Since most guys give their cars girl’s names, I figured mine should be a male. However due to the original pink(ish) paint – a man’s name just didn’t seem to fit. So, “she’s” a girl…but I just call her Studie.
Yep, she’s a 1955 Studebaker Champion.
Getting her from a fellow in Utah, she was close to original. Having sat in a shed for a good twenty+ years, he was just getting ready to do a full restoration her when I ended up making the purchase. Originally made in Studebaker’s Pasadena factory, she was sold with a V6 which appears to have been upgraded a few years later with a Studebaker V8 with overdrive.
Although I really wanted to keep the engine original, it had been killed and would need a full rebuild (perhaps the welded-on trailer hitch had something to do with this). Staying realistic about what would work as a daily driver, I knew Studebaker engine parts could be hard to find and information harder to access – so I choose to go with a small-block Chevy.
Finding someone else’s abandoned Hot Rod Studebaker project was lucky for me. Stude got transplanted its innards: a stroked 383 Chevy small block, Ford 9″ rear end, and 700R4 transmission. I’m still working on learning the magic of how to tune my 4-barrel Holly carburetor, while the racing Team-G manifold presents some daily-driving setbacks. After doing some engine tuning up at Gene Winfield’s, I learned that the engine has roller rockers and is cranking with a solid lift cam.
She’s still on drum brakes, which have worked well enough so far (excepting that time I lost my brakes – but that was due to a rubber brake line and single-reservoir master cylinder which have since been replaced with more reliable parts!) The suspension is original, which has had some work and needs much more. I went my first couple years with a pretty bad piece-meal exhaust system, and was so thankful when my friends helped me make a custom system. I didn’t know how much difference an exhaust system can make!
The 700R4 automatic transmission with overdrive is good for driving plenty on LA highways. After having two “used” (aka: junkyard) 700R4s, I now have a newly rebuilt one in and it makes worlds of difference to performance too. The wheels are still original steelies which now roll with Mooneyes moondiscs. More needs to be done before she can live up to her full-power potential…but is a hot-rod ever really finished?!
Back in 2007 when Studebaker Parts and Service was doing the original engine work, I wanted something to do also. With experience in sewing, I decided that upholstery was something I could tackle (check out my interior 101 article to learn more). I’ve since also redone the headliner in glitter vinyl. I’m waiting on replacing the disintegrating rubber window seals, C-channels, and cats whiskers before redoing the interior a second time. I can’t wait to take it a step up and try out some more complicated features!
Stude still needs plenty of work, but she’s been a pretty solid daily driver for me. Money, time, knowledge, and hard work will continue getting she and I closer to our destination!