by David Doyle
Designed by Studebaker (which built the bulk of these trucks), the US6 was an alternative to the 2-1/2-ton GMC CCKW and the International M5-H6 6×6 trucks. Studebaker’s huge South Bend, Ind., works began turning out these vehicles in June 1941, and continued through August 1945, with 197,678 rolling out of what was once the nation’s largest wagon maker. These were joined by 22,204 identical trucks built by Reo Motors in Lansing, Mich., indistinguishable from the Studebakers, save for the data plates.
Regardless of maker, the US6 was powered by the Hercules JXD six-cylinder engine. This engine also powered the White M3A1 Scout Car and the Ford M8 and M20 armored cars.
Because so much of the US6 production was sent to Russia, (which has notoriously harsh winters), the vast majority of these trucks were built with closed cabs. The irony of this is that the World War II Standard (open) Military cab — used on almost every other truck — was developed by Studebaker! However, the weather prevented its use on all but about 10,000 of the Studebakers between December 1942 and March 1943.
These trucks were produced in short (148”) and long (162”) wheelbases. The US6 used the same transmission and transfer case as the GMC CCKW. Even the Timken axles were the same as those used on many of the GMCs.
The brake system employed by Studebaker was not the Hydrovac system that GMC used. Instead, Studebakers were equipped with a vacuum-boosted brake system.
In addition to the common 6×6 version, the US6 was also produced in 6×4 form. Since the 6×4 version was intended for on-road use only, its weight classification was five tons, whereas the 6×6 version was rated using the traditional off-road system of 2-1/2 tons.
Today, the US6 is not wildly known in the United States nor as easily recognized as its 2-1/2-ton GMC counterpart, the CCKW. The s largely due to these trucks’ export, en masse, to the Soviet Union. In fact, these trucks’ power and reliability became so popular with their new Russian owners, that “Studebaker” came to be accepted as a slang term in the Russian language. While in this country, we might say something or someone was “built like a Mack Truck,” saying the same using “Studebaker” in place of “Mack Truck” would weigh in with the same effect in the Soviet Union.
And while popular folklore mistakenly implies the US6 was a copy of the GMC design, imitation is the highest form of flattery. The Soviet Union was unashamed to “reverse engineer” the US6 and build unlicensed copies, known as the ZIS-151.