Just when all seemed lost for Studebaker, appliance maker Westinghouse popped up with a proposal that might help save the day, and the 1963 Studebaker Westinghouse pickup truck concept car project was born.
Approaching Egbert directly, the president of the big electrical and home appliances maker asked whether Studebaker would be interested in designing and building a fleet of compact, purpose-designed delivery vehicles. Egbert couldn't say yes fast enough. The result was the one-of-a-kind prototype you see here -- Studebaker's last truck.
According to an article in the February 1983 Turning Wheels, the official publication of the Studebaker Drivers Club, there were actually two Westinghouse prototypes: the pickup pictured here and a companion van.
The pickup was unearthed in late 1982 by SDC member Terry Chase of Nashville, Michigan, who stumbled across it in one of those proverbial old barns (about 70 miles from his home) that enthusiasts just know contain rare treasures like this. The van, unfortunately, has yet to resurface.
But fairly complete records of this project also survived, and they were interesting. Predictably, styling was handled by Studebaker's beleaguered design chief Randall Faurot -- the last person to hold that title in South Bend.
Seeking high simplicity, doubtless with an eye to minimizing costs for both Studebaker and Westinghouse, Faurot sketched a cab-over-engine (COE) design with nary a curved line on it save headlamps and wheel arches. The result was boxy in the extreme, but the simple flat panels were a stamping operator's dream.
Dominating the high bluff front was a big windshield canted forward at the top, suggesting that no thought was given to aerodynamics. Then again, this was long before "airflow management" was deemed important for any vehicle.
And besides, these were supposed to be short-haul utility rigs, not high-speed interstate flyers. Interestingly, though, Faurot also sketched an upsized version of the Westinghouse design as a diesel semi-tractor trailer.
Faurot had sketched the pickup with a right-side box panel that dropped down to form a load ramp, as on Chevrolet's rear-engine Corvair-based Rampside, which pioneered this feature on its 1961 debut.
However, the completed Westinghouse pickup prototype had a conventional box, plus a less prominent grille; Faurot had envisioned a low, full-width eggcrate with the headlamps at its outer ends. The van was penned with conventional dual center-opening load doors behind the right-side cab door, but was otherwise similar to the pickup.
As usual, the capable Gene Hardig, a veteran of many spare-every-expense South Bend products, handled engineering chores for the Westinghouse project. He made liberal use of the parts bin -- again -- mainly because he had no other choice.
Inevitably, Studebaker's familiar 289 V-8 was plunked directly beneath the cab to drive the rear wheels -- somewhat extravagantly -- through a three-speed automatic transmission with "Power Shift" manual-hold control, just like in the pricey Avanti.
The prototype used Avanti parking lights and 1961-1966 standard-Studey door handles. Its dash was similar to the Champ panel: a simple affair with a small gauge cluster dead-ahead of a big steering wheel, which sat almost horizontally atop a long column poking up from the floor.
Despite its "big-rig" looks, the Westinghouse pickup was quite compact. It featured a trim 95-inch wheelbase and 168-inch overall length, while width measured 72 inches, overall height was a towering 78. The pickup box was eight feet long, a standard size suggesting that it, too, came off the shelf.
When Studebaker closed its South Bend complex in December 1963, production of Studebaker trucks ended. The next page explains Studebaker's downfall. Continue reading to learn more.