The Studeblogger

Monday, November 30, 2009

Heater Valve Rebuild Service.

Got a leaky heater valve in your car, dripping water down the firewall and soaking the carpet? Stuck using a "replacement" valve that operates backward from normal? Or is your valve just frozen, unable to open or, worse, halfway open and heating the passenger compartment to uncomfortable levels?

Either way, something needs to be done. It so happens that your old Harrison or Ranco valves are rebuildable, if they're not too far gone, and Jim Tucker provides that service.Studebaker's Climatizer heating system used Ranco valves, which up until recently were not available new, and even now the repros are not cheap. Check out his website at - fix the valve and save your floorboards!

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Parts delivered.

I took a load of parts over to Vista Brake this AM - the two new front hub/drum assemblies from Studebaker International, the good used rear hub/drums from Bob Peterson, and a complete new set of inner and outer front wheel bearings and oil seals (parts I'd snagged off eBay sometime during the past 3 years).

Bryan miked the used finned rear drums and proclaimed them "perfect" (only turned .020" - nearly new!), and I managed to snap a couple of quick pics before heading to my next appointment.

Here's Barney on the lift, with all four wheels and brakes disassembled.  You can't see it in this pic, but in person it's obvious how badly the rear springs have flattened; some leaves refuse to regain their arch when lifted and their plastic anti-squeak liners have fallen out! I have an NOS set of springs from SASCO, but they need to be disassembled and re-painted before they go on the car.


In this shot you can see the right rear wheel; this is the one whose wheel cylinder had blown out and contaminated the pads with brake fluid. Bryan's stripped all the parts from the backing plate and mounted the new cylinder. I hope all that rust doesn't mean a hard time pulling the old hubs from the tapered axle! But then, he's the one doing it - not me .

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rears are here.

Got the rear brake drums from Bob Peterson this afternoon in the UPS. Solid, finned rear drums - will be a nice upgrade, since my original rear drums are non-finned.

With that final delivery, I'm all set for parts. I'll take all four drums plus front wheel bearings and oil seals to Bryan on Monday morning, and with any luck Barney should be on the road next week!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm thankful for new brakes!

It's Thanksgiving, and I have much to be grateful for - my beautiful wife of 22 years, my son Reed who isn't too much of a wiseacre too much of the time, my job, and good friends and family. And I thank God for all these things.

But today I'm thankful for one more thing - brand new front brake drums and hubs from Chuck Collins, which came with the FedEx man around lunchtime. Along with the new wheel bearings and oil seals I'd squirreled away, these will go to Vista Brake next week -- hopefully, along with the set of used rear drums that are en route from Bob Peterson. Once Bryan gets these, Barney will be on the road again. Hmmm, I can hear Willie Nelson in my head...!

You can find Chuck Collins' Studebaker Parts Online at:

2410 W. Freeway Ln.
Phoenix AZ 85021

And if you're looking for parts from Bob Peterson:

C & B Studebakers
Castro Valley, CA

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

And off we go.

This morning Barney moved under his own power... up the ramp of a flat-bed tow truck :) It was a planned excursion, though - the brakes have to be gone through before I'll consider taking him onto the open road..

So, for the first time since August of 2006, he's out of our driveway. With the help of my wife, I made a three-point turn in our driveway and faced him out to the world, then called for a tow using my Hagerty Plus membership. Hagerty Plus is like AAA for collector cars; you get up to three free 10-mile flatbed tows per year.

So I called, and in about 45 minutes S&R was at the door, and we loaded Barney onto his truck. I actually drove it onto the flatbed, which was a bit tense because I had to really get on the gas to move him up the ramp - the first time I've really put power to the rear wheels in gear. Because he hasn't been driven so long, the tires are pretty shiny and I spun 'em a little at the very end, which caused the car to slide sideways a bit. The driver decided at that point to call it good and chained her down for the ride.

We took kind of the long way 'round getting there, but arrived at Vista Brake without incident about half-an-hour later (me keeping a respectful distance behind the truck in case anything unpleasant should occur).

I can't recommend Vista Brake highly enough. If you're in North San Diego County and need brakes, alignment, suspension or other work done, they are the place to go. I've known owner Brian Dornan for years; he's worked on all my cars (and his dad before him) since the 1980s - my '67 Pontiac, my long-lost Dodge Rampage, my wife's Honda Pilot, etc. etc. He and his crew are excellent mechanics who can take care of just about everything; while I was there he showed me a fat-fendered black '51 Mercury 4-door sedan that they're finishing up full brake and suspension work on - very smooth car with a big-block Chevy under the hood ;)

Brian will take care of stuff I can't do at home - pulling and packing the rear axle and wheel bearings, front-end alignment, new brake lines and hoses front to rear, and a conversion from single-circuit master cylinder to dual-circuit (which most '63 Studebakers already had, except for the bare bones cheapo Standard model, which is what Barney is.

