A really good Stude week! New springs and more.
First, last weekend, I fixed the leaky fuel filler hose that had been venting fumes into the passenger compartment from the trunk. I also got the new ignition switch into the dash, replacing the old one with the weak return spring and bad accessory contacts, and put in a brand-new headlight switch that doesn't leak smoke and melt connectors - so now the headlights work properly. The new relay turn-signal indicator finally works the blinkers loudly and regularly.
If you've been following my blog for a while, you might notice a difference in Barney while looking at the photo above. That's right - I finally got the rear springs installed.
The smiling man above is Tony Elkins, owner of North County Spring in Escondido, California. Tony is the ultimate California surfer dude, blonde hair, beach accent, easy-going good nature and all. Tony used to run E&C Spring, the shop that his dad owned for over 30 years. About 5 years ago, Tony's dad died, and a family rift developed about how the business should be run. Tony was on the side that wanted to run an honest shop, so he left to start his own. Let me say that there is no one in this county that I would trust more to do the job than Tony and his crew. Need springs? They repair, replace, rebuilt, re-arch - they even bend their own U-bolts. While you wait. I recommend them highly:
North County Spring
446 Enterprise St.
Escondido, CA. 92029
Escondido, CA. 92029
Luckily, I was able to secure a set of brand-new OEM springs from SASCO before they went out of business and their inventory transferred to Studebaker International. I got these factory springs at a ridiculously low price - Eaton Detroit wants $400 a pair plus shipping; I secured these factory NOS parts for a quarter of that.
They did have 40 years of warehouse rust on them, though, so my son stripped them and I painted them and they were ready to install.
The problem, however, lies in removing and replacing the spring bushings that are pressed into the car's frame itself. Much has been written on the SDC Forum regarding the process of replacing these bushings, with instructions on how to fabricate a tool to pull the old ones out and slide the new ones in. But those steel-shelled bushings have been in the frame for 40+ years; they're not coming out easily. Tony originally thought it would take 4 hours of shop time to R&R the springs... that turned into nearly 10 hours which included having to torch out the old bushing shells, necessitating removal of the fuel tank as well... yeah.
They also replaced the rubber hose that connects the gas tank to the fuel pipe. It was so old and brittle it literally crumbled in my hand when Tony showed me the old bits. Like a dry biscuit. Glad that one got fixed before it came apart on its own.
But oh, what a difference those new springs make! The top photo above shows the rear wheel prior to spring replacement. You can see that the tire is partially within the wheelwell; the tread is well above the lip of the fender. In the lower photo, you can easily see the different the new springs make - the top of the tire is plainly visible now within the fender. There's at least 3 - 4" difference in rear-end height.
Here are some before-and-after shots of the entire car, and you can see the difference in the stance of the car. The top shot is before, the bottom after:
Where the difference really shines is in the driving, though. The car handles much better without the rear end wiggling all over the place; I don't have to slow down to 10 MPH around corners just for fear of the car falling off its suspension. It tracks truer as well - goes where I point it. Chuckholes that threatened to break the rear end loose and send it sideways are now nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Finally, an order from SI arrived yesterday, with some long-awaited goodies inside: a reproduction Strato-Line mirror for the right side of the car, and a set of new rear seat belts to replace the scuzzy MoPar belts that the PO installed.
I took Barney out for an after-dark drive tonight. Lights on bright, gauges all indicating a happy engine. Heater pumping out welcome warmth, while the 259 burbled through the dual pipes. The car's really starting to be fun to drive now. I've loved this Stude for a while - now I'm beginning to really like it, too.