Gary_Ash

1932 Studebaker Indy car build

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Gee, Al, where did you find those photos so fast?  You must have had a spy in the group!  The pictures were taken at 8:30 last night as we were finishing up the 4-day course with Wray.  All of us were dead tired as that slave-driver Wray (;)) had us working from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm every day.  It's tough on us old guys, but what a great experience.  We got the four most-difficult pieces on the upper part of the cockpit skin formed, well-planished, and Wray welded them together and ground the welds and sanded them smooth.  No Bondo would be needed to send the panels for painting.  The skin is all type 3003 aluminum, 0.062-inch thick, TIG welded with 1100 aluminum rod.

 

We did run out of time, so the right side lower panel is tack welded but not finished.  The left side lower panel still needs some shaping before welding in place.  I'll sign up for another session or two, will finish building the wire buck for the tail before I go back.  It really feels good to have made so much progress in one weekend.

 

The group photo above (missing two guys who had to catch a plane) is around the steel body for a Porsche 550 Spyder.  The guys working on that one spent a lot of time over the stumps and sandbags stretching and shrinking to get the basic shape, then hours of English wheel time to smooth and polish the metal.  It's hard to believe that steel and aluminum can be beaten and bashed so much, then smoothed to such beautiful, finished shapes.  The photos below show Wray "bossing" an aluminum sheet to shrink it by raising ridges, then hammering them down.  Next, the bumps are smoothed in the English wheel to yield a completely smooth and polished surface.  The Porsche steel body parts were hammer formed and hand-shrunk to get the very complex shapes.

Wray bossing aluminum.JPG

Wray planishing.JPG

Wray-planished part.JPG

hammer forming steel.JPG

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Excellent cockpit skin, really nice to see the result from some late hours with some skilled metal masters. A inspiration for many of us. Keep the Studebaker racing legacy alive :-)

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I'm signed up to go back to Wray Schelin's Pro Shaper shop for another 4-day session this coming weekend.  I want to finish off the cockpit section and get started on the tail at Pro Shaper.  I've been frantically working to get the tail buck done.  The old wood buck from circa 1980 that I bought served as a starting point, but doesn't really have enough detail.  I'm not sure how a new tail for the #37 car was made using it.  I got the major part of the rear section together, but need to add the steel rods that will define the seats and the forward part of the tail that mates up with the cockpit.  Here is a photo of the tail section of the #37 car (green) and a 1978 photo of the tail and seat shells of the #18 car for comparison.

 

I've spent many hours on the computer CAD program and staring at old and modern photos of the tails on several of the Studebaker Indy cars to pin down the shapes and dimensions.  Then I draw out a pattern on big sheets of 36" wide rosin paper and use the Eastwood rod bender to form the 1/4-inch steel rod to match the lines.  Getting everything square, plumb, and rotated correctly before welding is very time consuming and sometimes frustrating.  I explained to my 12-year old grandson this past weekend that no mechanical thing will every work unless you cuss at it.  My daughter just rolled her eyes thinking about what I was teaching her son. 

 

I'll post some more photos from the upcoming workshop.

tail buck-cowl.jpg

tail buck rear section.jpg

tail section-car37.jpg.JPG

indy_tail_side_fwd_sharpened sm.png

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The 4-day weekend at Pro Shaper went well, and lots more of the car body got built.  I finished forming the last panel for the cowl section, then we trimmed it for welding.  The gap in the butt joint - by Wray's standard of performance - is "zero gap".  This was obtained through tracing the previously trimmed edge of the existing panel onto the edge of the new panel, cutting the new panel, and tediously grinding the edge of the new panel to get a tight fit along the full 34-inch joint.  While not "zero" everywhere, I could barely slip a dollar bill into any gap and the bill could not be slid far along the length.  Wray then tacked the front, welded the back side, then welded the front side.  I still have to grind the welds down to smooth and apply hammer-and-dolly to level things out just a bit.

