Smoky Mountain Chapter, Studebaker Drivers' Club

Through Arizona in the Summer in a Studebaker Car Hauler
As told by Jack Heidel and written down by John Alexander

It all began when I agreed to haul an expensively remodeled Studebaker from Knoxville, TN, to the port of San Diego, CA. Or, maybe, it all began when I lovingly restored, reworked, and refinished the 1962 model 7E40 Studebaker truck that functions as a car hauler. Or, some would say, it all began when I became enamored of Studebakers. Anyhow, we found ourselves with this $80,000 classic antique car loaded on our classic antique hauler motoring across the country with a deadline of arriving in San Diego in time to put the car on a ship to be transported somewhere across the Pacific.

Life is always an adventure when you are driving a 62 Studebaker, but nothing untoward happened as the miles and minutes passed from Knoxville to the foothills above Phoenix, AZ. Among those foothills, it was a hot summer day, and the outside temperature hovered near 110 degrees F. And it was dry; it made you thirsty just to look at the landscape. We thanked our lucky stars that we were relatively comfortable because I had been sure that the hauler's restoration included a working air conditioner. As we started up into the mountains, signs along the highway warned us that we might want to turn off the air conditioner to avoid engine overheating. We didn't want to turn off the air conditioner because we wanted to avoid people overheating; I've already told you it was hot---and dry. You've seen the dried-up cattle carcasses in old western movies; well that's what we pictured ourselves turning into without the bit of comfort provided by the air conditioning. So we kept trucking.

As that powerful engine labored to pull the truck, its cargo, and us up the mountain and, as the air pressure decreased with altitude, the needle on the temperature gauge began to climb. It began to look like a contest: which would reach its highest point first, the mountain or the temperature gauge? It soon became obvious that the temperature gauge was going to win the contest as we were not nearly to the peak of the mountain when the needle entered the red zone and kept climbing. After seeing the notice to turn off air conditioners to avoid overheating, my wife Elsie was also watching the temperature gauge, and, when the temperature entered and stayed in the red zone, she said worriedly, "Maybe we should do as they suggested and do without the air conditioner." "We'd melt in the heat;" I replied, "let's just watch the oil pressure. Getting hot won't hurt the engine if the coolant remains liquid and if it doesn't get so hot the oil won't flow right." At least, I hoped that was correct because, by this time, the temperature-gauge needle had pegged.

Over the next several minutes--or what, at that time, seemed like several hours--the temperature would show to be at its maximum point as we ascended, then drop a bit each time the road temporarily leveled off or descended. As soon as the hauler would begin to climb again, the temperature did so too. During all this, the oil pressure held fairly steady, and we didn't notice any vapor escaping from under the hood, which would have meant we weren't getting any help from the cooling system. Finally, we saw the sign that announced we had reached the highest point on the highway and, a little farther along, another sign that advised truckers to gear down for the steep descent. I don't believe that I've ever been so happy to see such a sign.

The rest of the journey went well, and we made San Diego in time to deliver the Studebaker that we were hauling. Our engine didn't appear to have sustained any damage from the high temperature, and the hauler still ran like a dream instead of like a nightmare. On the return journey across the country (yes, we drove it back), we managed to take it easier and to do some sight-seeing. Try your next vacation in a flashy red 1962 Studebaker car hauler, and it won't be dull.