Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should I go to the Portland Swap Meet tomorrow?

I'll start by confessing that I hate crowds: the Portland Swap Meet is the largest in the Pacific NW.

I have all the parts (except for one little switch for the dash, which is available new cheap enough) for the heater/defroster.  The only option I'm still trying to source is the turn signal assembly.

Of course, I could use some better-looking chrome bits here and there and there's always the possibility that I'll stumble across a nice set of wheels (or some original wire-wheel covers that I think would look nice) or, even better, some of the speed bits I'm about to order for my engine.

But I hear there's typically not all that much Studebaker stuff there. And it is a 90 minute drive either direction.

Go or not go? Leave a comment with your vote.

Things to do while waiting for parts to arrive

I took a couple of days off as vacation and we had a very nice day today (partly cloudy with temps in the mid-60's) which is amazing, considering my luck. This afternoon, after cleaning off my driveway of the leaf debris that kept cluttering-up those beautiful Studebaker pics, I decided I should probably mow the lawn. Fortunately, fate intervened and I discovered my 1-year old lawn mower was broken. So I decided to run a compression test on my engine.

For the mechanical types in the crowd, this was run with the engine at operating temperature, dry. And yes, all the plugs were out of the car (they looked good--its running a little rich but no oil fouling) and the throttle was wired full-open.

The results:

  1. 110 lbs
  2. 119 lbs
  3. 121 lbs
  4. 126 lbs
  5. 123 lbs
  6. 120 lbs
I would've liked to see that #1 up closer to the 120 range (factory specs call for 120-140 lbs) but for the most part they're fairly consistent and the highest is within 15% of the lowest (math was never my strong suit). So I'm pretty happy. This was also the first time I got it that warm. Runs incredibly smooth, temperature stayed within range and the oil pressure was nice and high.

Obviously, since the car has reportedly 224,000 miles on the odometer, the engine has been rebuilt at some point. Who knows how long ago though.

I suppose it is possible that a valve adjustment would bring that pressure up a bit, and, of course, running it probably wouldn't hurt as well.

My apologies for not taking a picture of this event. I'm new to this blogging thing!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stude shopping spree

You'll recall that my Studebaker, being a southern california girl, didn't feel the need to have heat. But up here in the Pacific NW, heat and defrost are pretty much essential. I'd had some nibbles on the net from folks who had heating units they'd sell, or parts of one they'd even give me if I paid for shipping, but there's a lot of stuff and shipping would be difficult. Plus it would be nice to see one complete so it would be easier to hook up.

I decided to call a local Studebaker vendor known as Studebaker John in neighboring Lebanon, Oregon to see if he could fix me up. Well fix me up he did:

Lots of heater parts!
I now have almost everything to set up a complete heating system--and plenty of spares. All that I'm lacking is the pull handle and cable to control the heat, the fan switch for the defroster and a heater control valve. I can order everything new with the exception of the pull handle, which I'll have to find used somewhere.

John was a great guy to meet, and he had some beautiful cars and trucks scattered around his place, including a couple of really nice Avanti's and a beautiful red Hawk GT. I'd never really been a fan of Avanti's before, but looking at one up close in great shape, I might have to change my mind.

Now if we could just get a warm sunny weekend so I can clean up these parts and get them painted.

And no, I haven't forgotten the brakes--they'll wait for a slightly warmer day as well.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Discoveries, or YAO!

I've began the arduous task of replacing the metal brake lines under the car today--basically, at this point, I'm doing a lot of cleaning--there's years of road grime and built up gunk on most of the nuts and bolts and clips and fasteners on the underneath that I need to remove before I can start.

That's when I discovered "Yet Another Option" on the car--this car is equipped with a Hill Holder. You may have seen this advertised as a nifty accessory on current Subaru or Dodge vehicles--but Studebaker actually invented it back in 1936. The Hill Holder activates the brakes when the clutch is fully depressed when the car is stopped, keeping it from rolling backwards while on an incline.

Of course, this is just one more thing that I'll have to bring up to date. Fortunately, there's a rebuild kit available. And it will probably be less effective only connected to the rear drums since I'll be installing front discs soon. But it is good to know that my little Plain Jane isn't quite so Plain. That's good, because Jane just isn't a good name for a Studebaker.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Original color?