The tail buck got put to work immediately.  I had a helper to form up the 8 sections that will make up the tail.  We got the four most-difficult ones done and one of the easier ones, but they weren't really ready to weld.  To make the four pieces for the end of the tail, we had to do a lot of shrinking and a little stretching.  Wray has a couple of special machines he built form old, large arbor presses to produce "ruffles" on the edges of sheets.  These get hammered down on a wood stump with a heavy nylon-tipped mallet to drive the Vee-shaped ruffle material into itself, producing a shrink.  The procedure was:

     1. Make a few deep ruffles about 4 to 5 inches long

     2.  Hammer the ruffles to set the Vee shape tightly, pound them down mostly flat to gather the metal together

     3.  Use the English wheel on the part until the surface is very smooth

     4.  Check the fit on the wire form buck with the pieces clamped in place

     5.  Bash the part with the mallet on a shot bag to stretch where necessary

     6.  Repeat 1-5 until a good fit is obtained, i.e. the skin fits to the form within about 0.020 inch everywhere

     7.  Wheel the part with light pressure until a complete mirror finish is obtained, no waves, humps, or dips are visible, and the fit is still good

See the photos below for the steps.  Incidentally, the Bosch cordless electric shear makes cutting out the blanks from steel or aluminum sheet incredibly easy, and it turns tight-radius corners as it cuts.  Expensive but oh so good!

There were 12-15 students there from all over the U.S. and Canada.  They worked on Wray's wire forms of a Porsche 550 Spyder and a Maserati 300S.  As before, the 9 am to 10 pm days are exhausting but instructive, satisfying, and fun.  My whole body was sore from swinging the mallet into the stump, shoving the pieces through the English wheel, and carrying pieces back and forth through the shop.  With a dozen guys hammering, wheeling, grinding, and planishing, ti might as well be a boiler factory!  If you want to learn to shape car, airplane, or art metal, Wray is the guy to go to.  I'll have to go back again, perhaps for a day or two at a time, to use Wray's shop to finish up the tail, but it feels like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least for the body.

 

  

weld_prepping.jpg

Wray_on_ruffler.jpg

Wray_shrinking_2.jpg

Gary_wheeling.jpg

Indy_sheet_metal.jpg

Maserati_300S_team.jpg

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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I'm trying to get some more work done on the body at home.  Based on Wray's comments that the main anvil wheel of an English wheel should be well-centered and polished, I put a dial indicator on the frame of the HF English wheel and found it to be out by about 0.010 inch.  The small wheels were pretty good, mostly around 0.001 to 0.002 inch.  I hauled the big wheel over to my local machine shop where they used a ceramic insert bit to true it up and polish it some.  It still needs more polish and I should probably grind off the edges so the wheel doesn't mark crowned panels.  With the base of the dial indicator on the bottom part of the frame and the tip on the anvil mount on the top part of the frame, I measured deflections of 0.010" to 0.030" when wheeling some 0.050" aluinum. depending on how much pressure I dialed into the lower wheel.  This is supposed to be OK as long as there is enough pressure to move the metal around.  

 

While Wray has a couple of big ruffling machines he built for shrinking, a stump and big mallet will also work.  We lost a lot of trees during the March snow storms, so I pulled a 16 inch tall hunk of a maple trunk out of the pile of sawed wood.  I had planned to use a longer piece that had been at the base of the trunk, but it was so heavy I didn't want to move it now or later.  I took the smaller piece and cut a bowl in it with a 7.25 inch circular saw.  I had seen photos on-line of people making a bunch of saw cuts and chiseling out the wood.  It would have taken days to chisel the bowl and smooth it, so I just kept at it with the circular saw until most of the wood was out, then used my angle grinder/sander to work through various grades of paper - 24 to 50 to 80 to 100 to 150.  Now the bowl is mostly smooth.  Since I'm going to bash metal into it with a mallet, I didn't think it had to be perfectly polished.

