1 of 1 Mail Truck: 1963 Studebaker Zip Van

The seller of this 1963 Studebaker zip van contends it is the only one built as a prototype for the U.S. Postal Service. It sports a highly unusual supercharged two-stroke diesel engine that does not run. The seller bought it as a project but contends he will not have time and recent health issues demand freeing up some cash. Find it here on eBay with bidding at $1,525 and the reserve unmet.

The van does have some body issues and the seller notes the lower edge of the paneling seen here was damaged by the transporter responsible for carrying it home. Overall, though, the body panels look straight and the likely impossible-to-find glass panels are all intact. Nice to see a matching set of hubcaps, too. The driver’s door has a wood core that needs replacement.

The seller shared one photo of the Studebaker in front of what can be assumed to be a smiling U.S. Postal Service employee, but no other history is shared. I can understand the desire to try and save a vehicle like this, but it is no small feat to restore an oddball make in exceedingly limited quantities – especially one that isn’t worth a whole lot.

The drivetrain alone makes it a project worthy of rescue in my eyes, but you have to do so knowing the final project will never be worth what you’ve invested. And that’s OK – projects like these are saved because of their uniqueness. The seller notes he has not attempted to start it and it’s paired to an automatic transmission. Would you try to restore this one-of-one oddball?

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Comments

  1. CapNemo CapNemo

    You can get that glass all day long.

    12
    • Bob C.

      Yes, good old fashioned flat safety glass. Just a matter of taking a pattern, cutting, and sanding.

      11
  2. Will Fox

    I hate to break it to this guy, but there were thousands of these built and used by the USPS in the early 60’s. I remember our mail carrier driving one when I was a kid. Perhaps the supercharged diesel engine was prototype, but not the vehicle itself. You can even find historical photos of these in use if you look online.

    13
    • CapNemo CapNemo

      I remember these from when I was a young kid. They were common.

      2
    • Jim Viita

      Yes Studebaker made about 4,000 zip vans. This was the only one they made with a diesel engine in it. The rest all had inline 6-cylinder Studebaker gas engines

      5
    • Jim Viita

      You are absolutely correct that they built more than one ZIP van. They built around four thousand of them total. However all of the others used an inline 6-cylinder gasoline-powered Studebaker power plant. This is the only one they made that was diesel-powered before they lost out on the contract to Kaiser Jeep because they could not keep up with the production demands. So unfortunately, there’s nothing you need to break to me

      4
  3. Ken Member

    If there’s a guy standing in front of one that says “Cerlist Diesel,” then this one can’t be a “1 of 1” prototype. You can see the emblems are in different locations. Obviously more than one was constructed.

    There is plenty of information on Cerlist diesels online. Here is a sample.

    http://www.wehs.net/connection-5-cerlist.html

    3
    • Jim Viita

      It’s my van, and it is the same van in the picture. It was repainted at some point in its life, and the emblem moved. The emblem was originally glued in place, what it was repainted they screwed it back on. You can see the original numbers Bleeding Through the paint actually oh, and the old paint scheme.

      6
      • Paul in Ma

        Good luck with the sale and with your wife

        1
  4. mark a schulze

    Would something like this be a good candidate for an electric conversion. Looks to me like it might make a good delivery van around town.

    2
  5. Dusty Stalz

    The glass is intact? The first pic shows two of them broken and since it’s all flat it would be very easy to get.

    3
  6. Andrew Franks

    I’m crazy enough. If I had the room I would buy it, restore it, and own it for no reason at all.

    6
  7. Lance

    Prototype???? Ummmm NO they were mass produced.

    1
  8. That Guy

    Nobody seems to reading the posting. It’s a prototype of a 3-cylinder, 2-stroke diesel-powered version of the Studebaker Zip Van. Of course there were many built and sold to the USPS with the Studebaker six. That’s not what this is.

