It is obvious from the 1937 Studebaker Coupe-Express's smart appearance that Studebaker stylists gave considerable attention to the design of the cargo body. Its sleek sides and unbroken contours blended perfectly with the cab and gave the vehicle a well-integrated appearance. The round-cornered, flanged sides were unobstructed by bolt heads or overlapping metal seams.
The floor was raised in alternate rows so that loads could be more equally skidded and to provide finger space under packages or crates. The floor was made of 16-gauge steel and the underside was reinforced at 17-inch intervals with flanged channels running crosswise. Stake pockets were provided in the flare boards at the four corners to accommodate stake sides or tarpaulin top covers, both of which were available as extra-cost options.
Door length and trim details for the 1937
Studebaker Coupe-Express were shared with
Dictator four-door sedans.
The tailgate even added to the unity of the design. It was of double-wall construction, like the sides, and its smooth, unadorned appearance gave trailing drivers no clue as to the vehicle's identity. When lowered, the gate was supported by two leather-covered adjustable chains. The lowered gate provided 18 inches of additional bed length, and was flush with the box floor and only 26 inches off the ground for easy loading.
For safety, the 18-gallon fuel tank was placed in the rear, away from the passenger compartment. This necessitated placing the spare tire in the right fender well. This presented no particular production problem, since the companion Dictator model was available with either single or dual sidemounts. On special order, a Coupe-Express purchaser could opt for the sidemount on the driver's side or dual sidemounts. A two-piece metal spare-tire cover was also available at $7 extra.
Standard color on the Coupe-Express was black, though it appears most purchasers opted to pay the extra $10 for one of the six additional colors available: Glacier Park Gray, Beverly Blue, Bermuda Blue, Cardinal Red, Forest Green, or Chrome Yellow. Evidence from company records suggests additional colors were also available on special order.
The purchaser of a Coupe-Express could further personalize his new truck with a wide array of options and accessories. Nearly everything available to the passenger-car purchaser could be ordered for the J-5. In the cab, two different radios were available with either cowl- or running-board-mounted antennae. Also offered were a clock, heater/ defroster, cigar lighter, visor mirror, right-hand interior sun visor, visor glare deflector, and horn ring.
For the exterior there were driving lights-chrome or painted-fog lights, spotlight, and fender lights; chrome wheel discs or trim rings; license-plate frames; license-plate jewels; grille guard; fender guides; and exhaust deflector.
Production of the J-5 began at South Bend, Indiana, in mid-January 1937 and continued through early July, with 3,125 units assembled during that period. Another 375 were assembled in the company's Los Angeles, California, assembly plant. How many of those 3500 J-5s were Coupe-Expresses is unknown, though: The chassis was also the basis for the Suburban, Studebaker's wood-body station wagon. Production of all J-5 vehicles were tallied together, but it would probably be safe to estimate production of the pickup in the neighborhood of 3400.
Whether the Coupe-Express was a sales success depends on one's expectations. The March 17, 1937, issue of the Studebaker Accelerator, the company's employee magazine, reported, "Studebaker's new Coupe-Express is proving exceedingly popular, orders following its announcement having exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic sales department estimates. Orders received during January totaled 1,100-more than 300% over the tentative quota established for January by Truck Division officials."
Changes were on the way, however. In the next section, find out what was new for the 1938 Coupe-Express.
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