 

I bashed and wheeled a small piece of aluminum as a test, got satisfactory results, but will give the wheel a better polish.  It struck me that, as I approach being finished with the body, buying and making all these tools for sheet metal fabrication is a little like the old military guys who prepared to fight the last war all over again, like building the Maginot line or stocking up on jungle boots before the Iraq war.  I'll have all this stuff in the garage but it isn't likely to get used again - and I'm NOT building a body for anyone else! 

HF wheels-sm.jpg

stump2.jpg

stump3.jpg

stump4.jpg

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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That is a novel idea to use a piece of tree to make a bashing bowl.  I have a nice chunk of elm that will work nice for such a thing.  Keep up the good work.

Al

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Dear Gary, I congratulate you for the excellent work you have been doing. I am about to embark on something similar. In the 60's my father competed in a category of monoposts here in Uruguay, called Fuerza Limitada. His first car was a modified Ford T chassis with Studebaker 6-cylinder engine. This car was dismantled and now my brother and I are rebuilding it but we are thinking of reformulating it to be two seats and be able to compete in the historical sports car races. Your publications are very interesting to me, especially the photos with details of the construction process, thank you very much for publishing them. Greetings. Humberto Tartaglia

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I'm off for a long weekend at Wray Schelin's ProShaper shop, hoping to get the cockpit section finished and most of the tail section done.  I finally broke down and bought a 20 ft long enclosed trailer (see separate thread in main page) that will hold the Indy car and my 1948 Studebaker pickup (6'-6" tall).  My wife and I rolled the chassis out of the garage, down the sloping driveway, and into the trailer.  We gradually moved some wood blocks ahead of the car so it wouldn't get away from us.  With the car only 14 ft long, there is lots of space in a 20 ft trailer with Vee nose.  This will get easier once the engine is rebuilt and I order the radiator.  I hoping to enlist some helpers at Wray's to knock out the aluminum pieces needed for the tail.

 

Incidentally, I painted the trailer ramp with Rustoleum oil-base paint with some grit mixed in for wet-weather traction and installed some of the Elite Garage Floors 55-mil polyvinyl flooring inside to catch the grease and oil that I know the cars will leak. 

 

I'll post some photos of the session at Wray's. 

Indy car into trailer.jpg

Indy car driveway.jpg

Indy car front.jpg

Indy car rear.jpg

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The trailer is an EZ Hauler brand from Alcom, built in Maine in under 3 weeks, all aluminum, about 2200 lbs.  It towed very well behind my Expedition EL (6000+ lbs). This was the first trip. 

 

We finished off the welds on the cockpit, sanded them down smooth, planished the seams to level them. I’ve been trimming the lower edge of the metal to get a good, tight fit over the framing. I also ran the hood pieces through Wray’s big English wheel to smooth out some rough spots.     Wray says he can feel bumps or hollows of 0.004” by running his fingers over the metal. They look much better now. It’s good to have the whole car in the shop to make things fit. Work days at Wray’s start at 9:00 am, end at 10:00 pm, a long day for us old guys!

 

58180D0A-E5DD-42CB-8C8E-80F628408651.jpeg

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It's been a while ( 2 yrs since my last post) since I checked in on you, but I'm glad to see you're making progress. Those stumps are very heavy to move around the shop. I've got a couple that I'm using under my anvils, and I want to make a forming bowl and one with a stake plate (for holding sheet metal and Hardy tools) as well. The greener the stump, the heavier it will be. I use a 2 wheel hand truck to move them around and it works quite well. In warmer climates you might want to consider removing the bark so there are less chances of insect infestations. The blacksmith boys will also scorch the bottoms and seal them with an appropriate wood product to keep them from holding moisture against the concrete floor and forming mold. 

