Not too many songs conjure a visual like the Eagles' "Take it Easy." And for good reason, really; if Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey were good at anything, it was evocative imagery. With that one phrase, it's obvious that the gal in the pickup is one both in control and to behold. Judging by the enduring success of that song, it appears they weren't the only ones who think so.
Meet Diane Murray. This is her '50 Studebaker.
Though stock appearing, you've never seen one quite like it. It's probably because you're not likely to meet many like its owner. "I've always loved unique, older vehicles and used them as my daily drivers," she revealed. But like her pickup, they're just a little bit different. For example, her play car is a '60 Maserati 3500 GT-an alloy-bodied superleggera at that. It runs in the family, too. He just sold it, but her brother had an Olds Rocket-powered Deuce-also a green pickup, but the topless version. The Murray kids can trace the car lineage to their grandfather, renowned gunsmith Stan Baker (Diane's Maser was his), but they owe their personal involvement to their dad, Stan Murray. Among the cars in his stable: the concours-restored, chopped-and-sectioned '40 Ford convertible that his dad built in the '40s and a '56 Lotus 11 with a Le Mans pedigree. Yes, the Murray family does things just a little bit differently.
Though she drives 'em daily, she admits they're a bit impractical for daily use. Some require more maintenance; it's tricky to find parts for others. Heat is often marginal and air conditioning is out of the question. But if she could have her way, she surmised, "I could get the best of both worlds: a truck that looked like a stock classic to most people and newer running gear so it would drive and ride smoother."
As it happened, the truck belonged to an old family friend. "He used to camp in it ... trying to trap coyotes," she said. "The Nevada desert was the truck's grave, but we resurrected it." Though it languished northeast of Las Vegas, the lower quarters of the cab were rusty. The only thing useable about the bed was the Studebaker script on its tailgate.
Lucky for Diane, her dad's a good sport. "He's done restorations in the past, and I was confident he could build the kind of truck I wanted," she affirmed. "I could tell him things that I liked or wanted and he was able to do them."
While it's normal to have a Camaro donate its suspension and running gear, the one Stan used was anything but: it was a '91-a decade newer than the last one that lent itself to parts swapping. It's not a common donor because of its construction: rather than an A-arm front suspension on a stub, it has struts that rely on the body; instead of a parallel leaf, it has a threatening-looking torque-arm arrangement and coils. Unwieldy, yes; however, it's a far better handling system right out of the box.
With road manners as his charter, Stan first boxed the stock framerails from the firewall back and created everything from that point forward. The third-gen crossmembers still locate the major suspension and steering components, so Stan stripped it and grafted it to the new chassis stubs. As strut-type suspensions go, the third-gen Camaro's is unique in the sense that its springs aren't integral with the struts themselves. Instead, they sit inside spring pockets as they would in a conventional double-A-arm arrangement. The struts don't bear the weight of the car, so the pockets Stan made and welded to the crossmember sides are sufficient. Naturally, Stan employed the Camaro's disc brakes and its Z-28-specific power-assisted rack and fatter antiroll bar.
At the chassis' rear, he fabricated tabs, brackets, and crossmembers to transfer the Camaro's pickup points to the pickup's frame. In oversimplified terms, the design is a hybrid between a ladder bar and a four-link with a Panhard rod and coil springs. It looks about as strange as it sounds, but it's a bind-free design that redeems itself with great acceleration potential, ride quality, and handling. As he did with the front, Stan used the brakes and the Z-specific antiroll bar and limited-slip differential.
He used the Z-car's 305 but replaced its fuel and ignition control system with a simpler Edelbrock induction and a conventional HEI ignition. He adapted another radiator but used the Camaro's twin electric fans and accessory drive system, including the AC pump-even the booster/master combo. Branch Industries plumbed a 2-inch-diameter exhaust system to Cherry Bomb glasspacks. With a sports car background, can you imagine him buying a donor car with any less than three pedals? He used the Camaro's pedal assembly and the T5 transmission that came with it.
Just because a Stude is a good-looking truck doesn't mean it can't benefit from a little finesse. Since Diane likes the look of '50 Lincoln lights, Stan took their shape as inspiration for the pickup. He recessed the stock headlight buckets, rolled flat brass sheet into a tube, and sunk it into the opening. He then created a ring out of more brass stock-no mean feat considering the fender's compound curve. We're oversimplifying things in our description, but he soldered together the rings, drilled and tapped their backsides for screws, dressed the surfaces, and sent them to the plater's. Stan made similar bezels for the '46 Ford running lights.
Though the rings around the '37 Ford taillights were vastly more complicated to make than the headlight rings due to the extreme fender curve, they were the least of Stan's work on the back 40. Remember the wasted bed? Well, replacements are as rare as hen's teeth, and reproductions don't exist at all. Stan still used this bed, but only for patterns.
