The Studeblogger

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Happy Anniversary... to me!

I was just looking over my collection of Turning Wheels (the official monthly magazine of the Studebaker Drivers Club) and realized that it's been six years since I embarked on this crazy Studebaker adventure. It was August of 2006 when I purchased my 1963 Lark, Barney, drove him home, and signed up for the SDC. My first Turning Wheels issue was the August, 2006 edition.

Barney, as he looked in the driveway of the previous owner's home

Barney had lived a rough life, it turned out. He had a knock when I bought him; we knew it was the transmission flex plate that had cracked (I'd taken my friend John Dick, the gearhead, on the initial visit and diagnosed the knock - it went away under load, which ruled out rod bearings). What we didn't know was that the engiine's crankshaft thrust bearings were shot. Upon bringing Barney home, I took him to Brian Wilson, a neighbor who was a former transmission shop owner, who put him up on his lift (yes, a single-post lift in his home garage... so jealous) and showed me the quarter-inch endplay in the crank. Sure enough, when I drained the oil prior to pulling the engine, it was sparkly from all the ground-up brass in suspension.

There were other things. The transmission pan was caved in -- the 17-year-old girl who'd driven Barney previously had off-roaded him, embedding field grass in the frame and crushing the transmission's transfer tube, which burned up the rear pump. A motor mount was collapsed, and the engine was leaning over on the right A-arm. The suspension was shot: no rubber in the front at all, and flat leaf springs in the rear. The alignment was so poor that the car looked pigeon-toed.

And then there was the electrical system. It looked like a battlefield of demented spiders. Melted wires, the requisite bundle of bare-ended wires-to-nowhere hanging from the dash, and a lamp-cord horn circuit. In short, everything was a mess.

But the body was straight, and there was little rust. With a Studebaker, that's a huge plus.

Rebuilt 259 c.i. engine, 0.60 over, with viscous-drive fan, 4bbl. Carter WCFB
A Studebaker in its natural habitat -- on the road.
I Love my Lark!

Today, on the sixth anniversary of bringing Barney home, I can confidently say I'd do it all over again. In that time:
  • I've rebuilt the engine (well, had it rebuilt).
  • I've rebuilt the transmission (again, had it rebuilr. I sense a theme here).
  • I've rebuilt the suspension, front and rear (did that myself).
  • The brakes were converted from a single- to a dual-master-cylinder system, with all new hoses, shoes, drums and steel lines all around.
  • I completely re-wired the car with an OEM-spec wiring harness.
  • Cooling system and the Climatizer (heater) system were rebuilt as new.
  • Rebuilt the broken speedometer and installed an OEM electric clock.
  • Rebuilt the parking brake system, which was missing.
  • Installed a new dual exhaust system from the manifolds back.
  • Installed tons of other miscellaneous parts - windows, brightwork, fuel system, keylocks, and too much more to list.
Of course there's more to do... new paint, new interior, leaky windshield gaskets, rattle-y doors... but we'll get there. Along the way, I got involved with the Studebaker Drivers Club at the national level, and am now the Administrator for the club's online Forum, which is open to Club members and non-members alike (check it out here).

I love Barney and enjoy the heck out of driving him. I love the looks I get when I rip around corners in him, and the questions and thumbs-ups received, and the questions and conversations that ensue when people walk up and inquire about the car. I wish I'd gotten a Studebaker much earlier in my life -- but I'm sure glad I have him now!

If you're thinking about a Studebaker and wondering if it will be worth the effort - believe me, it will. You'll never meet a kinder bunch of folks than Stude folks. And you'll get more attention in a Studebaker than any Chevy, Ford or Dodge you might find.

Happy Anniversary, Barney. And here's to many more to come.


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