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Once the cowl welds were smooth, I bent up an 84-inch length of 1/4" hot rolled steel rod to match the cowl contours for wiring the edge.  It took several hours to get the 3D curve close enough to match the aluminum cowl without too much strain.  I then trimmed the edge to allow 3/4" width to wrap around the wire.  Wray used the acetylene torch to lay down a layer of soot, then turned on the oxygen to heat the metal where the soot was.  When the soot burns off, the metal is warm enough to be annealed.  He did the process twice to be sure the metal was fully soft, then used some parallel-jaw pliers to start bending the edge around the wire at the center of the cowl.  Once it was trapped, he turned it over to me to work the bends out to both sides and crimp the edge tight to the wire with some special pliers along with a hammer and dolly.

 

When everything was tight, I used a set of coarse body files to take off remaining lumps and bumps, then hand sanded it smooth with 80 and 120 grit paper.  Basically, the wiring process took a day and half - and that's with Wray's 13-hour work days, all hand work without machines.  I - and Wray - are happy with the resulting wired edge.

 

Lots more to on the sheet metal, but we're making real progress.

 

 

cowl and wire.jpg

cowl anneal.jpg

cowl bends.jpg

cowl pinched.jpg

cowl_Gary.jpg

cowl and wireform.jpg

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Xclnt! I watched a fellow making a motorcycle tank that way, sooting then heating the aluminium, then hammering, then sooting and heating, etc.

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Here's one more shot of the wired edge to show the back and underside.  For as complex as the curve was, both Wray and I were surprised that it came out smooth, without wiggles.  All the filing and sanding took away any last wrinkles and bumps from shrinking the metal by hammering it down against the wire as it was folded over.  I've seen adjustable, curved body files with curved teeth before, but he also had a fixed one with about a 10" radius and another fixed one with about a 6" radius that curved 180 degrees.    I'll have to get a photo of those on my next visit.

 

Incidentally, Wray has been playing with gas mixtures for TIG welding aluminum, claims that a 50-50 helium/argon mixture makes a hotter, more controlled arc using his Everlast 210EXT welder.  [I have the same welding machine at home.]  He has his machine set up for 250 Hz AC excitation with 6-8 pulses/sec, AC balance at 35%, uses about 80 amps for 0.060" type 3003 aluminum.  The TIG electrodes are 2% lanthanated tungsten, 3/32 diameter.  For butt welding, he does tack welds with the pulse off at about 90-100 amps, then welds both sides at the lower current.  When there is zero gap between the parts, these welds are done as fusion welds without feeding filler rod.  They are very smooth and as strong as the parent metal, no cracking even when bent back and forth many times or beaten with a mallet on a sand bag.  Impressive!

  

 

 

 

 

wired edge 1.jpg

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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This weekend's adventure was a shocking experience - so to speak.  While moving some things in the garage, I stumbled across some steel pieces that I had obtained from the laser cutting shop a long time ago; they were the parts to make the mounts for the front shocks.  They were cut from 3/16" steel plate, and some pieces were formed to align the mounting tabs.  I figured it was time to weld them together before they got lost.  I dug out my collection of large Houdaille shocks and some shock links.  These were used on early 1930s Studebaker Presidents and other large cars of the period.  It's hard to find the right ones, though the smaller ones, as used on Fords and 1940s Studebakers, are common enough and even reproduced.

 

The largest pieces for the mounts bolt to the sides of the frame rails using the bolts for the radiator support.  I carefully laid out where the mounting holes were to go and drilled them about .008"-.010" oversize.  Fortunately I got the holes in the right place so the bolts slipped in easily.  The tab goes into the top of the frame rail and that had to be aligned vertically, as well.  There is a front plate to attach the shock with two 1/2" bolts and some gusset pieces for strength.  All in all, it took a lot of welding and grinding to put things together.  