Thanks to Bridges' Studebaker's Finest, I found the paint "tag" (which is a piece of paper) affixed to the firewall on the inside of the car behind the glove box. It fell off as soon as I touched it, so I brought it inside, put it in a ziploc bag and left it in a safe place. So, is Ivory Mist the original color? Did someone else add the two-tone later, or did the original owner, in a moment of passion, decide to order his plain-jane car with a splash of style?

I'll not know for sure until the original production order arrives, but unless a previous restorer faked the paint tag, here's what I found:
Ivory Mist and Maui Blue. But does the tag lie? We'll find out soon.


Whatever could it be?

I know what I'm reading tonight.

Sorry for the blurry pic. . .a bit dark in the room for my phone
And the rest of the bits to do the rear brakes--plus one slightly damp friend, who must carefully inspect all packages.
I'm trying to convince Walker that just because the brake linings say they're organic doesn't mean they're good for him to eat.
Looks like I'm finally going to be able to get the Stude back on its wheels this weekend--it won't be drivable yet--I'm not going to put any fluid in the brakes until I get it all together since I'm going to use silicon brake fluid instead of the old DOT 3 that's in there now. But it will be nice to be able to at least push it out of the way if I needed.

Love having boxes waiting for me when I get home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I felt the need to wrench on something.

When I bought the car, the engine bay looked a little stripped:
After almost 60 years, the green engine paint is a little faded. Ok, it is a LOT faded. 
Fortunately, the trunk was full of engine compartment parts. So I went out tonight and installed the air filter and the fan shroud. They have a nice patina to them.

That looks a little better. But what is with those bare wires?

It wasn't a major project--I had to pull the fan and the top radiator hose off, which drained a bunch of water out of the radiator (yes, it looked like it was just water--I'm glad I wasn't shipping it in the dead of winter). Other than wanting to be able to feel like I accomplished something today, the main reason I did this was to keep from losing or damaging any of those parts. Looking at the distance between the fan and the radiator, I'm pretty sure the shroud is an important part of the cooling system--I do want to drive it around the block a few times after I put brakes on it and keeping the engine cool is always good.

One last thing. I feel I almost owe the original owner an apology. See that air cleaner? The black round thing near the back with the spout that goes across the top of the engine? That's an oil bath air cleaner--an option for dustier locations. Yes, I found the second option purchased by the original owner! So he's gone from being the cheapest bastard I've ever heard of to just an average cheap bastard. Okay, maybe a little beyond average--but not the cheapest.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

There. That's better.

This came in the mail yesterday:

Much better than the old cracked/crazed one.
Still waiting for other parts, and, well, to be honest, I've been busy on the lathe this weekend making parts for a bass guitar I'm building for a friend (luthiery is the other major expenditure of my "not at work" time.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The waiting game. . .

My new rear wheel cylinders arrived today.  Not very exciting for a blog post but hey, here's a pic:
Wheel cylinders are still made! Woo.
Of course, I get a call from my new friends at Studebaker International to inform me they were out of the new rear brake shoes, but did have some relined ones available (at less cost, but with a core charge of course.) No problem but now I have to wait for them to arrive--I was hoping to see them by this weekend, but that's not likely to happen.

I hate waiting. . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Plan of Attack

I just got off the phone with Bill Cathcart of Cathcart Studebaker. Bill is the #1 Studebaker Champion (6-cylinder) performance guru, and it was great to get to talk to him. After bouncing some ideas off of him, I have a plan of attack for the performance portion of the car.

Note--I'm going to make the car safe to drive before doing anything else. So I need to finish going through the brakes. I've ordered the parts for the rear brakes, and am getting ready to pull the trigger on the turner brake dual master cylinder and front disk conversion kit. The hold up here? A bit of pondering--how lazy am I? Do I buy the complete kit--everything I need--from Turner and pay for all the shipping (the disk brake kit itself weighs 74 lbs) or do I buy the economy kit, which is basically just the brackets and adapters, and source the heavier stuff locally so I don't have to pay so much shipping? I'll let you know what I decide after a bit of pricing research. . . [update: all brake components have been ordered. Will only need to source the hard brake lines locally (which I'll have to bend myself but I'm an old hat at that--and I have a handy line bending tool!)]

Back to the fun stuff. Since the original motor runs great (and I need to verify that by running a variety of compression tests, etc.) Bill recommended that I leave the motor stock and just go with bolt on parts. Once I verify the condition of the motor (I will probably do a simple "refresh" on it anyway--rings and bearings, etc.) I will get with Bill and order a finned aluminum head, a dual carb manifold with two new carbs (I'll have to give up my automatic choke) and a split exhaust header. I talked to Bill about boring and stroking the motor--basically upgrading it to the 55-59 model that was a bit bigger and had 110hp vs. my 85hp, and he told me no--he recommended the bolt on stuff and a search for a 4.10 rear end gears instead of the stock 4.56 as an easier way of getting to the performance I'm wanting while saving a lot of money. 

