Home » You Don’t Have To Be Pretty When You’re This Cool: 1964 Studebaker Champ vs 1966 Volvo 122S Wagon

You Don’t Have To Be Pretty When You’re This Cool: 1964 Studebaker Champ vs 1966 Volvo 122S Wagon

Sbsd 7 10 2024

Good morning! Today’s choices are a bit cosmetically challenged, but I don’t think you’re going to care, because they both just ooze cool. And probably a fluid or two. But that’s fine too.

I knew from the start that yesterday‘s Gazelle kit car was going to go over like a lead balloon. But as I have said before, my choices are cars that are interesting for me to write about, and for you to read about, not necessarily something you’d actually want. So I decided to put the Gazelle up against that taxi, knowing full well it would get slaughtered.

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That said, I have to choose the Gazelle. Why? My wife likes it. And honestly, I’d rather work on something that no one cares how much you mess with it. Something like that London taxi, you’re sort of honor-bound to keep it original to some degree. But a Gazelle? Do what you want.

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Today’s choices are both from the Pacific Northwest again, and they’re both the sort of thing you still see roaming the streets in that part of the country. Cool old cars, in rough cosmetic condition, are just part of the scenery up there, and no one who owns them has any intention of fixing them up. They just drive them as-is, fixing things as they break, barely aware of the fact that their Saab 96 or Nash Rambler would be considered a collector’s car elsewhere. And that attitude makes them even cooler, in my eyes. And if you have always wanted a scruffy daily-driver classic of your own, we’ve got two here to choose from.


1964 Studebaker Champ 3/4 Ton Pickup – $4,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 289 cubic inch overhead valve V8, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Bellingham, WA

Odometer reading: 67,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well, but just taken out of storage


When you think of American pickups of the ’60s, you think Ford, Chevy, and Dodge, and maybe if you’re really cool, International. But perpetually beleaguered Studebaker also made pickups, though not in any great quantity: this 1964 Champ is one of only 203 three-quarter-ton trucks to come out of South Bend, Indiana that year, and one of even fewer with Studebaker’s 289 cubic inch engine and a five-speed overdrive transmission. A five-speed with overdrive was pretty advanced for 1964, but it wasn’t quite the same as what we think of now. Check out this crazy shift pattern:

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Good thing that little placard is there, because there’s no way in hell you’re figuring that one out on your own. This truck also has 4.10:1 rear end gears instead of 4.56, for a little more relaxed highway cruising, and a limited-slip diff. It’s a good spec for an old truck; you can actually use it as intended.

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This truck has been parked indoors for the past ten years, according to the seller. They just recently pulled it out and revived it. It runs great and is drivable, but it will need new tires before you go too far. On the plus side, the coolant and fuel lines look new, so obviously someone knew what they were doing when they woke this truck up. And the engine was rebuilt shortly before it was put into storage, so it should be good to go.


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The seller says it “needs” restoration, but I’m not sure I agree. I kinda like it the way it is. It’s not rusty, or abused; it’s just faded. I personally would just finish the mechanical reconditioning, make sure everything oily is in tip-top shape, and just enjoy it. Not every old car needs to be taken down to the frame and painstakingly restored.

1966 Volvo 122S Wagon – $2,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8-liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Orcas Island, WA


Odometer reading: Reads 05833, actual mileage unknown

Operational status: Runs and drives great, driven daily

Old Volvo wagons and the Pacific Northwest go together like hipsters and shitty beer. They’re still the old battered ride of choice for plenty of car-savvy bartenders and baristas in both Seattle and Portland. Mostly you see 240s, but the 740/940 are well-represented, as are the newer 850/V70. But what you don’t see very often at all is an Amazon wagon like this – maybe because it takes a special breed of gearhead to balance a pair of SU carbs.

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This old wagon apparently runs and drives well enough to still be in daily use, a testament not only to the 122’s quality and reliability but also to the owner’s commitment to keeping it on the road. Under the hood, it looks the way you want an old car to look: tidy, intact, with a smattering of new parts, but not so pristine that you’re afraid to get it dirty.


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The rest of it is less nice, though I’ve seen 122s in way worse shape. The seat upholstery has some cracks and tears, and the driver’s door card is MIA, but I only see one or two cracks in the dashboard, and the headliner is in nice shape. Hey, I have to give it points where I can. I really like the character of the interiors in these old Volvos, with a wide rectangular speedometer, a long gearshift lever that comes from way forward on the tunnel, and that two-spoke steering wheel with a horn ring. It was anachronistic when it was new, but now it’s just really charming.

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On the outside, it’s – colorful. And yes, one of those colors is rust. But it’s also only $2,200, for a car that will turn heads even in this condition and isn’t likely to leave you stranded.

It’s no secret that I prefer older cars to newer ones. But honestly, pristine show cars bore me most of the time. I prefer the survivors, especially the ones that have been kept in (or returned to) good working order. These are both inexpensive enough to use without fear, and rare and interesting enough to start conversations at the gas station, and that makes them cool. Which one would you rather be seen in?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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1 day ago

Before I read the descriptions I was leaning towards the Volvo but the V8, rarity and crazy transmission sealed the deal for me–I vote Studebaker.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
1 day ago

I voted for the Stud because it is more special as far as I’m concerned and the Volvo just looks too rusty.

Scott Sullivan
Scott Sullivan
1 day ago

Already owned a 120 wagon. Loved it. Would want to give the Studebaker a try. Just the thought of my son and I loading up the dirt bikes in this for our weekly ride makes me smile.

1 day ago

These are both great, but have to go w/ the Champ…to me it’s a Champion!

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