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I wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted me when I went to do the article on the Studebaker. Most cars we do are low to the ground, bright and cheerful. This beast just looked mean. I love it. Towering above me it looked like you would need a ladder to get in, but on close inspection you realise this is actually a very user-friendly car. It’s not just a fun car, but a family mover and hauler truck as well. Very handy and a rare occurrence in the hotrod community.
John Cochran, the owner of this beast, was looking for a different kind of classic pick up that he could use for cruising while also being able to load and carry things. In short he wanted the impossible. While he was in Cape Town he met with Johan van Eck of Exclusive Coachworks to look at a Studebaker street rod being built but when he saw the ground clearance he knew that it wouldn’t work for him, as he wanted a truck with off road ability. Johan said he had completed building another 1949 Studebaker as his shop truck and would consider selling it. This being a hotrod shop, sentiment had no place in it, so Johan couldn’t really refuse. Because John lives in Johannesburg and Johan in Cape Town, the deal took longer to close than normal, but in the end John had the car of his dreams.
Johan sourced this 1949 Studebaker 2R Pick Up in Table View in a back yard in 2008 and planned on taking his time with it. It was almost scrap and most parts like the load box, floor & tailgate were handmade by Exclusive Coachworks. The rest was stripped completely and all metalwork done to perfection before being sprayed with a dark charcoal paint, enhancing the menace this car exudes.
The exterior is only one part of the equation, the main part is the imposing height and bulk of this beast. A Chevy Blazer Silverado chassis was sourced and the Studebaker body was built onto that chassis, utilizing the full 4x4 suspension, transfer case and gearing. The most difficult part of the conversion was the front suspension and details of that is still top secret, so if you want one of these, better call the builder himself. The powerplant is also something special with more power than the original designers of the Studebaker could ever imagine. A small block Chevrolet 308cu in v8 was fitted into the engine bay. The lump of Detroit Iron was then topped with a set of Edelbrock heads and beautifully finned valve covers, before a Holley 4-barrel carburettor was fitted to feed the beast. The exhaust is a work of art in stainless steel, facilitating a smooth exit for the spent gasses while keeping everything inside the frame rails untill it gets expelled through some glorious-sounding side pipes. Form meets function in the most perfect sense. One of the changes made to the original car was the engine block. Stepping away from the normal blue or orange of the factory blocks,this one was painted in a deep candy apple red. It’s a very striking change and one that jumps out at you as soon as you open the dark grey bonnet.
The power is transferred to the rear wheels through a T350 gearbox supplying the rear 18” Bridgestone Duelers with all the power these massive tyres can handle. The 4x4 rims were imported from the states. A lot of custom touches adorn this car, from the Chevy Silverado wing mirrors to the custom door handles imported from a supplier in America; every part of this car reflects its owner’s taste. The smaller touches that jump out at you are things like the gas filler cap mounted in the load bed and the alien-like tail lights. This truck is a gem and the cabin reflects that as well. The first thing you see when you get behind the Silverado steering is the full complement of Dakota digital dials. The sound system is completely hidden and results in a very clean looking cabin. The seats have been swapped for some electric Mercedes E class seats and the whole cabin covered with black leather. It’s classy-looking while being tougher than you might expect.
This may not be your run-of-the-mill hot rod but I love it, and I can guarantee this Studebaker will go where few rods will ever be able to follow. Keeping classic cars alive while doing what you want to. That is what rodding is all about.