- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006

It’s not likely, but it’s possible, that President Dwight D. Eisenhower could have seen this 1951 Studebaker model 2R6 half-ton delivery van roaming the Washington area, delivering Tom’s Roasted Peanuts at 5 cents a bag.

Originally built as a chassis-only vehicle by Studebaker, the vehicle was shipped from the Studebaker factory in South Bend, Ind., to the Boyertown Auto Body Works in Boyertown, Pa. There it was fitted with a van body designated “Step-n-Serve,” and ultimately delivered to the S.J. Meek’s Sons dealership in Rockville, where it was sold Nov. 5, 1951.

After trundling approximately 350,000 hard miles, the Studebaker was retired, eventually being parked behind a shed in rural Manassas next to Bull Run.

Longtime Studebaker aficionado George Hamlin heard of the truck and went to investigate. “The first time I saw this truck, it was sitting in Bull Run,” he says. “Not near it, in it. Whenever Bull Run flooded, the truck flooded,” he says.

Because there are not many such vehicles left, Mr. Hamlin overlooked the fact that it was full of junk, shot full of holes, had no glass in any of the eight windows and — except for the wooden subflooring — everything below the waterline needed renewal, even the rusted springs.

“The miracle was that the owner could be located and had a title,” Mr. Hamlin recalls in amazement. The purchase and title transfer took place in March 1978.

Wheels had to be brought in to get the 16.5-foot-long relic out of the creek and onto a trailer. Once it was at Mr. Hamlin’s Clarksville, Md., home, the real work began. All the wheel bearings and the complete brake system needed to be replaced, along with anything made of rubber. The original 245-cubic-inch in-line six-cylinder L-head engine was overhauled so it could once more deliver 102 horsepower.

With an eye to the future when he knew the 4,600-pound gross vehicle weight truck would be on the highway, Mr. Hamlin located and installed an overdrive unit to give the three-speed transmission longer legs.

The truck stands 8 feet, 9.75 inchs high, which permits a stand-up height in the cargo bay of nearly 6 feet. A new set of 6.50x16-inch light truck tires now support the truck on a 112-inch wheelbase.

Nearly the bottom two-thirds of the sides are new steel welded into place after all the rusted material was removed. Fortunately, most of the metal that need to be replaced was flat and all of the glass was flat.

Originally the truck had been painted silver with black fenders but after all the metal work had been completed, Mr. Hamlin decided to keep the fenders black but paint the body orange.

There must be an unwritten law somewhere that states a restored antique truck isn’t complete without lettering of some kind on the sides, either authentic or fictitious.

Mr. Hamlin reached back to his youth in Iowa spent delivering the Des Moines Register and transformed his Studebaker into a newspaper delivery truck with the slogan, “The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon.” The telephone number for home delivery completes the message.

After photographs of the truck appeared in the Studebaker Drivers Club magazine, Mr. Hamlin received a telephone call from the Des Moines Register asking him to keep them in mind if the truck were ever to be sold.

The inside of the truck is 99 percent grey with only the glove compartment door and instrument panel painted black. From the single seat in the vehicle, the driver has an unobstructed view of the 100-mph speedometer through the three-spoke steering wheel. Each windshield panel is kept clear by a vacuum-operated wiper. “They work completely independent of one another,” Mr. Hamlin says.

Protecting the entire front of the truck is a grille guard with a Studebaker “S” in the middle. The guard is painted black and was made by State Welding Works in New York.

In addition to the overdrive and grille guard installed by Mr. Hamlin, the optional extras on the truck include a heater, Class A turn signals and stainless-steel trim rings on each wheel.

Chrome trim on the truck comes from the cars Studebaker built, including the hub caps, headlight rings and engine hood ornament.

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