1950 Studebaker Pickup – Better…by Mistake?
Story and photos by Chris Shelton
Diane McFerran’s 1950 Studebaker pickup teaches us to embrace, not fear, our errors.
At one point all of us are afraid to make mistakes. And why not? Mistakes are expensive. And embarrassing. And inevitable.
But they’re not always bad. Diane McFerran’s ’50 Stude pickup is the product of a fairly grand mistake. And it’s pretty good mistake as far as we’re concerned.
Someone told Stan Murray, the pickup’s builder and Diane’s dad that a Camaro made a great donor to update a pickup. Unfortunately, they failed to mention what year to get. Assuming that newer is better, he bought the latest one he could find affordably. Trouble is, the ’91 that he found has a strut-type suspension that relies on the unitized body for structure. It’s a big deal. A deal-killer, really.
And that’s enough to make most of us retreat in embarrassment. Not Stan. He just shrugged and played the hand that was dealt.
Actually, what he did after he grafted the cross member to the chassis was recreate upper strut mounts from steel sheet and a strut connector that arches over the engine. The late F-bodies do have one very distinct advantage: a three-link torque-arm rear suspension. Stan made mounts to use that in the Stude, a good deal as this one came with a limited-slip rear differntial.
Really Stan used every part of the pig but the squeal. He kept the 305c.i. V8 but replaced the fuel injection with a simpler Edelbrock carburetor and manifold. He used the radiator but adapted the Camaro’s twin electric fans to it—he even used the Camaro’s brake master cylinder and booster.
Being basically left for dead, the pickup sustained pretty significant body damage. Stan recreated the bed from scratch, using only the fenders from the truck. He also patched up the cab and applied Studebaker Clover Green to it. And if you’re wondering about the lights, Stan made housings that resemble ’50 Lincoln pieces using brass stock that he shaped and soldered together. Yeah, the guy’s creative.
The creativity turns inward, first as a pickup steering wheel that he cut down with a passenger-car rim. He made the shift stalk that selects the gears in the T5 transmission in the tunnel. Jim’s Auto and Boat Upholstery in Driggs, Idaho trimmed the stock seat in brown vinyl.
Though it’s technically a mistake, the late-model F-body that Stan accidentally chose actually makes Diane’s pickup better. In a sense, it’s basically a late-model Camaro—kind of a top-heavy version one of course. It underscores the idea that there really are no mistakes. You just have to treat them differently. As progressive musician Brian Eno once said, “Honor your mistake as a hidden intention.”