    6
  9. Rube Goldberg Member

    While Zip vans were seen all over America, I never heard of a Cerlist diesel. I read, after they went bankrupt in the late 50’s ( hmm, I wonder why), they became part of the Waukesha engine group. Got to be a gutless bugger, but for city streets, it probably did ok. They were more popular in boats or stationary motors. I’ll have to bring out the big guns, geomechs, any experience with a Cerlist diesel? Also, I believe, the word “supercharged” may be a bit misleading. I can only imagine, it’s like a Detroit, where, and I just learned this, the supercharger was really just a blower to blow exhaust gas out, kind of supercharging it, but not what you would think of in supercharging, like a dragster. Like all 2 stroke diesels, they make a great boat anchor.

    3
    • local_sheriff

      While I’ll agree this 2stroke diesel may not be the ideal power plant in such a light duty vehicle, there’s a chance Studebaker was inspired by the successful Commer TS-3 to build this proto. However it’s unfair to write 2stroke diesels off as boat anchors only.

      From the 50s even up to this day the 2stroke diesel was THE preferred engine design propelling heavier trucks, construction vehicles, AFVs, vessels and perhaps most important locomotives! In their time they were considered to offer the best power-to-weight ratio in a compact package however they rely on forced induction to work effectively. Unlike 4stroke diesels they like higher RPMs to reach full potential making them rather noisy

      1
      • Rube Goldberg Member

        I appreciate your comment, and if you are or were indeed a “local sheriff”, I also appreciate your service, but I made my living around these engines, sat on top of, behind and even in front of, and I can say, from experience, as a road tractor engine, they are worthless. The reason they were so popular, is 4 stroke diesels hadn’t evolved to what they are today,( a 350 Cummins or Cat was considered a BIG motor) and a Detroit was easily rebuildable, and every 2 cycle diesel I drove, ended up being rebuilt at some point. If you can say you’ve put in over 3 million miles, many of which with Detroits, I’ll honor what you say, but you’ll have to trust me on this. For equipment, like dozers or shovels, or marine applications, they’re fine, but their poor bottom end performance makes for a bad “goin’ thru the gears” motor, and I know 1st hand where the saying “keep the needle against the pin” came from.

        3
      • local_sheriff

        Rube; I knew instantly what you meant when you wrote ‘keep the needle to the pin’ – having served as an M109 howitzer commander 22 years back I’ve had my share of Detroit Diesel fumes and high pitch tones, and those shooters are LOTS of metal to move! The 2stroke diesel concept is of course obsolete by now superseded by improved 4strokes offering considerably better low end torque not to mention emissions.

        However being generally interested in old-school technology (that’s what brought me to BF in the first place!) I find them truly fascinating in their own right and in their heyday larger 2stroke diesels were quite impressive compared to other available power plants in their time

        1
  10. João Antonio Pinto de Carvalho

    Achei muito estranho, protótipo feito para o Correio dos Estados Unidos, mas controles com “mão inglesa”?

    • CapNemo CapNemo

      wth??

      2
      • Rube Goldberg Member

        Oh come on, Cap, were you sleeping in HS Spanish??? I was,,I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’d hate to have to sign that name 30 times,,,regardless, bienvenido a bordo!

        1
  11. CapNemo CapNemo

    Cheers, and a good day to ya Rube!!

    1
  12. Philip Bregar

    If I was considering buying it, it would have to be a gas engine. I’ve never cared for diesels. Looks like it could be a fun project, if a gas engine would swap right in.

  13. chrlsful Member

    same 1 (or different?) offered several mo ago? The engine? –
    I’d take a v4 model frm ’73…put it in a ‘heep’ (off rd) type vehicle

  14. Bill Pressler

    They didn’t “lose” the contract to Kaiser; they shut down production in South Bend, USA.

  15. don

    I dont know if its true or not ,but I read somewhere that one of these postal vans was involved in an accident , and a rumor started running around that they were unsafe , so the government cancelled the contract with Studebaker and went with Kaiser.

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