2009 Totcky Award Winner
Submitted by Nell and Randy O.
This vehicle went under extreme restoration as it needed virtually everything! We acquired this Studebaker as a parts car for our 1955 Commander in November 2004 for 250 dollars (that is no misprint; we said 250 dollars). The car was located outside Shelbyville, TN in a field where a Hudson automobile friend of ours had many cars sitting out (the same place we acquired the 1956 Packard Clipper Custom in 2003). The intent was to pull usable parts off this car for the 1955 Commander or to sell/trade to other Studebaker enthusiasts. However, the car seemed "too good" to part out according to Ed H. when he opened the trunk. It was basically solid with only a few rust holes along the bottom of two doors and the driver's side floorboard under the seat.
The engine was locked up but the Borg Warner automatic transmission hopefully was good (the fluid had a good color and didn't smell old or burnt). Another 1955 Studebaker (a station wagon) nearby was acquired for what was believed a good engine, but it appeared in worse shape than the President. The transmission, however, could be needed for the President.
A previous owner had made a feeble attempt to convert the car to 12 volts with little resistors hung behind the dashboard and instrument cluster but virtually every bulb in the car was blown and all new instruments were ordered from one of the Studebaker national vendors. Some of the most difficult parts to locate were trim pieces; 1955 was a transition year between the 1953-54 models and the 1956-57 models. Rear opening vent window rubber was impossible to locate for this 4-door sedan so we had to improvise.
Restoration activities began in spring of 2005 and continued until mid 2009, well beyond the original goal of spring 2007. The floorboard was patched and new cloth wire ordered for rewiring. Commensurate with acquiring certain engine-area components such as a new coil, voltage regulator, starter solenoid, dimmer switch, brake light switch, horn relay, etc., the car was mostly rewired and continuity checks performed in January 2006. Many parts were removed and cleaned and painted for reassembly. A few parts were acquired off eBay including a glove box, taillight bezel, fuel pump, master cylinder, etc. Internal distributor parts were ordered from NAPA. Several major pieces of chrome were taken to A-1 Plating in Tuscumbia in January 2006 for re-chroming. The bumper were also sent out of town for re-chrome.
The entire car was sanded down and a temporary rust-preventative primer applied while we did electrical and mechanical work. The engine was dismantled and taken to the machine shop in late January 2006. New pistons, rings, main bearings, and rod bearings were ordered in early February 2006. The engine-mounting frames, fender wells, and firewall were painted in early January 2005 followed by the dash, steering wheel and column, garnish moldings, and door jambs in late January 2006. Upholstery selection consisted of several trips to Sirs in Fayetteville, TN. Reassembly of the engine began in summer 2006 when we were stopped abruptly having noticed a bolt that had broken off cleanly in the head. A head was removed from the wagon engine and substituted. This engine is a 259 ci Studebaker V-8 with 185 hp.
Ray H. was instrumental in getting the engine rebuilt and reassembled while Ed H.'s talents with door and fender patch panels was a big contribution. Both their expertises were solicited a few times when we ran into "unique" problems. Murphy cam for a visit frequently.
In February 2008 we finally got the engine fired up. The excitement quickly turned to disappointment when a major coolant leak occurred that seemed to be from a virtually inaccessible rear-mounted freeze plug but diagnosis determined the source was from the difficult to reach water temperature sending unit assembly instead. With that fixed, assembly of various parts continued. Then we were pleased when the transmission engaged and eventually we took the car out for a test drive.
In August 2008 we drove the ar to Perry Lewis's paint shop and got it back October 2008 in original two-tone Studebaker blue colors and acrylic enamel paint.
The first outing in the car was intended to be to a NAR dinner at O'Bryans but that was thwarted when wiring in the engine compartment caught fire necessitating tracing back into the dash ammeter as the culprit with re-wiring consisting of a fusable link. So, the first car show was a church on Oakwood in July 2009 followed by a number of other shows and events through the remainder of the year. The car has been very popular at the car shows, especially with our 4-picture poster of "before" versus what it looks like now. People are generally amazed.
We maintained a detailed record of the restoration with hours logged in for the effort; the final total being just over 1,200 hours labor.