Oh, and he'll also fix one of my boo-boos - installing the A-arm jounce bumpers in the front suspension, which I inadvertently left off during the rebuild. Stand by for details!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adventures in shock-land.

Tomorrow Barney goes to the brake shop for new binders and an alignment, so I wanted to do a job I'd put off for over a year - changing out the rear shock absorbers. I wanted this done before the alignment, since the angle of the front wheels will change along with the angle of the rear end.

The reason I'd put it off so long is that, to be perfectly blunt, changing the rears is a royal bitch. The upper shock mounts are located in a frame cross-member that lies in the highest part of the floor pan, the kickup over the rear axle.

I took the photo above laying underneath the rear axle, looking up at the left upper shock  mount. There wasn't really enough clearance to get a good angle for the photo - so you can imagine the working space! The through-bolt's head goes in from the front of the car; the self-locking nut is in behind the flange on the rear, in a tiny recessed space between the cross-member flange and the trunk floor - just enough space for a box-end wrench, but not for a socket+ratchet combo. With the exhaust pipe in the exact center of the working area, getting your arms in there to hold the nut and turn the bolt is kind of like driving a '75 Buick through a slalom course after a night of heavy drinking,


Caution: to do this at home, you need to jack up the rear wheels for clearance. This means that the parking brake is rendered useless. Be safe - use wheel chocks before and after both front wheels, and jack stands under the rear axle under the springs. I also leave the floor jack under the pumpkin as well for good measure - better safe than sorry. Don't take short cuts with your life!

It took me about an hour and a half of sweating, spitting and being drowned in a shower of rust flakes from the exhaust pipes to get the left shock off. In the process, I managed to run over my own shoulder with my creeper and raise a bruise the size of Catalina Island (ouch).

The old shocks were still operable, but obviously tired. The replacements were the same exact Gabriels that came off the car!

The new shock went in without much effort, since I now knew where everything was. I chased the threads on the mounting bolt just to clean them up, then proceeded to install the shock. The only hang-up was with my torque wrench: the bolt had to be torqued to 45 foot-pounds, and my 3/8" wrench with the 12" handle doesn't go that high. So I had to use the 1/2" drive, with the two-foot handle... which meant that I had just enough angle to turn the bolt one click with each swing. Getting it to torque was an interminable process, but I did it.

The right shock went much more smoothly, taking only a half-hour to R&R (albeit with another gallon of rust-flakes dislodged).

Once the shocks are in and the nut on the bottom stud is tightened up, be sure to add the locking nut. These are not included in the shock absorber hardware package, and the Shop Manual decrees the use of PAL nuts. Luckily I had some left from the front shock installation, which I'd gotten online from Aircraft Spruce.

Just snug the flat side up against the stud nut and they're locked in place, yet still easy to remove! Pretty smooth.

After all was said and done, it wasn't that bad, but would certainly be a lot better using a hoist :)  And, even with the tired old leaf springs in the back end, the car sits about 2" higher!

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Thank you!

The guys over at's Car Lust blog listed The Studeblogger as one of their favorite car blogs! Aw shucks... I'm blushin' :)

Thanks guys!


Hey... your head is loose!

While I've been occasionally accused of not having my head screwed on tight enough ;) I'm talking about the bolts on your engine's heads in this case.

StudeKen (Ken Pyle, who rebuilt my 259) reminded me that the head bolts needed to be re-torqued after the engine had been restarted and run a bit, which mine now has. So, yesterday being a beautiful 72 degrees here in SoCal, I decided on a little StudeWrenching in preparation for road-worthiness.

First step is pulling the valve covers. If you're a GM guy like I was, you're probably used to a lot of hold-down bolts around the base of the covers, as seen below on my '67 Pontiac. Some other brands have quite a lot more bolts!

In contrast, Studebaker valve covers are easily removed without fumbling around by just unscrewing the two bolts in the center of the valve covers (4 bolts on older models):

The studs protrude through the valve cover through rubber seals, easily available from SI and other vendors. Just undo them, and pull the valve cover off (after removing the spark plug wires, of course). The valve covers seal to the heads using re-usable, soft neoprene rubber gaskets, and they take a little pulling to get loose; don't be shy, just grab the oil filler tube and give it a gentle yank.