 

While I don't have the exactly right links, I put two links in place to see how things aligned.  I think the arms need to be cut down from 7.25" length to 5", and they may need to be bent forward or backward so that the links line up with the axle holes.  Those old links hadn't been disassembled in 85-90 years, so the old grease was hard and dirty.  I'm planning on sending the shocks to Apple Hydraulics to be rebuilt and to have the arms cut, welded, and bent to shape.  With luck, they will have some links that can be used.  The rear shocks will mount directly on the frame rails, but the arms may also need some mods.  If you have some adjustable shock links that fit these shocks, I do need a few more.

houdaille_shocks_group.jpg

houdaille_shock_mount1.jpg

houdaille_shocks_mounted.jpg

houdaille_shock_rear.jpg

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Among the details I'm trying to get completed are the special greaseable bolts for the spring eyes.  The springs have bronze bushings with spiral grooves so that they can be greased over the i.d. surface.  To enable that, the bolts that go through the shackles are gun-drilled about half the length of the body, then cross drilled to let the grease out.  A standard grease fitting goes into the head of the bolts.  These are popular now with the off-road crowd, but it what was used on the Indy cars back in 1932, as well.  While the cars back in the '30s may have used 1/2" bolts, I went with 3/4" because of the 1/8" diameter drilled holes.  I'd make the holes smaller diameter, but it would significantly increase the chances of breaking off a drill or tap in the hardened bolts.

 

The head of the bolt wants a washer under it, then one side of the shackle, the spring eye, the other side of the shackle, a washer, and a locking nut.  In principle, the shank of the bolt should not have more than 1 or 2 threads inside the clamped stack, nor should there be more than 2 washers on the threaded side.  I had planned to use NAS aircraft bolts because the shank diameters are controlled to within 0.001 inch, they are very strong, and are nominally available in increments of 1/8" of unthreaded body.  If you are Boeing and buying by the thousands, no problem, but if you only want two of a given length, they are harder to find and pricey.  I got a quote on the ten bolts I need, but they ran $40-$50 each.  I settled on standard Grade 8 hex head cap screws (3/4-16) because they are strong, have shank diameters controlled to within a few thousandths undersize, are available in 1/4" length increments, and only cost $3 or $4 each.  I'll take them to the machine shop I use to have the holes drilled and the heads tapped for the 1/4-28 threads of the grease fittings.  Interestingly, the NAS/AN-960 hardened washers come in 0.032" and 0.090" thickness, while SAE-type Grade 8 washers are 0.134" thick. I'll add washers to make sure I don't have too many threads in the shackles but can still tighten the nylon lock-nuts to eliminate side motion.  I'll probably cut off about 1/2" of the excess threaded end to leave only a few threads sticking out of the nuts.

 

I can't believe how much time it has taken just to nail down which bolts to order and where to find them, plus learning how to install them correctly.  They are on order now.  When they come in, they'll go the machine shop where it will take carbide drills and taps to finish them off.  Then I can pull out the hardware store bolts that have been holding things in place for a few years.

 

This weekend, it's back to Wray Schelin's shop for more work on the body.

 

spring end closeup rt front 37.jpg

studebaker_indy_springs_bushing.jpg

greaseable bolt Currie.jpg

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Nice update.  I did a very similar project when I built shackle bolts for my early Locomobile.  I had to start with hex stock, machine down to the proper shank dimension and for the end threads.  This left one end still being hex shaped and about 1" long.  I then drilled out and hollow drilled the shank as you did and threaded the outer end of the hex to accept a ID threaded brass cup.  In the bottom of the machined out hex, I drilled and tapped for fitment of a modern grease zerk.  Originally you would fill the port with grease and turn down the cap to force grease into the shank of the shackle bolt, (what a mess).  I prefer to pressure feed with a grease gun to verify that grease gets where it is most needed.  After greasing, simply screw on the nice brass cap and it looks the part but saves on the mess.   Post a few pictures when you get more of your body built.

Al

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The 1939 Commander and Coupé Express had a similar system, except the bush and the bolt are both threaded with a chunky square thread - on the front anyway. I haven't looked at the back yet.

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