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Rare V8 Champ: 1963 Studebaker Pickup

If you think this 1963 Studebaker Champ’s front end resembles a Studebaker Lark, you would be correct, that’s where it originated. Introduced in 1960, the Champ was fairly shortlived, exiting production in ’64 as Studebaker was winding down its U.S. assembly operation. Considered to be a model “8E”, this ’63 edition is one of 5,861 assembled that year according to Pat Foster at Hemmings – not a common find. This is a great discovery, courtesy of MisterLou, so let’s see what Studie offered the competition 60 years ago. Located in Chico, California, this still-in-the-family truck is available, here on craigslist for $2,200.

The seller tells us that his grandfather purchased this pickup in the ’60s but doesn’t say a word about its use or whereabouts over the last six decades. The body shows as being fairly sound and the seller suggests that it’s “ready for a repaint” but that might be a bit premature as painting over rust is not a great restoration approach. The body shows as being mostly complete though small, repetitive, machined holes in the fenders tell me that there is some stainless trim that has gone missing. The grille is rather distinctive and the seller mentions that he has a second one that’s available – it was purchased as wall art. Other than the rear step bumper, this old truck shows as original and complete. That said, I would like to take a gander at the underside and the cargo bed.

The listing states, “Engine turns over. Gas tank is empty. Broken water pump“. Well, I’d expect the gas tank to be empty and it’s evident that this is a non-runner. Looking at that engine, I’d say it has been a non-runner for many moons – especially the way that alternator is just tossed in on top of the engine, it’s probably been sitting like that for some time. As to which engine is occupying the under-hood real estate, it would have to be either a 259 CI (180 HP) or a 289 CI (210 HP) V8. Gear changing is handled by a Borg-Warner-designed and built “Flight-O-Matic” automatic gearbox.

The interior is really not photographed so there’s not much to reveal – no word about it in the listing description either. It appears to be a black vinyl bench seat affair with a black rubber floor mat and utilizing the simplest of instrumentation. There is one listing image of an under-dash tangle of wires, complete with recently added connectors, so something may be up in the electrical department. The seller does mention that the driver’s side window is cracked and will need to be replaced.

These Champ trucks were a last-ditch attempt for Studebaker to stay relevant in the hyper-competitive American auto business. It has been said that Studebaker closed out 1959 in better financial shape than it had experienced in a long time. Unfortunately for them, the BIG Three released their own compacts in ’60 (Corvair, Falcon, and Valiant) which cut heavily into a market segment where Studebaker had enjoyed sound success with the Lark.  In 1960, Studebaker placed eleventh in the North American production race with 120K units but by ’63, it was down to 69K copies though it still managed a twelfth-place finish. The closing of the South Bend, Indiana assembly plant in December of ’63 ended Studebaker’s truck business (though some postal ZIP vans were constructed into early ’64). Endings are sad but that’s what happens in competitive and evolving marketplaces.

The seller concludes with, “Needs work but would be a great project. Overhauled they go for over 25k“. Yeah, OK, but regardless of what this truck might be worth, saving it because of what it is, representing the end of the run for a respected, American independent automaker is reason enough to bring this 60-year-old pickup back to life, Wouldn’t you agree?


  1. MarkE Mark Member

    I had one very utilitarian Always started even during an Indiana Winter Problem areas are rusty floors and under the doors I sold it to a buddy that is more mechanically inclined than I am

    Like 4
    • MarkE Mark Enlow Member

      Mine had a nickname it was named Cal by previous owner who had purchased it in California Cal began life as a California Highway Transportation Truck Heavy Duty large rims Very low ratio rear end for towing The long 9 foot bed and the large wrap around bumper to haul canteens for water and fuel

      Like 2
  2. Connecticut mark

    Seems like a great deal v8 not rotted away. If it was on east coast in that shape, I would grab it.

    Like 4
  3. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    What’s rare is the automatic……8E would be correct since the E started in 1955. They would have been in thier 110th year of business in 1963 – not a bad run…..

    Like 3
  4. Cadmanls Member

    That one’s a truck, I had a Studebaker car know very little about their trucks but those 8 lug wheels tell me it’s no half ton. This truck worked and still looks pretty decent. Not too many of these left, and the automatic is kind of unusual.

    Like 3
    • GrumpyONE

      Yep, 3/4 ton and rides like a full ton!

      Yet one in that condition could have years of service left without the hassles of modern electronics laden trucks out there. It takes a Real Man to ride/drive a Studebaker 3/4 ton workhorse!