With the valve train exposed, you'll have easy access to all the head bolts. There are 18 of them, as shown in the figure below, taken from the factory Shop Manual:

The manual specifies 55-65 lbs.-ft. of torque for each bolt. I usually split the difference, and so set my wrench right in the middle at 60 pounds for this operation. Note that the diagram shows a specific sequence for tightening the bolts; although this is specified for head installation, I used it for the re-torqueing operation as well (better safe than sorry!) Note that the 5 center bolts under the valve cover get torqued twice.

I was surprised at how loose a few of these bolts had gotten with just some running-in-place in my driveway! They all broke loose with the first pull of the wrench, on average took a quarter turn before the wrench clicked to indicate torque. A couple of them took nearly a full turn, specifically the two furthest forward adjacent to the water manifold.

I used a 12" extension to get the proper leverage on the torque wrench for most of the bolts, but a couple - those furthest toward the firewall - needed a shorter extension to clear certain obstacles. On the passenger side, the flange for the heater plenum interfered; on the driver's side, the steering column forced using the 6" extension. I also had to shift the transmission's column shifter from Park to Reverse in order to drop the shifter linkage out of the way.

After you're done, the valve covers go back on easily. In the photo above, you can see the rubber seal iin its channel around the rim of the valve cover; make sure it's seated properly and not dropping loose, otherwise it could be cut by the interior flange and seal improperly - and there's nothing worse than engine oil dribbling onto your hot exhaust manifold while you drive!

The Stude shop manual calls for 14-20 inch-lbs. (!) of torque for the valve cover nuts. Now, maybe back in the day everyone had tools calibrated in inch-lbs. just lying all over the place, but here in the 21st century you're more likely to find a dinosaur bone in your backyard than such a device at your local Sears.
14 inch-lbs. is not a lot of torque, so I just used a nut driver to tighten the nuts hand-tight, which is all the neoprene seals really need.

All done! Put the spark plug wires back where they belong and DON'T forget to reattach the throttle return spring to the wire clip welded to the driver's side valve cover.

Update, January, 2011: There's a little additional information about proper torquing procedure. Check out this post.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Studebaker Steering Box Info.

Studebakers used a few different models of steering gearbox over the years, from primarily two sources: Ross and Saginaw.The Ross boxes were cam-and-lever gears that were used throughout the 1950s and into the 60s on almost all Studebaker cars and trucks.Saginaw boxes were more modern recirculating-ball types used on some 50's Studes and post-63 Lark-types. Most people agree that the Saginaw boxes have less steering effort and are easier to repair.

Anyway, there's an easy way to tell which kind of steering gear your Studebaker has, as explained by SDC Technical Editor Bob Palma on the SDC Forum:

To determine if you have a Ross Box, see what size wrench is needed to remove the square pipe plug at the check/fill hole on top of the box. If the pipe plug requires a 3/8" or 7/16" wrench, it is a Ross box. If the plug is near the very top of the box and requires a 1/2" or 9/16" wrench, it is a Saginaw unit (thank goodness!)

Why does it matter? Primarily because the two different types of manual units take two different types of lubrication.

Left: Ross steering box. Right: Saginaw box.

The Saginaw boxes are easy to lube: they take standard chassis grease. You can literally pull the plug and pump in a few squeezes of chassis lube from your grease gun to top them off. The Ross boxes, however, take an 80w or 90w gear oil with EP (ex/treme pressure) additives; Kendall 999 was the preferred grease, but Kendall is no longer around. So, what to use?

Studebaker International to the rescue, with p/n 801651 Semi-Fluid Steering Grease. This is heavy stuff that can also be used as assembly lubricant when you're repairing a Ross or Saginaw box, or to refill a Saginaw after service in lieu of the special S-P steering lube that's long out of production.

Oh, and Jeff Tangemann of Lincoln, Nebraska writes that "a steering shaft out of a circa 68 Chevy truck will fit in a Lark Saginaw steering box." Good to know!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Stop and go, or go and stop?

Good news: Barney might be back on the road by the end of this week! I've made an appointment with my buddy Brian at Vista Brake to bring him in for a new master cylinder, brake lines and hoses and a front-end alignment. Once that's done, he'll be back on the road again.

I don't mind telling you, I can hardly wait! My goal is to drive him to the November meeting of the San Diego SDC Chapter, which will be held just down the road from me at the Antique Steam Engine Museum in Vista. Wish us luck!


Love that Lark! A family friend comes home.

Cars are so much a part of American life that almost everyone has a fond memory of a favorite ride. In this case, a car sold new 50 years ago by a Studebaker salesman - to his own grandfather, no less - has come back home to the man who made the sale.

Check out this great article from the November 7th Wichita Eagle and just try not to think of your favorite automobile...