Gary_Ash

1932 Studebaker Indy car build

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I'm in the middle of building a replica of a 1932 Studebaker Indy car. There was a prototype in 1931 (Hunt-Jenkins Special #37) and four more factory-sponsored cars in 1932. Most of them still exist, in one form or another. One (#22) is in the Indy Speedway Museum.

I had a frame made by Charlie Glick in Paris, IL. He did a very good job copying the chassis of the car in the Indy Museum, but there are a few niggling details that I need to adjust. I've been drawing the car in 3D CAD to get the parts placement right. This week, I discovered, several years after getting the chassis, that rear frame end is about 7 inches low compared to the original cars. The photo of #22 below shows the rear spring shackle eye at about the same height as the top of the frame rail. The other cars look about the same.

Here's a plan I am thinking about: I can live with moving the rear spring shackle eye up about 3 inches or so, don't need all 7 inches. However, any change at all involves cutting the frame about where the kickup is highest over the rear axle. The chassis is basically a "C-section" there about 4.6" high with 2" deep flanges top and bottom. 1/8th inch thick steel. I think I can cut a pie slice out of the chassis rails about .6" wide at the top flange and narrowing to a point at the bottom flange, but leaving the bottom flange uncut to keep things aligned. Then I can rotate the back 20 inches or so of the frame upward about 7.5 degrees and re-weld it. I can bevel the cut edges, weld on both sides, grind it smooth, then weld on a 1/8"-1/4" thick gusset or fish plate on the back side of each rail where it won't show.

Has anyone cut and re-welded a chassis like this? I don't like butt welds for this but I don't see any other choices, and an overlapping gusset plate should restore the stiffness. The rails are mild steel, not high strength alloy. They make stretch limos and re-weld the frames, but usually the frame rails don't show - mine do, so I can't gusset both sides or box the rails. Any suggestions?

More pictures and info about the project on my web site at http://www.studegarage.com.

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I would butt weld the outside ,plate the inside and then run about a 12 to 20 in. boxing plate. The car isn't going to be real heavy so that should be good.

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What if you had someone crawl under one of the existing cars and make you a template, then you would have a better reference of where you want to go. Then you could draw the correct version like you have done with the existing. With drawings in hand, you might consult some highly regarded frame shops and perhaps Mr. Glick. Though I believe your repair will be in compression while static, the flanges might be in various load conditions while driving. The cut upper flange makes me wonder a bit but I'm no engineer...that's why I suggest talking to a pro. The other thing is, would you be happy in the end with only moving the frame back part way? With my ballpark eye, it looks to me that your rear wheel would be almost 2" lower with the 3" adjustment vs going the full 7". Okay I'm done here...really want to see this

car finished.

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Your frame builder looks to have done a very nice job, too bad the dimensions weren't exactly right the first time around. I agree with the above 2 posts, a butt weld with interior gusseting should work fine. If you are concerned about the strength maybe a couple bolts through the plates before you weld them if you don't mind the heads being exposed. I also think if you have to cut the frame anyway, you may as well get as close to possible to the original dimensions. If you aren't happy with the 3 inch lift, it will be a lot more work to change it after you start making body panels. I've seen grain trucks built on stretched semi tractors this way and they haul a lot more weight than your car will ever see.

Edited by whtbaron (see edit history)

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I agree with your detail drawing however I would remove a section of the top flange at least 2 inches long on each side of your cut and replace it with a new, one piece section of flange so you do not have a continuous weld on the side and top of the frame. JMO

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Looking at the photo of the maroon #22 car, the rear spring eye is much higher than the front eye. This would be the result if I bring the rear up a full 7 inches. I thought that best performance occurs when the spring eyes are at the same height, but I am very open to opinions on this. Bringing my current rear spring eye up about 3.8 inches would level the spring eyes and bring the chassis rails level when the car is loaded with 2 passengers and gas. The front springs will be very stiff and the rear ones much softer. This should produce good roll resistance and good steering, though a very stiff ride, especially with bronze spring bushings and greasable bolts. The springs and bushings have been ordered, should arrive next week.

