Do not adjust your television set; these aren't photos of the Danbury Mint's 1937 Studebaker Coupe Express replica in an elaborate diorama. Au contraire-Mike Kluth's Stude is larger than life when you see this unusual prewar pickup in person. The J5 Coupe Express was penned and manufactured at a time when design and aesthetics were still important to the world, before the Art Deco movement came to an end and every man wore a hat and ladies dressed up just to leave the house. Mike's grandiose truck is one of roughly 3,125 built in its first year, with a total production between 5,000 and 5,500 until '39, when they were phased out for the '40 model year.
It was love at first sight when Mike was introduced to the Coupe Express in '72, and it took him almost 20 years to find the right one hiding in a barn in Menomonee, Wisconsin. George Shilling bought the truck new in April '37 to use on his farm, and he later sold it to a local farm implement dealer for more work detail until '59, when the timing gear gave way and he parked it in the barn with 61,618.8 miles on the odometer. Mike had heard about the truck for 20 of its 30-year slumber, but he was never able to meet with the owners. Patience was a virtue, and he and his late father hauled it home with his '57 Studebaker Transtar pickup-yeah, it made a great picture. When the guys returned home with the J5 in tow, Mike's wife, Heather, asked if his dad bought another Stude, which was a reasonable question due to his lifelong affair with them and vintage Indian motorcycles, but Mike said no, he had. She shook her head, and they carried on.
Nine more years passed before Mike and his dad started in on the restoration, seeing as it took that long to find all the parts they needed back in those pre-Internet days. Mr. Kluth knew Studebaker engines like the back of his hand, so he went to town rebuilding the 217ci flathead six back to stock specs. What the motor lacks in displacement, it makes up for in torque, with a long 4 3/8-inch stroke that helps move the substantial truck at a good pace around town, while the optional overdrive on the three-speed trans manages the interstate at a comfortable rpm.