“Franklin” – Shaun Salehyan’s 1937 Studebaker Coupe Express
Shaun Salehyan didn’t set out to become a Studebaker enthusiast, it just sort of happened. After buying his first ’59 Silver Hawk and joining the Stude Drivers Club, one member told him that he was going to experience “the curse of the Studebaker,” meaning you can’t have just one. The curse set in quickly and five Studes later, Shaun is a certified Studebaker hot rodder.
He’s down to three vehicles now, the latest being this ’37 Coupe Express pickup which earned him a 2019/20/21 Scotts Hotrods Truck of the Year Early finalist nod in Pleasanton in the Fall of 2019. Shaun found the truck on a farm in Indianola, Iowa, where it had been for sale since 1996! He saw the ad in an older magazine and called on a whim figuring it was long gone, but the owner said he still had it, just hadn’t found the right buyer. The Studebaker stars aligned and Shaun found himself with a rare new project.
Once the Express was in his garage in San Diego, Shaun stripped the solid old pickup down its bare frame. His friend Dave Chappelle from Dirt Every Day went to work on the chassis, adding a Mustang II front clip and fabbing a custom four-link rear suspension supported with AccurAir-controlled components.
For the drivetrain, Shaun wanted a supercharged V8, so naturally he scored a factory 289c.i. R2 block from a ’64 GT Hawk (never even a thought of an LS swap!). He rebuilt the engine and topped it off with a factory McCullough supercharger from a ’57 Golden Hawk huffing through an Avanti four-barrel. A Borg-Warner T10 four-speed was retained to transfer the power to an 8.8-inch Ford rearend.
The body remains largely stock save for a set of hidden door hinges, a custom rear window and rolled rear pan. Nick Battaglia from Loose Cannon Customs crafted a new tailgate and smoothed the long running boards before shooting a two-stage BASF Glasurit sage metallic over the sheet metal. The artillery wheels also received the body color before being wrapped in classic Firestone wide whites.
Inside, the interior was freshened by Rex Copeman in classic style with a pretzel colored leather over the bench seat and the custom door panels. A ’37 Packard dash and gauges were used and a ’41 Zephyr steering wheel is crowned atop an IDIDIT column. Behind the beautiful interior, Shawn finished the Express bed with a beautiful walnut wood sealed in an epoxy resin.
The Express project took Shaun and his friends five years to finish and he’s already started on another build, two in fact. Not surprisingly they’re both Expresses. The curse remains strong with Shaun.
Photos by Mike Christensen