By on May 2, 2012

You’re not likely to be able to buy John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine or Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356C cabriolet. Janis’ family isn’t selling and neither is the museum in British Columbia that owns Lennon’s Rolls. I doubt that the Kesey family would part with Further/Furthur, whether it’s restored or continues to return to the elements. Don’t despair, though, of losing your dream of owning a psychedelic artifact of rock ‘n roll history.

In 1965, a group of San Francisco musicians formed a band called the Warlocks and started playing at events sprouting out of the explosion of the psychedelic scene. They became the house band for Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters’ legendary/famous/infamous Acid Tests, chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and changed their name to the Grateful Dead. One of their fans was an exceptionally bright scion of a distinguished family by the name of Owsley Stanley III. Stanley, known to Deadheads by either just his first name or “Bear”, his nickname, was smart enough to have done just about anything he set his mind to, and in the mid 1960s, he set his mind to making the purest LSD on the planet. In time that would earn him a couple years in a Federal prison but in the mean time it generated quite a bit of cash. Putting a psychedelic spin on an old tradition concerning money and art, Owsley essentially became the Grateful Dead’s patron, pouring money into sound equipment and working as the band’s manager, soundman and recordist early on.

To haul that gear around to gigs, to Acid Tests and down to Los Angeles where the band recorded their first album, in 1966 Owsley bought a 1949 International Harvester 2R15 truck. In the spirit of the day, Owsley had an as yet unidentified artist friend of his overlay the Studie’s red paint with shapes of blue, orange, yellow and white, in the style of early Acid Test and ballroom posters. When Owsley went “up the river” in the early 1970s the truck was stored with an artist friend. When he got out of the joint, the Dead were a much larger enterprise, playing much larger venues. Owsley got to work building the Wall Of Sound, which required more than just a one ton pickup to get from gig to gig. Stanley left the Studebaker in his friend’s barn and went on with his life.

Owsley Stanley was killed in an automobile accident in Australia last year at the age of 76. The truck, nicknamed “The Dred” by Owsley, because it wasn’t much fun to drive, was assumed to no longer exist until it was unearthed as part of an estate by art dealer Steve Cabella, who represents 1950s and 1960s era artists. Cabella says that it’s still in original as used by Owsley and the Dead during the Summer of Love condition and has a hand written note from Owsley authenticating the truck. He’s offering it for sale at Hemmings, but he’s treating it like a historic artifact so I don’t think he’s going to let just any hippy with a pickup camper buy this art car truck. The listing says, “we will be accepting the best offer we receive from a serious museum or collector.” The Hemmings listing is here, and The Dred now has its own web site set up by Cabella at GratefulDeadTruck.com.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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17 Comments on “Truckin’, a Barn Find for Deadhead Gearheads...”


  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    $250 and I will even go as high (he he) as $275 because of the spray can art work.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Wow…I have always been a fan of the “Dead” but I don’t think I would qualify as a Deadhead. Its cetainly a sound better enjoyed on a turn table IMHO.

    So was the International, or the Studebaker a rebadge?

    I remember both trucks, and never relized they were related.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry for the typo. It’s a Studebaker. Further is an International Harvester. I think both are ’49s, though the Hemmings ad for the pickup has a headline that says it’s a ’54.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      I bet you really went nuts for the Edison cylinder version of “Live Dead”. Viva digital!

      • 0 avatar

        Funny how Edison gets the credit for the phonograph when his design was a dead end and the industry ended up going with Emile Berliner’s flat discs.

        FWIW, I do prefer the sound of Live Dead on vinyl to that of the CD, but I listen to the CD a lot more frequently. My turntable would have to have a stack of CDs and other odds and ends cleared off of it to use it.

        I worry that because of our digital age we’ll have fewer actual artifacts to pass down to future generations. Not sure what collectors will do. At the Detroit and Chicago auto shows, some manufacturers did not have printed brochures, just a bar code to scan with your smartphone.

  • avatar
    carbufbruce

    This truck is a ’49 to ’53 Studebaker pickup. The 2R15 model would indicate it is a 1 ton. Don’t know where the idea came from that it is an International. Studebaker and International were not related in any way. Both, of course, are orphans now.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Okay…As I read the text, it started out as a “49 International Harvester”…Then turned into a Studebaker?…..WTF?

  • avatar

    Interesting set of wheels, it would definitely add some impact to the Dead song with the same name as your strategic title, given its ownership. One would wonder how they managed to find anybody who was legally able to drive it at the time, given their legendary lifestyle choices.

  • avatar
    tih20

    More of a relic of rock history than you realized. Owsley Stanley was also the inspiration for the Steely Dan song Kid Charlemagne.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    This should be an interesting vehicle to restore. Any pictures sitting around from when it was in use for the Grateful dead?

    Definitely a truck I wouldn’t mind owning and I wouldn’t mind restoring myself. I’m not much of a fan of the dead, but I am a fan of history and historical things. This one qualifies.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Provenance is the only thing that would make this 1 ton Studebaker worth keeping in one piece.

  • avatar
    skor

    Steely Dan wrote their song, Kid Charlemagne, about Owsley Stanley.

    While the music played
    you worked by candlelight
    Those San Francisco nights
    you were the best in town
    Just by chance you crossed
    the diamond with the pearl
    You turned it on the world
    That’s when you turned the world around

    Did you feel like Jesus?
    Did you realize that you
    were a champion in their eyes?
    On the hill the stuff
    was laced with kerosene
    But yours was kitchen clean
    Everyone stopped to stare at
    your technicolor motor home

    Every A-Frame had
    your number on the wall
    You must have had it all
    You’d go to L.A. on a dare
    and you’d go it alone

    Could you live forever?
    Could you see the day?
    Could you feel your whole
    world fall apart and fade away?

    (chorus)
    Get along
    Get along Kid Charlemagne

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Although never much of a fan of the Grateful Dead – I preferred Canned Heat (still do…), and not knowing a thing about this truck, I happen to like all old trucks. I did my share of psychedelic/black light art back then, too.

    Mikey, the old stuff DOES sound better on a turntable. That’s a documented fact – just ask any old codger like me!

    My favorite old truck is a certain 1951 Chevy that a buddy’s dad owned. He ran a body shop and painted his truck a light purple and affixed a large daisy decal on each door and called it his “Love Truck”. I wanted to buy it soooo badly, but as I was in high school at the time, and had no money, I could only dream about owning it.

    His dad did sell it and I would on occasion see it running up and down Rte. 66 in the Times Beach/Eureka, MO area when I visited my friend in 1968.

    The truck in question looks to be in fairly good shape.

  • avatar
    Skink

    If one intends to type ‘Studebaker’, and it comes out, ‘International Harvester’, one should start looking at the keys! ;).

    I’d love to own that truck. BTW, FWIW, one way to identify this one as a ’49 to ’53 model is the two-pane windshield.


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