I purchased this 1952 Studebaker Commander from a friend of mine while still living in the Los Angeles area. As a matter of fact, I helped him load it on a trailer when he bought it from a guy in the Hawthorne Calif. area.
Randy bought it from this guy, who found it 30 miles up a one lane dirt road in the high sierra's in about 1975. After it was found, the previous owner went back 2 weeks later with a trailer, (30 miles up a one lane dirt road) to find that it had been vandalized! About ready to just leave it there, he decided to load it up and haul it back to L.A.
Of course, loaded on the trailer, back first, he could not go over 50 mph, or the trailer would start to sway. So 5 hours later, he arrived home, put it in his storage garage, and there it sat until may 1988.
After Randy bought this vehicle, He found a 52 hardtop parts car, which he also purchased. (His wife, was not pleased with either car)
Randy stored it outside his wife's office door, until one day he called me and asked if I wanted the car, I asked why he didn't want it anymore, "I was looking at the floor today and found a rust hole in it" I told him that it's probably the ugliest car ever built, but, hey, it's a Studebaker convertible!
So we towed it over to the shop I was working at the time, and disassembly began! Oh, I forgot to mention, we were in the process of leaving California, and moving to Indiana, But, hey, I still had 7-8 months! (right)
I dissected the 52 hart top, (it would have been a nice car to restore) and after cleaning up what was left of the interior, sitting out in the high desert is hell on convertible tops and interiors! There was not much left, shreds at best! I also discovered that Randy must have seen a reflection of the sun from the broken shreds of the windshield! HA! no rust at all! Bullet holes yes, rust holes no.
The bullet holes were all over the left side (shot gun blast) 6-8 holes in the windshield, 3-4 holes on the right side, and then there was the trunk and left rear fender, where some one wanted in the trunk real bad, they used an axe and chopped a hole through the trunk, left rear fender, and left rear inner panel. Other than that and the left side cowl buckled where someone left the door open and rolled it back into something, it was cherry.
After dissecting the parts car, welding up the panels I cut off it to the convertible, she was starting to look pretty good. I painted the body in May of 1990, the rear fenders and trunk lid followed, then the doors, then front fenders, and hood.
Meanwhile, still packing and getting the house ready to sell! I rebuilt the suspension, front and rear, re-arched the rear springs, installed all new bushings in the rear springs. installed Avanti rear brakes, and of course my disc brake kit on the front. Since the front bushings are the early style, and has zerk fittings, cleaned and painted everything.
We left L.A. in September of 1990, when we loaded the convertible on the truck, I asked "Big John" (the driver) to help me put he hood on. He said "I have moved a lot of cars in my time, But this is the first I had to put together first!)
I left the "new" engine in L.A. with Bud Alenik in Hawthorn Ca. "We" decided to install a Stude 289 with a Flightomatic.
Not much happened over the next few years, as I was busy adjusting to a lot slower pace of life! And a new house and our daughter was only 16 months old when we moved.
Over the next 8-9 years, I was collecting "all" the parts I needed to complete my "project" A lot of help came from the late Chuck Schnetlage, he knew I had this car, and was always looking for parts. An the fact that I now was only 115 miles straight south from South Bend, didn’t hurt either.
I received the engine assembly from L.A. in December 1995, via ABF freight, and over the next few months, painted it, and procured the necessary parts to install it. Now with the engine installed, time for the drive shaft, well, with the flight o matic, the drive shaft is about 4 inches to long. %$#@
I had the drive shaft shortened and balanced, finally got it installed, and was now ready to fire up the new motor. I had originally installed a 2 bbl carb. On it, and after spinning the oil pump and setting the timing, finally she fired up! Ran the idle up to seat the cam, and let her run for about 15 minutes or so. Shut her down, and went to re fire, no go, would barely crank over.
Finally in December of 1999, I hauled her up to Ted Harbits place, Ted got her to fire up, but it sounded bad while cranking over. Ted counted the teeth on the ring gear, and thought they were wrong, which would be the cause of the “grinding” sound while cranking. A call to Dave Thibault, and Dave indicated that some AMC ring gears are close, but will not work. I had Dave send me a new torque converter, and New Years Eve day, I installed it with some help from a friend of mine. (His shop, his hoist, his transmission jack) But, I still did not have the starter back yet!
I finally got the starter back from Dave Thibault on January 13th this year, and I was going in for foot surgery in the morning, Yep, you guessed it, I was out in the garage at 10 pm installing the starter! But, the battery was low, and she wouldn’t crank over. I but the charger on it, and went to bed, had to be at the hospital at 5 am. As we were leaving in the morning, I stopped and hit the starter button, she cranked over with no problems! Yippee!!
Not until spring this year, was I able to get her started, and to be able to re-start after it was running. I went out to mow the lawn, and the battery in the lawn tractor was dead, (broke my heart) After putting the battery charger on the mower, I went over to the Convertible, and she cranked over fast enough to start! (Thanks Dave Thibault for the starter rebuild) So I shot some starting fluid down her throat (after spinning the oil pump) and she fired! After checking for leaks and what not, I backed her out of the garage for the first time, and drover her around the block! (About 10 times, its about a mile all theway around) with a big grin the whole time. Needless to say, the lawn didn't get mowed that day!
have since made massive amounts of progress, including the top, and interior,
now it’s down to getting everything dialed in. I am still a bit leery of taking
a long trip in it, but, the more I am driving it, the more comfortable
I am feeling when I drive it!!
Before, These were taken April 1988!
ABOVE: NICE TOP
RIGHT SIDE WASN'T TOO BAD!
NOW WHERE DID THEY PUT THE KEY!
No Rust Holes, Bullet Holes YES, But, No Rust!!
These were taken July 2000, A slight differemce!
CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE