Chopped 302 Cleveland-powered 1948 Studebaker M5 pick-up

A Studebaker body, Ford engine and bits from a VW might not sound like the recipe for a ride this smooth

Photographers: Guy Bowden

THERE are key relationships to consider when building a cool ride — form and function, power and reliability, show and go — which will heavily dictate the success of any project. But what about owner and builder? If that is one and the same then responsibility and stress falls squarely on one set of shoulders — not always ideal — but when a separate owner and builder combo are mutually respectful, work like a well-oiled machine and are friends to boot, there’s no telling as to what will be created next.

This article was first published in Street Machine’s Hot Rod #13 magazine, 2014

The Fry-built pickup bed uses heavily modified VW guards and high sides that accentuate the chopped cab. “I dropped the guards down to Mark and he said ‘What do you want me to do with those?’ Just make them look cool,” laughs Anthony.

Case in point is Anthony Whitehead and his mate Mark Fry. Anthony is the proud owner of this cool green ’48 Studebaker pickup while Mark is the builder, working out of his Custom Chassis Panel and Paint digs in Mt. Gambier, SA. Anthony and Mark have a proven track record when it comes to collaborating on cool rides — we featured Anthony’s blown Hemi ’33 Chrysler in the 2008 SM HRA — so it comes as no surprise that Anthony would call on Mark when it came time for something new. “I chose to do the Studebaker because I like things that are different,” says Anthony. “Another mate showed me a picture of one and I was instantly sold on their style. The plan was for a basic flat painted tow vehicle for my hotrod but has turned out far better than we ever imagined.”

The former cab chassis truck was sourced off a farm in the small town of Merino, Victoria and towed to Mark’s laboratory for the Frankenstude transformation. The original Studebaker chassis was boxed for strength and an HT Holden front end sunk into the rails to both modernise the ride and steer factor while lowering the truck at the same time. The proven combo of P76 discs with HQ calipers is a far cry from the standard drums and narrows the track a little extra for good measure.

The front wheels are connected via Commodore rack and pinion power steer mated to the factory Studebaker column and topped with a pearled standard wheel. The rear was brought downtown by notching the chassis which now locates a Borg Warner Fairlane diff running 3.45 gears and sitting on lowered leaf springs. Stock Ford 10in drums have been rebuilt for the rear with all brakes actuated by an XA Falcon master cylinder and booster.

The body was in pretty good shape for its 60 year lifespan, so Mark got stuck into the general rust and dent repairs before chopping the top and fabricating a new tray and tailgate, which incorporate neat swaging and rolled tops for a traditional look. The running boards are factory while the rear guards are actually a full set of four VW items that have been cut, joined and widened to form a pair for the new tray. With Mark’s metal fabrication sorted, Anthony busied himself with the body preparation before the final colour coats were applied. “Everyone who knew I was painting the truck green would pull faces and say it’ll never work, it’ll look crap,” laughs Anthony, “but they quite happily changed their minds when they saw the finished product.”

The green in question is Ford Vista by Richards Crash Repairs in Mount Gambier. The pastel shade is complemented beautifully by the cream Vintique steel wheels measuring 5in and 8in wearing chrome trims and baby moons. Other exterior bright work has been kept to a minimum with the grille and mirrors again painted body colour to pay homage to the commercial roots of the born again Stude.

With towing always set to be the trucks first priority, Anthony had Alex Williams screw together a 302 Cleveland donk that originally saw service in a John Goss XB Hardtop. Torque and reliability were high on the agenda so Alex thoroughly reconditioned the Clevo’s stock internals, adding a small grind ‘tow’ spec cam and converting the engine to run on straight LPG. A dedicated gas carby is mounted to an Edelbrock intake while extractors and a twin 2.5in system provide the Stude with plenty of street cred for when the trailer is left at home.

An Aussie Desert Cooler alloy radiator is nestled behind the stock grille with the entire engine compartment neatly detailed in matching hues. A C4 automatic was shift kitted for towing strength and fronted by a standard convertor, while a Ford tailshaft is a familiar sight for the repurposed C4 and aforementioned BW diff in their new surroundings.

A 302 Cleveland was rebuilt for torque and reliability and is fed straight LPG for economy. The Clevo is neatly detailed in matching colours and backed by a C4 automatic and Borg Warner diff for effortless towing. “It drives straight and true and tows with ease, I couldn’t be happier,” says Anthony

The commercial theme continues inside with the basic factory dash and instruments reconditioned. An EH Holden bench seat and custom door cards were retrimmed in green vinyl by Rick Wilkinson.

All in all the Studebaker strikes a massive tick in the comfort, economy and reliability stakes with Anthony and partner, Diane, keen to get out and clock up more miles. “I finished up getting exactly what I wanted, which was a nice, cool looking tow car thanks to the quality of work carried out by Mark.”

The kudos doesn’t end there. A Top 100 billing in the street class at Summernats 26 is nothing to sneeze at, while a Top 5 Cool Rides berth at the Mt Gambier Petrol Heads Picnic is proof that maybe Frankenstude was zapped with a million volts and out there to carve an identity of its own.

An EH Holden bench is trimmed to suit the near stock Studebaker cabin. All factory gauges have been refurbished and the standard twirler pearl coated green, with gears selected via a modified Valiant shifter

A solid working relationship like this is sure to have something else on the cards, and it won’t be long before the pair embark on their next build. “It’s a ’53 Studebaker Hawk that’ll feature a chop top, Lambo doors and tubs, and a 392 hemi with 727 Torqueflite trans. I know what I like and I hate to run with the rest of the pack. Like I said, I like things that are different.”


Colour: Ford Vista Green

Make: Ford 302ci Cleveland
Block: Stock
Carb: Dedicated LPG
Intake: Edelbrock
Heads: Stock
Internals: Stock
Camshaft: Stage 1 tow cam
Ignition: Ford electronic distributor
Cooling: Aussie Desert Cooler alloy, thermo fan
Exhaust: Extractors and twin 2.5in system

Gearbox: Ford C4, shift kitted
Converter: Stock
Diff: Fairlane Borg Warner, 3.45 VL Commodore gears

Front: HT Holden crossmember with standard HT V8 coils
Rear: Re-set leaf springs
Shocks: Monroe gas (f) Monroe air (r)
Steering: Commodore power rack and pinion
Brakes: P76 disc, HQ calipers (f), Ford 10in drums (r); XA master cylinder and brake booster.

Rims: Vintique steel 15×5 (f) 15×8 (r)
Rubber: Federal 165/80 (f) Firestone 235/75 (r)

My wife Diane and our kids for their help and understanding. Special thanks to Mark Fry at Custom Chassis Panel & Paint for the metal fabrication, chassis work, engineering and assembly; Rick Wilkinson for the trim; Alex Williams for the engine; Buggo, Ken, Peter and Hurtle for advice and lending a hand