All that bolt on stuff is custom made at a foundry that works with Bill, so there will be a 6-month or so lead time to get the parts.

This sounds like a good plan. Once I get it running and driving, I'll turn to the cosmetics--paint, interior and chrome.

Since I didn't have any pics in this post--and I know that you're just here for the pics, here's what the engine will look like when I'm done (with less chrome, of course.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Apparently, a lab coat is required to work on a Studebaker.

Back when I was first married and poor, I used to order free catalogs so I'd get something neat in the mail. But now, it takes a little more to pique my interest. Like a box with a new shop manual for the Stude!
Repro, but very nice!

And that's when I discovered that working on a Studebaker requires the proper attire:

The guy in the bottom picture scares me

It is great to have a nice support network of vendors and fellow collectors for a car whose manufacturer went out of business in 1966.

That's all you're getting tonight. I'm going to browse through the brake section of my manual. I wonder if my car is equipped with the hill holder (or if the original owner was too cheap to spring for that as well?)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A car job where a hammer was the right tool? Sweet!

Time to pull off the rear hubs and check on the condition of the brakes. Ok, I'm actually pulling them off to get ready to R&R the rear brakes, so really I'm only checking on the hubs themselves, which are apparently somewhat pricey so here's hoping they're in good shape and can be turned.

First, some safety items:
Don't leave home without 'em
Dust is never good in your lungs, and when it is from a really old car, that dust might contain asbestos. So a little extra caution is best.

Ok, so loved, gloved and masked up, I jack up the car, placing the rear axle on jack stands and remove the rear wheels. Next, I remove the cotter key, followed by the axle nut--my 3/4-inch impact wrench makes short work of getting that loose. I then lightly screw the nut back on so I don't mess up the threads with the puller, leaving a 1/4 inch or so between it and the hub. The puller attaches to three of the wheel lugs:

Yes, that's a hammer down there. . .
Next, after snugging everything up, a few quick blows of the hammer pops the hub off the tapered shaft. Having the right tool just makes jobs so much faster. And there we have it, brake bits:

Surprisingly clean!
The left side looked surprisingly in good shape--quite a bit of shoe left, no major leaks from the wheel cylinder (that cylindrical thing on the top with the rubber covers on the end). Wish I could say the same for the right side--major leakage from the wheel cylinder. That's ok, the only thing that harms is the lining on the brake shoes, which I was planning on replacing anyway. Sorry, I cleaned it up before thinking taking a picture.

Next, I take the hubs to be turned on a lathe to make sure they're perfectly circular on the inside and to remove any grooves or imperfections. Hopefully, fingers-crossed, they're thick enough to be turned. Once I find that out, then it's a matter of ordering parts--new brake shoes (will probably have to send these out to have new linings put on them), new wheel cylinders and all the little springs and bits. Oh and I'll be replacing the metal brake lines (they're probably pretty rusty now) and the rubber brake hose.

And, of course, there's a "while I'm in there" thing to take care of--bearings and seals. I'll wait for the manual to arrive before I start to tackle that. The shop manual should arrive any day now.

Those who know cars will be smiling at how simple the drum brake assembly is compared to a more modern car.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Interior? Yup, it has one. . .

I've had a couple of requests for interior shots, so here they are. Warning: this is pretty ugly. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to visit another website for the next few minutes.

The door panel, in gray and white, "might" be original.
Notice anything missing yet? No? Don't worry there'll be another hint.

The floors are vinyl, and hard as a rock and stained/cracked. They'll be replaced by carpets. Now for the back seat:

The arm rest is original
More of the same, but if you look carefully under the blue and white vinyl where it is cracked you can see:

Oooh! Fancy!
Yup, that's pretty ugly. And wouldn't be an original option. So that was added at some point (I'm guessing mid to late 60's? Anyone else have an idea?)

Last, but not least, is the dash:

Something doesn't seem quite right, can you see it now? (click on this [or any pic] for a larger view)
The dash, which is painted metal and chrome, is actually in pretty good shape, as is, surprisingly, the steering wheel. Early plastics like that wheel are often cracked to pieces, but this one only has a couple of small cracks. The horn button, which is a mess, is available on the market, but I'm not sure if I'm going to upgrade the wheel to a fancier, 3-spoke model when I update the interior so I'm holding off on that for now. Right next to the overdrive lockout knob under the dash there's supposed to be a heater control knob as well. But you already knew about that.