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As a matter of fact, I was just taking a well-earned break from hacksawing the frame. I finally decided to bite the big bullet and move the frame ends up the full 7 inches. This places the rear spring eye a few inches above the front eye, which is supposed to give better handling. One day, after I lap Indy at 140 mph, I'll let you know if I did the right thing, LOL. I'm almost done cutting the first side, will soon move on to the second. I'm leaving the bottom flange intact, don't know if I can bend the frame ends up without heat or not. Should I ask my wife to lift up the back of the chassis while I use the torch or should I ask her to heat the frame rails? Maybe I'll just get the come-along and leave her to the gardening...

The set of 4 new springs arrived from Eaton Detroit Spring. Mike Eaton was easy to work with, did good work, shipped the springs in about 2-3 weeks. I'm working on the design of the various hangers and shackles. It was easy when they were abstract parts, but now that they have to fit EXACTLY, a lot of attention to detail is needed. The springs came with bronze bushing, including grease grooves. I'll get drilled, greaseable bolts to keep things lubricated. Fortunately, the off-road Jeep guys use them in their urethane bushings, so they are pretty cheap to buy. I wouldn't want to drill a Grade 5 bolt down the middle, cross drill it, and tap for a grease fitting, especially not 12 times (4 springs x 2 eyes plus shackle hanger points).

I started on the steering box. The original Ross unit from a 1929 President had a big rectangular flange. The Indy cars cut the flange off, turned the end of the part that holds the shaft for the Pitman arm, and put it in a big clamp. I think that was so the height of the wheel could be adjusted to suit the driver. I cut the flange off with an angle grinder, took away most of the excess meat, and my buddy turned the o.d. to 1.875". I'll make the clamp out of a weldment of 1/4" plate and some bars.

Another big moment was when I gritted my teeth very, very hard and ordered the 4 wire wheels for the car. These will be real wires with splined hubs and knock-off spinners, just like the old days. It took a lot of research to find out what size wheel to specify and the dimensions for a good splined hub, especially one to hold the inner and outer bearings on the front spindle. Here's a CAD image I made of how the wheels will look. Now, I'll have to do a lot of extra consulting work to pay for the wheels! Ouch.

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I've been busy!

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Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)

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The splined hubs to hold the front wheel bearings and the 1963 Buick Riviera brake drums have been a real pain to design. Originally, I planned to make an inside hub to hold the bearings and the drum, then use the 5 bolts on the drum to hold an external splined hub for the wheels. The problem was that I couldn't design the external hub to go over the inner hub near the drum surface and still have enough metal thickness to feel comfortable. I finally gave up and made one splined hub adapter that takes the two bearings on the inside, has splines on the outside, and holds the drum and wheels. These will be machined from 4140 steel, normalized before machining, then hardened and tempered to be really strong, tough, and pretty hard, but not brittle. Amazing how problems can be solved by the simple application of many design hours and cubic dollars!

The front hubs have the pockets for the bearings, the rear ones just have a tapered hole and keyway for the axle shafts. Of course, the rights are threaded different from the lefts, so that makes 4 individual - and different - hubs to be machined. This is an exercise in reducing a 40 lb hunk of 6.5" diameter steel bar to about 7 lbs of useful material. Most of it can be done in a decent lathe. The hard part is cutting 112 little splines around the o.d. of the 3.6" diameter tube. They have be exactly the right profile - not exactly a gear, but close. A few small companies around the world make splined hubs for cars like old Jaguars and Bentleys, but no one will tell you what the dimensions ought to be, especially for the nominal 72 mm size. Rudge-Whitworth invented and patented the splined hubs about 1912, so it's not like it ought to be a big secret, but it is. Anyway, I think I have a set of good-enough dimensions and I ordered a spare wheel center to be used as a gauge for machining the hub splines. The wheels and hubs WILL fit together!

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wow...some serious work going on here...I'm impressed. What does your final wheelbase end up being?

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post-47871-143142356687_thumb.jpgHere is the drawing that appeared in an article by Ray Kuns in 1935. The 15-page article gives many specific details of the Studebaker Indy cars. Of course, in 1935, you could just go down to the junkyard and pick up the parts you needed - no more! His various books have a lot of useful information about building speedsters and race cars in the 1930s and later. The actual wheelbase will be about 103".

I was aware that there were a number of discrepancies in what he drew vs. what the actual dimensions were, but the drawing is generally pretty good. Errors that I now know about include his depiction of the cockpit width extending to the outside of the frame rails when it actually goes to the inside of the frame rails, a difference of about 4 inches. He may actually show the body width dimensions correct while drawing it wrong.

