The Studeblogger

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1963 Standard TV Introduction

My post about the introduction of the Studebaker Standard has brought a couple of interesting comments. Warren Webb of Riverside wrote:

Boy do I ever remember the introduction of this model! I was watching "Mister Ed" & heard at the beginning of the show the teaser that Studebaker was introducing a new car. Wow, I thought, could this be a follow up to the Avanti? Perhaps a new Hawk? I don't remember the show, but when John Cameron Swayze announced the introduction to the "new Studebaker Standard" I was really disappointed. Now, as the years have gone by, along with Studebaker's demise, I often think why did they do it that way?

Good question. The history of Studebaker is filled with "what if?" questions. What if they'd built the '53 Roadster? What if they hadn't given Lark franchises to Big Three dealers in '59, just to see them drop the Lark when GM/Ford/Mopar came out with their own compacts the next year? What if they'd built the Sceptre, or the other Brooks Stevens prototypes that were done in '63?

Interestingly, the John Cameron Swayze commercial Warren refers to has been posted on YouTube. Here it is:

Also, Heather writes:
This is an interesting story I haven't heard. I wondered why parts for my '63 Cruiser are so hard to come by. All is falling into place now! Strange to contemplate a car without carpet, and it sounds like a noisy, unpleasant ride.

Yes, 1963 was a real transition year - lots of one-year-only trim and soft parts - and not a high-production year either, although they did build a lot of "inventory" cars at the end of the model year in order to keep production lines running.

In fact, Bob Palma theorizes in the October 1993 issue of Turning Wheels that one of the reasons the Studebaker board shuttered South Bend in December of '63 relates directly to this unneeded, last-minute production of '63-model cars. Because dealer lots were so full of unsold '63s when the newly restyled '64 hit showrooms, dealers offered "fire-sale" prices on last year's model - torpedoing the sale of a new '64, and causing the sales slump that finally prompted the board to close US production lines.

A cautionary tale for US automakers today if there ever was one.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Engine Drop!

Yesterday was the day - the engine and transmission went back into the Lark (almost exactly one year after they came out). WOO HOO!

I started around 9AM, getting all the pieces together and putting the exhaust manifolds on the block. It's amazing how many parts you accumulate (and how many different places you manage to store them!) for a project like this. One thing that helped was having all the proper fasteners in little labeled Zip-Loc bags, ready to go where they were needed.

I finished with the manifolds just about the time John Dick arrived, and we shot the bull a little before starting to reunite the transmission with the engine. Since the trans came back fully assembled from Vista Transmission, we first had to remove the torque converter and mount it on the engine.

I should point out here a note for anyone doing this work for the first time: the flex plate and stiffener only mount to the crank a certain way. You'll have to rotate the plate 1/6-turn at a time until the bolts and the holes line up; same with the stiffener. Once that's done, no worries.

Also note that the slotted locknuts that were on the crank-to-flex-plate bolts from the factory are NLA (John sayz that some aircraft supply houses may have them, but I had no luck); the modern replacements are called deformed-thread lock nuts - these are not Nylock nuts!

Once the torque converter had been loosely attached to the flex plate, we attached the bellhousing (remembering to first drive in the two locating dowels that hold the housing in alignment to the block).

On Studebakers (and some other cars as well), the bellhousing must be positioned so that the transmission input shaft is centered with the crank. If it isn't, vibrations from the offset of the two rotating assemblies will crack the flexplate (at best) or fry the torque converter (at worst). If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember that that's exactly what happened with my car (see evidence at left), since the trans service shop that last worked on it neglected to reinstall the dowels when they bolted the bellhousing back up to the block.

I am lucky in that the trans/bellhousing/engine combination in my car is original. If it weren't, I'd have had to align the bellhousing to the crank (a topic thoroughly covered in the manual and on the Studebaker Drivers Club Forum, so I won't go into it here). All I had to do, though, was get a set of the correct dowel pins from Rich Gahlbeck at Studebakers Northwest in Seattle.

So we got the trans back on the block and had lunch, provided by my lovely wife - a little sushi for appetizer (mmmmm... sushi) and some big honkin' sammys for the main course, after which we headed back out for the big drop.

Over on the SDC Forums, John Poulos (one of the country's biggest resellers of Studebakers) had warned me that getting the transmission crossmember back in would be a bitch. Boy, was he right.

We bolted the crossmember in loosely so that we could guide the tailshaft over it as we dropped in the engine. This went well (except for a little messing with the drop-in angle); the problem occurred when we tried to line up the transmission mounts with the crossmember. It took nearly two hours of pushing, pulling, jockeying and grunting before it all went together and snugged up (most of it with poor Dave lying sandwiched under the rocker as seen here).

JDP says that the easier way to do the engine/trans R&R is to leave the crossmember bolted in and simply ease the combo out over it, with a helper under the car making sure everything clears. Think I'll try it his way next time (if I ever do this again!).

One other note about reattaching the transmission crossmember: there are body spacers that sandwich between the member and the body at the extreme outside edges of the crossmember. On some cars these are made of rubber; on others metal. Don't forget to put them back in! If your rubber ones have deteriorated, you can make new ones; Studebaker used squares cut from the sidewalls of old bias-ply tires (true!). Some thicknesses are also still available from SASCO. Also, the manual specifies 1" bolts to attach the member to the frame; these are ridiculously short, since you have to maneuver the nut into a hole cut in the crossmember and it's nearly impossible. Use 1 3/4" bolts instead; this greatly simplifies starting the nuts and can easily be tightened with a deep-well socket.

Anyway, we muscled it all together and rolled it back to its resting place about 45 minutes after sundown. I'll take the next few days to do all the little stuff - starter, exhaust, intake, radiator, etc. Thanks to Dave and John! It was a good Stude day!!

Labels: , , , ,