OK, I admit it-the '47 Studebaker isn't the prettiest of pickups, but then again I ain't no Brad Pitt neither.
It wasn't the Studebaker's inherent beauty that motivated me to shoot this feature on Bruce Johnson's '47. Sure, it's a neat ol' truck but what motivated me is the fact that it's a low-buck owner-built one that exemplifies something I've been preaching for years: You don't have to be rich or a mechanical whiz to enjoy the fruits of the classic truck hobby. All one needs is the desire, some free time, and a few stray bucks here and there to end up with something that'll be worth its weight in gold in self satisfaction and a whole lotta fun.
Bruce had his eye on this old Stude since his childhood. It originally belonged to his uncle who used it as the shop truck for his Sinclair gas station back in the early '60s. In 1981 Bruce's sister bought it from their cousin for $1,000-it had 56,000 miles on it and it ran and drove well. Unfortunately, it was immediately stored in a damp old barn and sat idle until 1999, slowly rusting away all the while. In September of that year Bruce finally began working on the '47, starting by disassembling it completely. Over the next five years Bruce puttered with it whenever he found the time, and he did so with the intention of building a neat driver while spending as little cash as possible.
Beginning with the foundation Bruce clipped the Studebaker frame with one from a '71 Cutlass and then hung a '74 Nova 10-bolt from the truck's original springs (which he reversed and plucked three leaves from). He then added a set of fresh brake lines, a master cylinder from a '78 Caprice, and a quartet of Monroe shocks to finish it off. The balance of the Stude's driveline and other odds and ends came from a donor '86 Chevy Astro Van. Those parts included a good runnin' injected 4.6L V-6, a 700-R4 trans, its steering column and wheel, and its wiring and instrument cluster. To this, Bruce added a Vintage Air Gen-II air-conditioning unit and a Jenson stereo setup. With the mechanicals handled, Bruce enlisted the aid of his pals Dennis Terry and Mike Spurlock to help out with the bodywork and paint, and had Wayne Gentry reupholster the original Stude bench seat. The finishing touch for the newly revived '47 was the addition of a quartet of American Racing Torque Thrust wheels wrapped in some Michelin rubber.
Like I said, this Stude ain't the prettiest thing on the road, but it is proof positive that it doesn't take a ton of money and a gang of professional builders for somebody to enjoy the classic truck hobby-nor do you have to be rich, famous, or have a flawless mega-buck pickup to see it between the covers of CLASSIC TRUCKS!