1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express

The beautiful 1937 Studebaker Coupe-Express combined a coupe cabin and an open cargo bed, predicting the car-pickup category by decades. See more classic truck pictures.

The 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express was years ahead of its time, but one of the most innovative commercial vehicles in history was no commercial success.

As a car-pickup hybrid, the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express predicted by decades the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino of the 1950s. The 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express successfully melded car-like comfort and styling with pickup stamina and utility. It did not, as Studebaker hoped, tap an unmet need in the marketplace.


Classic Truck Image Gallery

From the cab forward, the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express pickup was much like Studebaker's Dictator coupe. But behind the passenger cabin sat a double-wall pickup box capable of hauling up to half a ton.

Advertising for the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express stressed its strong, all-steel construction and roomy, comfortable cab with passenger-car appointments.

For example, the seat, ceiling, and door panels were upholstered in cloth (leather was a no-cost option) and the seatback was adjustable. Dual wipers, sun visor, safety glass, and rearview mirror were standard; so were rotary door locks for safety and easier closing.

Studebaker proclaimed that the "fully streamlined open pickup body is built entirely of 16-gauge steel with outer and inner panels, combining strength and rigidity with smart, modern appearance.

The 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express was lively, too, with ample power in 1937 from an 86-bhp, 217-cid six and then in 1937 from the 90-bhp 226 Commander six.

Styling of the 1937 Studebaker Coupe-Express was outstanding, as well -- especially for a pickup. Grille, hood, cab, and fender lines were in flowing harmony. And in line with its "posh truck" image, the 1937 Studebaker Coupe-Express had chrome bumpers at both ends, and a sidemount spare in the right front fender.

For 1938, styling was revised by the famed Loewy Studios. Studebaker's 1938 car lineup also got a facelift from the Loewy Studios, which was on contract to Studebaker and responsible for most Studebaker car and truck designs from 1938 to 1956.

The 1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express revisions included a prow-front grille in place of the previous slim, lateral-bar radiator. However, the 1938 Coupe-Express eschewed the passenger models' new faired-in headlamps, retaining 1937's pod-mounted units.

The 1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express restyle also brought a shorter hoodline that reduced clearance between the doors and the trailing edges of the front fenders. A $44.50 "standard accessory group" included a sidemount spare in the right front fender, bumper guards, and passenger-side windshield wiper. Unfortunately, 1938's shorter hood forced the sidemount tire to sit above hood level, making it look like an afterthought.

Other 1938 options were genuine leather upholstery, a metal tire cover, vacuum-control gearshift, "Hill-Holder" clutch, and overdrive with freewheeling.

Despite good looks, fine performance, and a workable combination of comfort and utility, sales of the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express were poor. Production of the Studebaker Coupe-Express peaked in 1937 at between 3,500 and 3,800 vehicles (sources differ); 1938 saw only about 1,000 copies built.


Collectible Pluses of the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express

  • Superb styling for 1937
  • Good performance
  • Strong club support
  • Good survival percentage
  • Decent parts supplies


Collectible Minuses of the 1937-1938 Studebaker Coupe-Express

  • Not often offered for sale
  • Expensive when offered
  • Replacement body parts are scarce
  • Ungainly facelift for 1938

For more great articles and pictures on new and classic trucks, see: