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.