So have you guessed what's missing? Yup, it doesn't have turn-signals. Turn signals were an option in 1953, and the original owner, living up to his reputation as a cheap bastid, didn't spring for them. I'm definitely going to have add a turn-signal equipped steering post (as well as the heater/defroster unit) to my list of things to hunt down.

As I said before, I'm not worried about the interior. It is complete, and all the soft bits (door and kick panels, seats, headliner) are available as a pre-sewn kit at a reasonable price. But since there were requests. . .

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gotta have the right tool for the job. . .

Waiting for me when I got home was a package with my newest purchase--a brake drum puller:

Hub puller
Several old cars, like my Stude, have rear axles that are tapered on the outside ends, requiring a puller to remove the rear brake drum. Soon you'll be seeing how that went--if it did at all. . .stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Ok, not really. The car is now titled and tagged in my name. But like that former PotUS, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start in the middle:

U-haul said my full-size Ford pickup wasn't big enough! I think they just wanted another $20.
I took off work today, anticipating a horrid day of waiting in line at the DMV, then hassling with someone over the VIN. My worry: the VIN on the California title was the serial number of the engine block, not the body serial number on the inside of the door post. So I've been fretting for days that I'd have a struggle.

Well, of course, the struggle today was all with U-Haul, who started off by saying my truck wasn't big enough to tow a vehicle 2 miles on level ground, then once I convinced them of that, that my hitch wasn't rated high enough. Finally I gave up and rented a 10' truck for the morning. And when I returned it, they threatened to charge me a $30 filling fee if I didn't go get 1 gallon of gas (I'm not kidding--they made me go get 1 gallon of gas because the needle was one needle-thickness below the 7/8ths of a tank mark, where it was when I picked it up.) How's that for great customer service?

But back to the DMV: What an excellent experience! Not only did I get great, cordial service where I was treated like a human, but I learned something too. Apparently, before 1960, both California and Oregon used the serial number on the engine block as the VIN number. But they gave me no problem switching the official VIN to the body serial number on the door post, and I was able to purchase (for an extra fee, of course) vintage tags that looked like they did when my car was but a young thing.
Pacific Wonderland!
Now the real fun can begin!

Monday, March 7, 2011

My First Stude: A Love Story

You never forget your first Studebaker
Many years ago the hankerin' for a Studebaker hit me hard. And although I was able to find a 59 Silver Hawk for sale, the price was too high for the condition. So I kept reading the Illustrated Studebaker Buyer's Guide and dreaming.

My wife, however, prepared for the quest. Searching high and low across most of the central plains, she finally located the last existing AMT model at a nearby model store. The dealer, a cross-eyed gentleman in a sweater vest--likely straight from his mother's basement--was loathe to part with it as he recognized  the potential for this piece to increase exponentially in value. With a good bit of flirtation, she was able to get the man to part with his prize and I was entertained for the next several days.

That fall, the old Porsche 911 fell into my lap, and I had project enough for the next couple of years. But the Studebaker stayed there, always within reach, on the corner of my desk. I knew that I'd have one someday.

The picture above (taken with my cell phone) isn't the best quality and the color is off (it really is more of a teal color) due to the weird fluorescent lighting at work--but it is a symbol of love. And I like the model too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nifty Find

Found this in the glove box:

Some interesting tidbits--the original warranty was 90 days or 4,000 miles, whichever came first. Nifty options available (at extra cost from your Studebaker dealer) included an Oil Filter (and nope, my car doesn't have one--yet) and, my favorite, a windshield washer system that consists of a bag, some tubing and nozzles and a rubber ball that is operated by pumping it with your foot. I gots to get me one of those!

About the only thing accomplished today was I put new wiper blade refills on it--the old ones were missing the rubber part entirely. The wipers are actually the optional two-speed electric (I was expecting vacuum wipers--it never rains in San Diego, right?) I didn't bother to take any pictures of that procedure--I'm sure you've seen that before. But I wanted to go ahead and put the wipers on it because they're small and I could see myself either losing a piece off of one of them or bending them--so best to put it on for now. Plus I got to test them--yup, they work just fine.