      Like 1
  5. Rusty Bolton

    I’m on the East Coast otherwise I would grab that one! They are extinct in the rust belt

    Like 2
  6. Heck Dodson Member

    At this price this one will be gone quickly, if not already. Like the V8 and AT. If this is the 289 instead of the other one, wonder how much easier parts would be to find doing a rebuild. Good find

    Like 3
    • Joseph

      Like a lot of engine designs Studebaker just keep boring and stroking the base engine to increase cubic inches. 259 and 289 basically same engine. 289 slightly bigger bore and stroke. Great engines last forever parts are easy to fine.

      Like 4
    • Doc

      Befriend a good parts guy, and you can get almost anything you may need….. you have to know where to look. I got a guy for that.

      Like 0
    • Jeff DeWitt

      The only difference between the 259 and 289 is the stroke. Same rings and bearings. As I recall the only difference in parts is the crank and pistons.

      Like 0
  7. Bruce Berst Member

    Does appear to be a 3/4 ton. My dad had one on the farm and he would easily haul over a ton at a time. That would be a 289c.i..

    Like 2
  8. Jeff Wasniak

    A big problem with Stude is curtis wright bought stude in the late 50’s and only for a tax write off , so they were doomed with that signing but they kept struggling and the new president for Stude was suppose to shut them down but he liked Stude and tried to save it,,made the 62 Hawk look awesome,changed the lark style in 64, which looked very nice and made the Avanti all to save stude,he got cancer and ,,,,end of story they folded a few yrs later

    Like 4
    • Bob C.

      Sherwood Egbert, had he not sick, I’m sure Studebaker would have held on a little longer.

      Like 0
  9. Robert Starinsky

    This is a rare find. A long-bed Champ with an Automatic Transmission! Looks like there might be a problem as the alternator isn’t connected. The price isn’t too bad if you can get this one back on the road.

    Like 1
  10. Joe

    Good truck and fairly rust free that’s understandable being in Chico California, 3/4 ton and built tough. Great engine, block high nickel content , forged crank, and rods, gear drive cam shaft and solid lifters. Those engines will run forever if maintained

    Like 3
  11. Heck Dodson Member

    Being a 3/4 ton truck long bed, with a 289 V8 and AT, I’m sure it was used pulling trailers most of its life. That setup would have sure made that easier back in the day.

    Like 3
  12. Howard A Member

    A guy in N.Wis. had a Champ, faded blue, just like this. One of my favorite pickups. Always liked Studebaker( after Rambler, of course), the Lark was a nice design and a pickup to top it off. Unless I missed it, nobody commented on the “most ill fitting pickup box” in the business. Why? It was right off a Dodge and looked corny, but distinctive, for sure. The guy in Wis. wouldn’t sell his Champ, I didn’t blame him. Not sure about these being a “last ditch effort”, that honor goes to the Avanti. These were merely an offering by Studebaker for the 14 people that actually wanted a Champ. The “E” series from 1949 needed an update, and this was the best they could come up with, considering what they had to work with. Studebaker also made a H-D versions, the Transtar, but oddly, used the older E series cabs. Few were seen outside of South Bend. Sky the limit here.

    Like 0
    • geezerglide 85

      Thanks for mentioning the box Howard, not everyone knows that Studebaker bought the dies from Dodge but had an agreement to make replacement boxes for them. Those boxes didn’t look that good on the Dodges either. I always like the look of the old style box better, don’t know if that was gone by ’63 or was an option until the end. Also I read an article about some pickups that were made on the lark frame and shipped to South America as cab only units. Once there the got a locally sourced fiberglass box. It kind of looked like a Studamino.

      Like 0
      • Jeff DeWitt

        I think the Larkamino’s were assembled in Brazil with parts supplied by South Bend.

        Like 0
  13. Jeff DeWitt

    I have one of these, mine is a 60 half ton, short wheelbase with the much better looking, if less practical, narrow Studebaker bed.

    These are great trucks,were the least expensive new truck you could buy when they were new, and by the standards of the day the cab was quite roomy and comfortable. They also popularized the idea of the sliding rear window.

    This might not be PC (not that that bothers me), these trucks were built for a man who had a job to do, and sadly many of them were just used up and scrapped.

    But they were, and are, tough, reasonably sized workhorses… as the advertising slogan said, “Champ, it’s tougher than the job”.

    Like 1

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