Shorty Hauler: 1957 Studebaker Transtar


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In 1957, you could purchase a Studebaker Transtar truck in many different configurations, but I couldn’t find any like this particular one after a long internet search. I’m guessing the rear body was custom made.  It actually looks like some mobile home delivery trucks I remember from an early 1980’s summer job, with a heavy duty but short bed designed to hold concrete blocks. This particular truck is located in Fullerton, California and is up for sale here on eBay, with bidding below $1,500 but the reserve has not been met. 


Here’s what the bed looks like. I’m sure this was intended for towing as well as the trucks I remember, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t re-purpose it now. Maybe mount a fifth-wheel hookup in the center of the bed and tow a large camper or race trailer? The seller describes the bed as being from an old wrecker, but that’s not what it looks like to me. Perhaps a Barn Finds reader knows?


You can really appreciate how short this truck is from this shot. The paint is somewhat old, and there’s certainly some rust started in places but it’s not too bad, especially for a working vehicle. I wonder what was originally stored in the lockable boxes on each side?


Naturally, the inside is very utilitarian, but I think a little work and a rubber mat would have this looking good enough for me in no time at all. I was a little concerned about what looks like the clutch pedal being on the floor in this picture until I realized that this truck has had a complete drivetrain swap, including a Chrysler Torqueflite 3-speed automatic transmission.


And here’s the rest of the swap; a Chrysler 360 is now under the hood. I’m not generally a fan of engine swaps for classic vehicles, but in this case I can understand it, especially if the vehicle was still being used to tow. But what would you use it for now? Without changing out the high rear axle ratio, I’m guessing this isn’t a vehicle to take on the interstate, at least at reasonable RPM. What would you use it for? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. MountainMan

    That looks like an old tow truck bed to me. The mobile home haulers look really similar though so who knows… I do like the truck personally… Although im not sure what exactly i woukd use it for. The fifth wheel hauler seems like a good idea.

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  2. HoA Howard AMember

    I believe the truck Jamie is referring to was called the “Whatoff trailer toter” and was a very short truck like this with an extendable frame for hauling large mobile homes.
    This truck looks more like a tow truck body, but no apparent holes for the hoist, but the multi ball hitch and the dual wheels and 2 trailer plugs are a clue, it may have been used for a trailer hauler. The Transtar had a fiberglass grill, but was really nothing more than an older style from 1949 and was replaced by the Champ in 1960. ( Lark body) Cool truck and I like the updated motor. Bet this is a fun truck to drive.

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    Those were made to tow mobile homes from manufacture to mobile dealers. Many mobile homes were/are made within 50 miles of South Bend, Indiana so it was a ready market. The last interesting one of these I saw was in a garage at a mobile home park in Columbus, Ohio and was a 58 Dodge COE with a hemi.

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  4. RON

    You might be a fan of Chrysler/Dodge but by no means let yourself believe the Studebaker v/8 289 and the Diesel engines in the larger 18 wheelers had to take a back seat to anything that d
    Dodge or any of the other big 3 put out when it came to carrying a load in this type truck in the day. You can travel around the country and find more old Studies sitting in fields and under barns that will crank run and haul a load any day of the week than the others. In farm country they abound and many still uused. That is why these were still around to haul trailers when everything else was replaced and in the junk yard. Stude blocks were heavier and would take more borings on their v/8 than anything else on the road.There is a group in the Stude Drivers Club known as “The Truck Farmers” at the National every year in large trun out. Visit and see what they are running and only “street rodded pick-ups have brand X’s

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  5. Jeff

    Back in 1962 my Dad and a friend towed a mobile home from Wisconsin to Florida using a Stude just like this one. I or my sisters should have a picture or two of the rig. I will see if I can get a copy to post. All I can remember is that it was and adventure. Which included the brakes going out, to loosing a mirror to a passing semi while in the mountains of Tennessee to the trailer tire starting on fire. Dad came to love that old Stude….

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  6. Bobsmyuncle

    Looks like a wrecker body to me too.

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  7. Lee Hartman

    It’s an old house trailer toter. Studebaker was probably the most popular truck for that purpose back in the day. Many, but not all had extendable frames. The length, the bed, and the dual light plugs all point to that type of truck.

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  8. Matt Tritt

    Since it’s in Southern California and definitely set up to tow heavy things – I think it might have been used to haul boats. It used to be a big business from the 50’s through the 70’s – but it still could have been a trailer delivery truck…

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  9. JW

    Not too smart about Studebakers but this would make a cool fifth wheel hauler for a car trailer.

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  10. jim s

    i think this was made to tow trailers/mobile homes. needs a PI of the frame making sure it was done right and is still in good shape. maybe the seller has some underside photo. i could see going to the big box store and loading a pallet or two of mulch in the bed. great find

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  11. Matt Tritt

    It would. We had a semi tractor like this that was really excellent – but it also had a LOT more available gears with a Browning 3-range behind the main transmission and air brakes.

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  12. Brian Lasaine

    Looks like an old airport tug truck.

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  13. joeinthousandoaks


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  14. quite popular Habel

    I have seen many of these trailer toters over the years. The Studebaker was quite popular at the time.

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  15. JoeT

    Wonder how it drives with the Mopar 360 and automatic? If it had an axel ratio set up for heavy towing, this would probably top out at about 50MPH.

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  16. Vince Habel

    Many of these had a two speed axle.

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  17. Bob Lichty

    I agree I think it was a Trailer Toter. Short wheel base, heavy duty, dual rear wheels, heavy duty tag along hitch. Most mobile home in the US are made in Indiana where Studebakers come from. Also California has some big mobile home plants. I know where there is a ’59 Ford set up almost exactly the same near here.

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  18. Spanky57

    While in Elementary school during the 60’s, the St.Louis County Library operated a bookmobile ( tandem axle trailer) pulled by a rig like this.It was replaced by an International Crew cab sometime after ’65 Both the trailer and Studie were painted just like this truck offered here!

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