Also, the car had a visitor--my buddy Jon dropped by and sat behind the wheel (even fired her up) and poked around. His Triumph with straight pipes didn't even wake up my dogs--I'm going to have to have a long talk with them about their watchdog responsibilities!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

There's always surprises

When I went out to the garage this morning, I discovered that someone had stolen my wheels!
 The old tires weren't even safe for working around the car--especially since this will be a rolling restoration. They were all different sizes and a mix of bias ply and radial tires. Plus a couple of them would only hold air for a couple of days. So after jacking up the car and putting it on stands, carefully removing the early 53 wheel covers (apparently, from what I've read, they're rare as hens teeth and priced accordingly) I made my first surprising discovery--on the right hand of the car the lug bolts/nuts are standard right hand threads--counter-clockwise to loosen them. But on the left (driver's side) the lugs are left hand threads. I don't know if this is by design or not, but threw me for a loop until I noticed. One advantage of this is that the wrench turns in the same direction (towards the front of the car to tighten, back of the car to loosen).

Update: My friend Mark sent me this on the lug nut discovery:
When I was a kid and my dad taught me how to change tires, all lug nuts were right hand on the starboard side and left hand on the port, so as not to come unscrewed easily. Or so my dad said.
Anyone have any idea when this changed?

Once I got the wheels off, this is what I faced:

Front brakes--a bit small!

Not only were the brakes small (the reviews of the V-8 model at the time were highly critical) but the wheel doesn't turn freely--the brakes are partially applied at all times. I was expecting this--when brake hoses get old and brittle, they start to break down on the inside. To be brief--it allows for fluid to be pushed through under pressure from the master cylinder, but doesn't allow it to return easily. 3 of the 4 brakes were locked up (the car has enough power to spin the wheels, but I can't turn it by hand).

So I'm at a juncture. I was originally planning on starting to do more cosmetic work and then fix some of the mechanical upgrades while I was reassembling--but I want to be able to safely move the vehicle around as I work on it (or as I need the garage). So I'll be ordering a disc brake conversion. This, along with a dual master cylinder will give me a bit more modern--and much safer--braking.

Since the sun was out, I thought the ol' girl would like to warm her bones. So she's out sporting her new shoes (actually, for those who have asked--no, the wheels weren't stolen--I just took them down for new tires) and getting some fresh air this afternoon.

Baby got a new pair of shoes (and I need to sweep yet more leaves off the driveway)

Friday, March 4, 2011

You never forget your first fix. . .

There's a few things I need to take care of before I take this beast out to DMV to get the title transferred over. One of those was that the driver's door didn't latch (I knew this going in, and had the previous owner bungee cord the door shut for the trip up here.) A quick visual inspection showed the push button on the outer door handle was stuck in the in position.

So the first step was to get at the back of it and see what was going on. Obviously, I needed to remove the door panel on the inside to get to the back of the lock. Here's what I found:

Wow, that's a lot of sheet metal and a very small opening!
 So much for that approach. Oh well, more poking around--and it was then that I discovered a screw on the lip of the door that went into the back of the door handle. Removed the screw, shut the door and problem solved!

Simple solutions are always the best.
Ok, even I admit that carrying around a small screwdriver to open the door was a bit much. Looking at the back of the door handle, the pin that made contact with the latch mechanism in the bigger hole above was rusted in place. I found a bottle of Liquid Wrench on my workbench, liberally applied it to the door handle and let it soak overnight. Today I took sanding paper to the rusted pin, cleaned it up nicely, and the handle works again.

Almost good as new!
I find that an on-line dealer sells a new knob and spring kit--since there's some rust on the knob, and I'm sure that pin will rust shut again at some point, I think I'll spring for that in the future.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

You bought what? Confessions of a car slut

I'm a car guy.

I've owned more cars than I can count, but there's only a handful of cars I've owned that I really wanted. My dream cars. For the last decade or so I've been into Porsches--my favorites have been a 1969 911e (the favorite car I've owned so far and which I've most often regretted selling) and an 1987 944 turbo--a great all around car that I love to drive but find annoying to work on.

But since I was a teenager, I've had a soft spot in my heart for Studebakers. And none more than the 1953-54 coupes. So when a combination of events led to the chance for me to acquire a mostly rust-free and original 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe, I jumped on it.

And so the fun begins. But first, some pictures!

Car at old home in San Diego

4-days later. That was fast! I wonder how much oil it dripped on that Acura?

This car hadn't been driven since 1994. Shipper is very brave driving this off the ramp

More to come!