studebaker Express Coupe Came 22 Years Before Chevy El Camino
Like many car guys, I like coupes. There is just something more liberating about a vehicle with two doors. I also love pickups– they have the usability, fun-factor and off-road gear to make life worth driving. Few vehicles actually manage to combine both of these aspects. Too bad I don’t have the cash to get my hands on a 1937 Studebaker Coupe Express Pickup.
Appetite for pickup trucks grew in the 1930s, and the Studebaker Corporation wanted to get in on the market. For the 1937 model year, the South Bend, Indiana-based automaker created a coupe-utility truck, using the frame of its Studebaker Dictator.
At the factory, Stutebaker would start out using the Dictator’s frame, running gear, and frontal body work and sheet metal. From the cab back, everything was new, including the rear fenders, which flanked a steel box. The Coupe Express was also sold as just a cab and chassis, so contractors could fit steel box bodies on the rear.
The Coupe Express was powered by Studebaker’s 3.6-liter L-head inline-6 engine. It made 90 horsepower, sent through a 3-speed manual transmission or available Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic with overdrive. Power was sent to the rear wheels.
The coupe/truck was pretty successful in its initial year, selling 3,000 units in 1937. The cab of the Coupe Express was re-bodied in 1938, and sales fell to 1,200. The truck was restyled again in 1939 and sales dropped to 1,000. The Coupe Express would not return for the 1940 model year. Such a combination of car-like sensibilities and truck utility would not be seen again until the Ford Ranchero and Chevy El Camino.