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Classic Car Corner - Provenance

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere Woodinville

m5Provenance: The dictionary (yes, I still actually have a printed dictionary) defines provenance as “place or source of origin.”

In the car hobby (and others) provenance is considered the history of a vehicle during its entire existence.

Provenance can tell you whether it may have rust problems based upon the climate it spent much of its life in, but with a collector vehicle it’s just fun to know as much of your vehicle’s history as possible and it can even add A LOT to the price of a vehicle.

Most often we know very little about our car’s past.  I know a little bit about most of my cars, but I’ve learned a lot about my recently acquired 1947 Studebaker M-5 half-ton pickup.

In 1947 this truck cost $1082, and they produced 23,377 of them.

Total production of this M-5 model pickup between 1941 and 1948 was 52,541, but of course there were none made during the war.

Studebaker was always ahead of the competition design-wise but being a smaller company had to be thrifty where they could.

The front and rear fenders on each side are interchangeable as were the running boards so they only had to produce two fenders instead of four and just one running board. The doors are identical to one of their car models, so this became the first truck with wing windows.

After a lengthy search, I found a Studebaker M-5 pickup in Harrington, Wash., in the middle of the desert almost to Spokane.

I normally prefer stock vehicles, but this one had a 350 cubic inch Chevy motor with gear driven Isky cam, roller rockers, automatic transmission with a 2500 stall converter and a serious shift kit, and a Ford 9-inch posi-traction rear end.

But since these trucks are so rare and it at least looked stock, I thought I should check it out.

I called and it sounded OK, so I drove over to Harrington to see for myself (only a 500- mile round trip).

It sounded cool with dual exhaust and the gear drive cam that sounds like a turbo-charger and it looked OK, so I went for a drive I won’t forget.

The owner tore down some small country road, and when he told me we were going 70, I said that was fast enough!!!

I drove back (slower) and it handled OK so I actually agreed to his asking price if he would deliver it.

I’ve driven  new purchases some distance and it’s usually a real adventure, so I insisted on delivery to Woodinville.

The owner had at least 50 cars sitting around his shop and yard — most of which were Studebakers and he was a full time Studebaker restorer.

This truck went fast but with old, stock drum brakes didn’t slow down very fast, so I hired him to install disc brakes in front so it now stops much better.

It took him about three months to do the work and deliver my new truck. All along I was wondering why I had paid him IN FULL!

One day I parked my new M-5 in my #1 parking spot here at Windermere Woodinville and the agent in the office next to mine came in and said: “Where did you get that truck?”

Well, the truck says COLE’S SERVICE, CUSICK WASHINGTON on each door.

Cusick is a tiny little village in far northeastern Washington and the agent’s cousin Les Cole is the owner of Cole’s Repair in Cusick. It’s a small world and we were both amazed.

Back to provenance: I took advantage of this serendipitous occasion to get Les Cole’s contact information from his cousin and get more history on my M-5.

Les bought my truck from a young man in Mead, Wash., in 1988.

It had been parked in a barn out back and in the family since the early 50s.

Les asked the young man why he was selling the truck and was told that the young man’s new wife had given the ultimatum “either the truck goes or I do.”

Les suggested he keep the truck and dump the wife because she would be leaving anyway.

Les and his wife took the truck to their own wedding in 1989 and used it in their business and parades until 2011 when Les decided he had more projects on hand than he was ever going to finish.

Several years after Les bought my truck, the seller’s older brother came into Les’s shop and asked to buy the truck back.

It seems the seller’s wife had indeed left not long after the young man had sold it — just as Les had predicted.

Of course Les declined to sell him the truck back.

When Les finally sold the truck in 2011, the new owner put in all the new drive train.  We don’t really own vintage vehicles but rather care for and enjoy them until it’s someone else’s turn.

My new truck had some primer on it, so I stopped by McLendon’s Hardware to see if I could find a spray can in a similar green color to cover up the primer.

It was odd I thought, but the closest color seemed to be John Deere green.

I tried it out and it was a very close match.

Later, Les informed me that he restored John Deere tractors, so that’s why it actually is John Deere green and the hand lettering on the door is John Deere yellow, so I painted the wheels in — you guessed it — John Deere yellow.

So far, I still think this is a great truck so watch for me roaring around Woodinville or parked in my #1 spot next to the street here at Windermere Woodinville.

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