Courtesy of Auctions America
  • 245-ci 6-cylinder Commander engine
  • 4-speed manual transmission
  • Frame-off, nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration
  • Studebaker official demonstrator for the 1959 show circuit
  • Copy of the original build sheet
  • Factory NAPCO four-wheel-drive conversion
  • Rare 19.5-inch wheels with severe-duty chromed hubcaps
  • Rare factory under-dash AM radio
  • Original Firestone All-Traction tires
  • Optional locking gas cap and chromed rear bumper

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1959 Studebaker 4E11D-122 4x4 pickup
Years Produced:1958–64
Number Produced:358 (nine 1959 4E11D 4x4s)
SCM Valuation:$36,300
Tune Up Cost:$150
Chassis Number Location:Tag spot-welded to the lower forward driver’s door frame
Engine Number Location:Top left front corner of engine block
Club Info:Studebaker Drivers Club
Alternatives:1954–59 Chevrolet / NAPCO 4x4 pickup (kit installation), 1957–59 Chevrolet 4x4 pickup (GM installation), 1959–60 Ford 4x4 pickup
Investment Grade:B

This truck, Lot 136, sold for $68,750, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Santa Monica, CA, event on June 24, 2017.

New face on an old truck

By 1959, Studebaker’s truck line was essentially a decade old. While trucks were an important part of the company’s business (especially after the ill-fated and ill-paired Studebaker-Packard merger of 1954), the money just wasn’t there to refresh the look as often as all of their competitors.

After minor grille changes and a one-piece windshield in 1954, a new name for 1956 (Transtar), and an all-new massive three-bar grille for 1957, the 1958s continued essentially without change. For 1959, the Transtar name was dropped, and the marketing moniker “Haul-of-Fame Trucks” was adopted. As such, the “Transtar” badging on the front of the hood changed to “Studebaker.” Also unique for 1959 was that the parking lights were mounted inside of the grille structure. The changes were simple for one simple reason: Studebaker didn’t have the money for more.

Not just for Chevys

The World War II production 2½-ton US6 was the granddaddy of our featured truck. Built in 6×4 and 6×6 configurations, they were used mostly during the war as Lend-Lease for our allies. In the post-war years, corporate interest in lighter-duty four-wheel-drive civilian trucks by Studebaker didn’t exist. Those who wanted a 4×4 Stude had to take matters into their own hands.

NAPCO didn’t exclusively fit four-wheel-drive conversions to Chevrolets and GMCs. Studebakers were also occasionally upfitted during the 1950s. However, with competition from all the other truck builders in some fashion, in 1958, the NAPCO conversion became a factory-cataloged option.

Hoping to cash in on the interest in 4×4 trucks by utilities and fleets more than individual consumers (due to larger orders and better pricing), Studebaker then made a concerted effort to market their four-wheel-drive trucks.

Our featured truck was a promotional unit for the company. Yet to some extent, it has a mixed bag of features. The under-dash AM radio and Custom trim with two-tone paint appealed to the retail buyer, the economical flathead six to fleets, and oversized 20-inch wheels to export markets. However, the effort fell flat. Only 86 four-wheel-drives of all sizes left South Bend in 1959.

When the new Champ half-ton and three-quarter ton were introduced for 1960, a 4×4 was not in the specs. However the one-ton 5E series — retaining the circa-1949 cab — maintained that option. A grand total of 358 factory-installed 4x4s were made from its 1958 introduction until all Studebaker truck production ended in December 1963. Of those, the majority were export or U.S. military-contract trucks.

Ask the man who puts one in four low

In terms of value, there’s one truck that certainly would usurp any other Stude 4×4. And it really isn’t a Studebaker. A somewhat famous official set of Studebaker-Packard Corporation black-and-white publicity photos exists of a Packard-badged V8-powered 1958 3R11 with a NAPCO conversion, intended for export. It was reportedly intended to be shipped to Argentina, as the Packard dealer in Buenos Aires was unable to sell Studebakers due to an existing importer and restrictions by the Peron government. With Packard production evaporating, he needed something to sell.

Factory documentation is sketchy, with production estimates ranging from none, a single proof-of-concept, the “Truck Pilot Job” made in December 1957, to up to 47 units built in 1958 — complete with Packard owners and shop manuals. At this point, none have surfaced, so if you have a point of contact in Argentina, start looking around for what very well may be the last Packard ever built — with NAPCO four-wheel drive.

One of 358 today

Since the Studebaker National Museum has the vast majority of the build sheets for these trucks, unlike a Chevy or GMC NAPCO installation, you can all but guarantee whether a particular truck actually was a factory 4×4 — solidifying your membership in a very exclusive group, and helping to bolster its value. As our featured rig has the build sheet that confirms everything, that established provenance is also a major factor in why it sold at this level.

There’s also little to nit-pick about this truck. It now has period-style Selecto locking front hubs and the addition of a Studebaker side hood emblem on the dashboard. Certainly an SDC Zone or National meet would be the only place anyone would call this truck out on these bits of non-authenticity. Even the flathead pan screws holding on the serial number tag don’t scare me that badly, as there’s also a chassis number.

Otherwise, this truck was restored to state-of-the-art levels of quality and, pardon the pun, would stand tall at any concours.

This sale won’t set the new pricing standard for the other regular-issue 4×4 Studes. Still, the Energizer bunny that is vintage truck and SUV pricing for all makers will help to maintain the values of these Stude 4x4s, and all factors will just keep moving the rest of the fleet up and up in value.

While this may have sold well today, it wasn’t an outrageously out-of-the-ordinary sale, either. Call it more of a pioneering trail blazer slowly but surely climbing the market in four-wheel low.

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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