Working with 16- and 18-gauge galvanized steel, he rolled an entirely new bed-quite an accomplishment considering its double-wall construction and curved exterior. He similarly scratch-built a new tailgate using only the script from the original gate. Rather than leaving the flanks on either side of the tailgate open as they were when stock, Stan filled them, too. He fashioned a similar tailpan to fill the area below the gate. Though it's not a pickup color, the DuPont Centauri acrylic enamel Stan blew on the truck is indeed a Stude blend from that year.
Trucks generally didn't get much styling attention, and those made by a company struggling against the Big Three got even less, which should explain the less-than-elegant bumpers that Stude gave its pickups. These, however, are the exception to the rule: they not only look good, but they also fit the truck and match its era. It's certainly not by accident: they're '49 or '50 Dodge passenger-car bumpers.
But they started as Dodge car bumpers. After judicious cutting, trimming, bending, and filing, they match the Stude's chin and bustle. A strip between the framerails withstanding, he left the area between the fenders and front bumper open. At the rear he crafted a filler panel to span the gap between the bumper and bed.
Their benches are cornerstones to old pickups' feel, so Stan had Jim's Auto and Boat Upholstery in Driggs, Idaho (Stan lives in nearby Horseshoe Bend), retrim it in brown vinyl. Old truck steering wheels are similarly critical to their personalities, but the power-assisted steering eliminated the need for its large-diameter rim. Stan cut out the center, grafted it to a smaller-diameter rim, and blended the transition with plastic. He also sectioned its shaft to match it to the Camaro steering rack. Working with round stock, Stan crafted a truck-worthy shift shaft for the T5 gearbox. Though not appropriate for a concours restoration, the Chevy dash knobs from Chevs of the 40's have the correct look. Since there's no way to similarly doll up modern audio gear, Stan hid the Pioneer head unit in the glovebox and drilled steel door panels for the speakers.
So did dad hit the mark? "I wanted a truck with subtle modifications that still looked pretty original," Diane noted. "I wanted to be able to use it as my daily driver without encountering the problems that I have had with other old cars and trucks." And to that end, she's true to her word: returning to Bend, Oregon, from her pickup's maiden voyage to the Goodguys Northwest Nationals in Puyallup, a good-sized rock took out a windshield panel-and she took it in stride.
"I've got a dog, a Harley, a mountain bike, a boat," she says. "My truck should be able to handle all my adventures!"
If Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey only knew ...
|Facts & Figures|
|1950 Studebaker 2R|
|FRAME:|| stock |
|MODIFICATIONS:|| by Stan Murray |
|REAREND / RATIO:|| 10-bolt / 3.27:1 |
|REAR SUSPENSION:|| ’91 Camaro |
|REAR BRAKES:|| GM disc |
|FRONT SUSPENSION:|| ’91 Camaro strut |
|FRONT BRAKES:|| GM disc |
|STEERING BOX:|| ’91 Camaro |
|WHEELS:|| Wheel Vintiques, 15x7 |
|TIRES:|| BFG Silvertown radial, 225/75R15 |
|ENGINE:|| GM 305 V-8 |
|VALVE COVERS:|| stock |
|MANIFOLD / INDUCTION:|| Edelbrock Performer |
|IGNITION:|| HEI |
|EXHAUST / MUFFLERS:|| Branch Industries / Cherry Bomb |
|TRANSMISSION:|| Borg-Warner T5 |
|MODIFICATIONS:|| by Stan Murray |
|STYLE:|| 2R 1/2-ton pickup |
|MODIFICATIONS:|| by Stan Murray |
|FENDERS FRONT / REAR:|| stock |
|HOOD:|| stock |
|GRILLE:|| stock |
|BED:|| scratchbuilt by Stan Murray |
|BODYWORK AND PAINT BY:|| Stan Murray |
|PAINT TYPE / COLOR:|| DuPont Centauri / custom mix |
|HEADLIGHTS / TAILLIGHTS:|| stock, custom bezels / ’37 Ford, custom bezels |
|OUTSIDE MIRROR:|| stock |
|BUMPERS:|| ’49 Dodge |
|DASHBOARD:|| stock |
|GAUGES:|| stock |
|AIR CONDITIONING:|| GM-Harrison modified by Stan Murray |
|STEREO:|| Pioneer |
|STEERING WHEEL:|| modified Studebaker |
|STEERING COLUMN:|| modified Studebaker |
|SEAT:|| stock bench |
|UPHOLSTERY BY:|| Jim’s, Driggs, ID |
|MATERIAL / COLOR:|| vinyl / brown |
|CARPET:|| brown square-weave |