Saturday, May 21, 2011

Deciding on a direction

While I'm finishing up another project--an electric bass guitar for a friend--I've had to delay working on the Stude for a while. . .but that doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking about it. . .

Earlier this week I called Cathcart's Studebaker to order the performance parts for the flathead 6 cylinder engine in my car--a high(er) compression aluminum finned head, dual carb manifold with carbs and linkage and a split exhaust manifold. Unfortunately, Bill Cathcart had just gotten out of the hospital and was recovering; I didn't keep him on the phone but simply told him that I'd give him a call back in a few weeks after he was back on his feet.

But this got me thinking--is this the way to go? I'll show you a pic of what I hope the end product would look like:

This is a work of art--the engine is in a '53 Champion owned by a man called Shuggie. Thanks to Da Tinman for the pic!
I would be proud to open my hood to show off my motor if it looked half-again as killer as the one in Shuggie's car. And performance would be ok--I don't know what all Shuggie has done to the car, but I'm expecting a 40% increase in power--so the 85hp boat anchor in the front of the car would turn into a bit more respectable 120hp or so. And ye gods, that is gorgeous as well. Here's a vid:

While 120hp and a change of rear end gearing would make the car a pleasant driver, there is another way. Welcome to the dark side:

This proof of concept turbocharged Champion 6 put together by Sal from Sacramento powered his 54 Coupe to over 110mph.

Seems like quite a few people have been throwing a turbo charger on the ol' flathead and really warming them up. In some cases more than doubling the power (I've heard rumors of more than 200hp, which isn't shabby). From the research I've done,  I've found that the rotating assemblies of these engines are incredibly strong and can handle quite a bit of boost. (For those who are interested in the fine details about turbocharging this engine, you can download a PDF about the process here.)

And, of course, there is nothing to stop someone from doing a combination of the two--say, a turbo charger with a single carb, like Sal's above, with a finned head and fancy parts like Shuggie's.

There is a catch, of course. The twin carb and finned head setup is a bolt-on affair--it is somewhat simple to do and provides a decent amount of power for the work involved. A turbo set-up like Sal's is something that I can't just order and have shipped to my door--I would have to manufacture many of the parts myself--and then get them to run properly. If the boost gets too high, I could destroy the engine, which is original to the car.

But it would be unique, and once everything was configured properly, would be dependable, fairly economical and, in a car as light as the Studebaker, a lot of fun.

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