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Rusty Mail Carrier: 1963 Studebaker Transtar Zip Van

1963 was the year that the United States Postal Service began using zip codes to help streamline the mail delivery process. And it was also the year the USPS placed an order with Studebaker Corporation for a series of newfangled delivery trucks. They were right-hand drive vans with sliding doors for the driver, no doors on the left side, and two sets of gas pedals, which the driver could use either sitting or standing. Unfortunately, the production of these vans ceased when Studebaker stopped operations in 1966. This 1963 edition looks to be wearing its original red, white and blue postal colors and is amid a restoration. It’s available in Charlottesville, Virginia, and here on eBay where a Buy It Now price of $6,500 has been set.

Studebaker received an order in 1963 to produce 3,391 examples of the Zip Vans, but an additional order of 847 was placed, so the total would be 4,238 units. The unitized body was fabricated by Met-Pro out of Lansdale, Pennsylvania and Studebaker built the chassis and drivetrain in South Bend, Indiana where the final package would come together. With a wheelbase of 85 inches, the Zip Van was powered by a 170 cubic inch overhead ‘Skybolt’ six-cylinder that kicked out 112 horsepower. It was mated to a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic transmission and Twin-Traction limited-slip differential at the rear axle.

The seller’s 1963 Zip Van is from an early part of the production run but has been off the road since the 1980s. There is rust literally everywhere, from the hood and doors to the floor, quarter panels, and roof. As the series of photos provided indicates, a restoration of the van has been started. The subframe has been removed for repainting along with the axle and leaf springs. The engine, tranny and clutch, radiator, front body frame rails, and channels are all in the process of being redone. The floors may be repairable with patch panels. Part of one of the doors is made of wood and that will need attention different from the metal parts. The gas tank is about the only thing that shouldn’t require effort.

In an unusual move, the seller says the price will be increased as the restoration progresses. The buyer will receive a new set of wheels and tires with this purchase. It should be noted that the sale will occur by bill of sale as there is no title. The seller indicates the buyer can source a replacement title himself or he can get it done for an additional $600 and four weeks wait time. It’s hard to peg a resale value of these things because they’re so rare and surviving copies don’t change hands very often. Our thanks to Bring A Trailer and our own Russell Glantz here at Barn Finds (who also gave us this trip) for source material for this write-up. The last photo is what this van may have looked like back in its heyday.


  1. Avatar photo Jeff

    Guys, The price ($6,500) seems a bit high, is the seller smoking a little to much Wacky Tobacky?
    The $1,350 price on the windshield is more than most people would pay for a old mail truck that might be repurposed into a ice cream or some sort of food vendor truck.

    Like 10
  2. Avatar photo Mike

    Should have bought the one on BF a couple of weeks ago that when for $3,600. Way better shape.


    Like 6
  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    You know, we saw these for years as kids, and we probably never knew they were Studebakers. I never did, anyway. Probably the only thing that kept them afloat towards the end. The seller I suppose, thinks it’s worth it, as most became toolsheds out back, which is where this person probably found it. $6500 bucks,,,some people sure are desperate. Can’t blame them for trying. Like on Pawn Stars yesterday, some gal comes in with some “bug ring” she wanted $15,000 bucks for, turns out, it’s not that valuable, and she “settled” for $350 bucks!

    Like 6
  4. Avatar photo Vince H

    These had the water cooled transmission and the Dana 44 rear. The engine was the weak link. If it was overheated the head would crack. Price is too high for the condition

    Like 4
  5. Avatar photo Spud

    Is it even legal to finish one of these in USPS livery and then drive it around if you aren’t a postal employee? Then again, I suppose “Impersonating a Mailman” probably isn’t exactly a thing.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo JimmyinTEXAS

      Paint it the same colors and use U.S.MALE for the printed part.

      Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Bill Potts

    I’m waiting for a three wheeled mailster to come up.

    Like 2
  7. Avatar photo K

    Tip for the seller: wash off the price you paid ($1350) before taking sale photos

    Like 13
  8. Avatar photo Chris

    If I were a buyer I would want a real title . I think that might help sell it with all paperwork in order . Some people may not want the headache of getting a title .

    Like 2

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