Island family is ardent in love of Studebakers
The family’s infatuation with Studebaker pickup trucks began on an icy day along a lonely stretch of Oklahoma highway, Nick McIntyre said.
“My grandfather was hitchhiking and caught a ride in a 1950 Studebaker,” said McIntyre, 27, who’s from and lives in Galveston.
“He was really impressed with how well the heater worked.”
It must have been a very good heater, because grandfather Sammy McIntyre, who matured from a hitchhiking teen to jet-engine mechanic, never forgot it.
In about 1973, he bought a truck just like the one that had stopped for him that day in Oklahoma — a Model 2R — and drove it to work for years before he handed it off to his son Dan.
In January, Sammy McIntyre’s truck changed hands again, landing this time with another of his sons, Steve McIntyre, who shares it with his son, Nick.
Sammy McIntyre, who lives in Schulenburg, still has a Studebaker truck. He restored that one from the frame up, Steve McIntyre said.
The interest in Studebakers isn’t contained to Sammy’s direct descendants.
“All of the uncles have Studebakers; it’s sort of the family thing,” Nick McIntyre said.
That ardent devotion is pretty typical among Studebaker collectors, according to Ned Fox, an authority on the brand, in an essay for the automotive publication Hemmings.
That passion at large for Studebakers is driven by things similar to what Sammy McIntyre found in the warm cab of a 1950 2R years ago.
“Studebaker enthusiasts point to many factors that make them proud of their vehicles: milestones in styling, engineering, endurance, economy and speed records,” Fox wrote.
Despite all those strengths, the Studebaker brand was unable to survive against the Big Three, and its 114-year run, which began at a carriage works in South Bend, Ind., in 1852, ended in 1966.
Along the way, it had produced fleets of solid, dependable, innovative vehicles — including in 1963 the fiberglass-bodied Avanti, supercharged versions of which could do 170 mph off the showroom floor, making them at the time the fastest production cars ever offered in America, according to Hemmings.
Prudently, the Avanti also came with a factory-built roll bar and front caliper disc brakes, the first on a full-sized U.S. production car.
The 2R was meant for more yeoman tasks, of course.
The McIntyres’ 2R is mostly original. The in-line six-cylinder engine has been replaced with a 289 cubic-inch Studebaker V8 and the truck sports a T-handle Hurst shifter with a red button on one side that kicks the three-speed transmission up into overdrive.
“A green dash board light comes on when it’s in overdrive, which is pretty cool,” McIntyre said.
The truck also has pairs of recessed taillights in the rear fenders that fit the overall style so well you might be tempted to bet they were original; but you’d lose.
Nick McIntyre says he drives the pickup at least once a week and plans to just keep doing that until the 289 gives up the ghost, which it’s showing no signs of doing soon.
“I’m going to replace it with an electric motor,” he said.
That innovation would be fitting of the Studebaker name and also a return to the brand’s roots. The first automobile ever offered for sale by the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co., which became Studebaker Corp., rolled off the line at South Bend in 1902 under the power of electricity.