This nicely frame-off restored dually Studebaker tractor is another fine offering from the estate of William “Bill” Kirby. He amassed a well-respected collection of heavy-duty equipment and was a regular at events displaying his outstanding vehicles. This Studebaker Road Tractor is finished in red with black undercarriage, wheels and running gear, and has a tan and red interior. The truck runs with a 4-cylinder, 2-stroke, supercharged Detroit Diesel engine connected to a 5-speed manual transmission and features a 2-speed rear end. Additional features include air brakes, stack-style exhaust, cab roof lights and a roof-mounted horn.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1962 Studebaker 7E45E 2-Ton Road Tractor
Years Produced:1962–64
Number Produced:349 (1962)
Original List Price:$5,726
SCM Valuation:$15,000–$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:N/A
Chassis Number Location:Data plate on the driver’s side of the cab, above the step, on the seat riser
Engine Number Location:Top front corner of driver’s side of the engine block
Club Info:The Studebaker Drivers Club
Alternatives:1950–56 International L-, R- and S-series, 1955–64 Mack B-series, 1953–56 Ford F-800, 1948–54 GMC “cannonball” COE truck
Investment Grade:C

This truck, Lot 7046, was offered at no reserve and sold for $7,150, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s Fall Auburn event in Auburn, IN, on August 31, 2014.

Classic big rigs have a market all their own, with a devoted group of collectors who lovingly restore, preserve and use them. So what happened with this seemingly nice Studebaker sold at just $7,150? Let’s take a look.

America’s original truck builder

First, some background. When the Studebaker brothers formed their company in 1852, wagons were their trade, with working wagons — such as the famous Conestogas — their specialty.

When the company went to electric and then internal-combustion propulsion before finally ditching the horse, large trucks were an on-and-off product. Studebaker developed a good market for trucks in the 1920s, but management miscues saw the company go away from them and get into financial trouble. New management put in place during The New Deal saw Studebaker re-enter the truck market with great zeal, and with great style. Their trucks from the late 1930s were at the height of Art Deco styling.

In 1938 through 1939, France, Holland and Belgium bought Studebaker trucks to equip their armies. During the Nazi blitzkrieg through the Low Countries, the Wehrmacht took a fancy to Studes for their power and durability, and gave their artillery crews orders not to destroy them so they could repatriate them for their own use. Some of these made it as far as the Russian front, where they faced newer Studes supplied to the Soviets through Lend Lease. The Soviets loved their Studebaker trucks, too — not only did the state industry copy these trucks during the Cold War era, but even today “Studebaker” is Russian slang that’s akin to our “Built like a Mack truck.”

Last-ditch line-hauler

You’d think with the lessons learned during World War II that Stude would have been one of the big players in the heavy-duty post-war truck market. It wasn’t. After the war, their truck efforts concentrated almost exclusively on the light- and middle-duty segments. It wasn’t until the reality of the ill-fated Studebaker-Packard merger of 1954 sank in that Stude scrambled back into the bigger truck market to offset their losses.

By the end of the 1950s, Studebaker had realized that the industry was going diesel in a big way, so they started to offer GM diesels in medium-duty models. Yet it wasn’t until 1962 that they got serious about the semi-truck market with the introduction of their line-haul diesel-powered trucks.

All trucks used Studebaker’s evergreen R-series cab, which dated to 1948, plus the usual Transtar grille design from 1957. In addition, these new 7E45A and 7E45E semi tractors had an all-new front clip. To make the shortest possible bumper-to-back-of-cab length (BBC), they developed a new flat-face front fascia made from the plastic polymer Royalite. Looking for all the world like someone cut off the front two feet of the truck, it did allow these trucks to pull a 40-foot trailer in states that had 50-foot total length limits.

These rigs were mostly built with off-the-shelf chassis components, such as Spicer and Clark transmissions, Timken rear axles, plus Budd or Dayton wheels. With available wheelbases of 131, 143, 155, 171, and 195 inches, their largest weight ratings were 42,000 GCVW as a semi combination.

There were only minor changes for 1963, with model names for all trucks becoming 8-series; in the case of their largest models, 8E45A and 8E45E. Just like their car market, truck sales didn’t come close to desired projections, and if anything, additional losses from the trucks just compounded Studebaker’s problems. While 1964 models were cataloged (really just the same 1963s titled as 1964s — along with unsold 1962s with new serial numbers), they were but a trickle before Studebaker shut off production on December 27, 1963.

The classic big-truck market

Over 50 years after the last Stude truck was built, essentially all have left revenue service, and the few survivors are coveted mostly by fans of the brand — more so than by truck-specific collectors, for the most part.

Semi-tractor collectors tend to gravitate towards truck-specific manufacturers — Peterbilt, Kenworth, Diamond T, Brockway, Autocar, and Sterling generally being at the highest pinnacle of desirability (and price) by originally having a premium product tailored primarily to semis. A rung below are International, Mack, White, and REO — truck-specific builders, but with smaller and broader market products. At the lower end are the car manufacturers that also built trucks — Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, Dodge and Studebaker. Prices tend to follow suit.

Vintage semi collectors also tend to be extensions of the working trucking industry. It’s the nature of the beast. Semi trucks are expensive to restore, and they continue to be expensive to maintain once they are done. Only a select few insurance carriers will cover them, and even fewer will underwrite them if they haul anything. As such, most classic trucks tend to be part of an active trucking company, with a handful being owned by individuals. Most collectors only have one to three.

The garage-stall factor

One plus with this rig is that it’s a single-axle rear with a shorter wheelbase, so it can actually fit in a standard car-sized parking spot.

Having the pickup-based cab means that it’s also shorter than a typical Mack or Peterbilt, but folks with a nine-foot-tall garage door better get a tape measure to make sure it’ll fit. And therein lies the quandary with collectible semis — along with other trucks and farm tractors.

I call it the garage-stall factor. If it will fit in a standard garage stall, it will bring top money, since anyone who can have a car can find a place to park it (even if the wife’s Camry has to sit outside once in a while). Once you get larger than a garage stall, the potential pool of owners starts to evaporate, and consequently, both the potential market and the truck’s value shrink.

So, while this truck may not have been a first-tier big-truck collectible, it was small enough to be attractive to a larger core audience. The auction company’s pre-sale guesstimate on this truck was not overly optimistic at $20k to $30k — after all, it was in nice restored condition. But that same money will buy you a show-quality 1962 Studebaker Champ pickup in today’s market, and that’ll be enough truck for most Studebaker collectors — and there’s no worries about 12-foot garage doors or CDLs with those.

The selling price here was an absolute bargain — but only for someone who understands what it takes to support a heavy-duty diesel truck. For that buyer, I’d call this very well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.

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