Every once in awhile, it’s good to mix things up a little. This could be as simple as choosing a new cereal to eat in the morning or driving a different route to work – but sometimes a fresh start is called for. I’m at that junction in the road with my Studebaker…
Not that I don’t love her the way she is – but it’s just time for a new direction. When I first sought to turn Stude into my daily driver 7 years ago, I was entirely new to classic cars and needed something dependable (or at least as dependable as possible) and easy to learn on. At that time in my life, a small block Chevy (SBC) was a great choice. Years have passed and the Chevy has served me well, but when it comes time to show off my engine I’ve become a little, well…there’s really no nice way to put this…I’ve become embarrassed.
It seems that SBC’s have become the cookie-cutter, Xerox-copy, generic choice of a power plant for someone just looking for an easy-access, low-cost engine. When I walk down a row at the LA Roadster Show and see 8 out of 10 ’32 Fords powered by a SBC…it pains me a little. That Ford is an icon of hotrodding culture – when you’ve got a car like that, it doesn’t seem right to stuff a SBC in it (granted, this is just my opinion).
Saving my conscience, was the fact that the SBC in my Stude was the best I could do for now. It wasn’t as much of a choice as it was a solution I needed in order to get the car on the road. I’ve said many times, that I’d love to have a Studebaker engine in a Studebaker…but for some reason I wouldn’t consider doing that with this Studie. What I have always wanted to do with her is turn her into a Studillac.
For those of you who don’t know, “Studillac” was a term given to a well known engine conversion done by Bill Frick back in the early 50s. When my car’s body style first came out in 1953, it was so much more streamlined and aerodynamic then other cars of its time. People looked at them and thought, “Wow, there’s a fast car!” However when people got behind the wheel, they were disappointed…the engines that Studebaker was releasing in the coupes were weak in comparison to some of the other power houses of the time. An industrious mechanic, Bill Frick, found a solution by switching out the inline Studebaker 6 to a go-fast to the newly-released overhead valve Cadillac 331 V8.
Scanned images from Popular Science, July 1953 issue courtesy of Bob’s Studebaker Resource Website.
These conversions became well known for the Loewy/Bourke coupes (although I’m told when not done by Frick they should be referred to as a Caddybaker and not a Studillac). I first heard about Studillacs through the Studebaker grapevine, it was probably an issue of Turning Wheels – the Studebaker Driver’s Club monthly magazine. I loved that it is a period-correct hop up…and thought that if I were ever to switch out my Studie’s small block Chevy, it would be for a Cadillac. I mean, come on, who can resist the headline of Popular Science’s article it, “Looks as innocent as a kitten – but has the getaway of a scalded wildcat.” And according to a line on the following page, “Any woman with a sensitive accelerator toe can drive one to the grocery store.” It’s my lucky day!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I went to the California Screamin’ show and ran into my friend Sam. We were catching up on garage happenings and I mentioned my plans for pulling in Stude for some engine work. Somehow that led to me mentioning how cool it would be to transplant Studie with a Cadillac engine.
Little did I know that Sam was sitting on a jewel of a 331 – picked up somewhere in his travels because the price was right (hard core hot rodders have a way of collecting engines, like many women have of collecting shoes). Upon hearing my idea for Studie, he told me about the Cadillac engine in his garage awaiting the right project. We made plans, and I was picking it up a couple of weekends later. I can’t wait to research this project more, dig into the engine, and give Studie a new heart!
I’ll introduce you further to Studie’s new Cadillac 331 V8 in a soon-to-follow post… Until then, Happy Trails!