The other error, which seems to have led to my problem with the rear section of the chassis, is that he shows the eye of the rear spring hanger (where the shackle goes) to be below a line extended from the lower edge of the frame rail. I think my chassis builder relied too much on the Ray Kuns drawing and not enough on actually measuring the Studebaker car at the Indy Speedway Museum. Note that the Kuns drawing shows the rear shackle in an inverted position. I think a spring can be made to work that way, but I haven't found any photos of the cars that show a spring and shackle mounted like that. I suspect that Kuns got a day with the car, made a bunch of sketches and notes, then found that it didn't go together right when he made the publication drawings, so he faked it with the shackle. So, now I have to use the hacksaw and welder to make up for the mistake.

I've got one side cut and weld-prepped, will get the other done this week and try bending it to where it needs to be.

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)

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I'm glad I put a 60,000 BTU/hr Hot Dawg propane heater in the garage last year! It was 6°F here this morning, warmed up a little by mid-day, but I needed the heat to work.

The cuts I made were about 1.33" wide at the top flange, enough to rotate the frame a full 16.5 degrees and get the shackle eye where it really is supposed to be. I made the second side cut, dressed up the cut edges, and put my jack under the tail section. Of course, the whole chassis lifted off the jack stands, so I placed a pair of the new rear springs across the frame rails just in front of the cut. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could jack the rear up and have it pivot on the lower flanges, which I had not cut, no heat required. It took a few up-and-downs while I trimmed to get a uniform gap of about .040". I lined things up, clamped it tight with some ViseGrips with a 1/4" thick copper plate behind the web, and started tacking. As I expected, laying down some beads about 1" long, alternating sides, pulled the gap closed even more. I hammer-peened each short weld bead as I went, to stress relieve.

Once the welding was mostly done, I took the chassis apart - a bolted assembly has some advantages. This allowed positioning the inside joints for the best weld penetration. I ground down the outside and inside (web only) to get things flat and smooth. I left the inside weld bead untouched at the top flange for extra strength. I was too lazy to follow DavidAU's advice to cut out a longer pieces of the top flange to avoid a straight weld, but it's very good advice if you have to do this some time. I welded in a 4"x2"x1/8" fish plate across the weld zone on the back side. It's kind of a Band-Aid, but at least it's something.

So, I am happy to report that the shackle eye came up exactly where I wanted it, the rails didn't twist, and the welding went well. Here are photos.

And just for frosting on the cake, UPS delivered the splined wheel center I ordered from England on Monday. It's 8.25" diameter, 5.5" high, has 0.2" wall thickness, and weighs 5.5 lbs. It's a nicely-made steel part, looks like it was machined from a solid bar of steel - which would have started at more than 90 lbs. We'll use it as a gauge to check the fit on the splined hubs.

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Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)

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Gary, I love this build and I thank you for sharing it with us all. This will be one cool and fun project. That being all said, Your fish plate is grossly to small.

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Hopfully that fish plate is temp, needs to be close to the full width and maybe six inches each side of the cut .. Looks good and your making better progress than I am.

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Gee, you guys are TOUGH! But, I know that you're just concerned for my welfare and worry about weld cracks, thank you.

So, I laid out a bigger, longer plate for fishplating both sides. They will be made from 3/16" thick A36 steel plate with a bunch of 3/8" holes to plug weld the plate to the 1/8" thick web of the rail, as well as welding on the edges. I took the DXF file of the fishplates down the street a mile to the metal cutting and fabricating place. They'll laser cut them early next week. Each will weigh 1.6 lbs. I'll go grind out the little fishplate...

I had been getting a bunch of other parts ready for them to cut and bend, so I took a bunch of DXF files. The laser cutting is excellent, narrow kerfs, dimensions on 3/16" and 1/4" thick plate to within about 0.005". I don't bother to drill holes, I just have them cut them in. That way, they are exactly in the right place. I don't even have to ream for bolt holes. They'll be cutting spring shackles, steering box mount, formed plates to go under the rear springs and mate to the shocks, brake backing plate adapters, etc.

I'm using TurboCAD for all the design work, by the way. As I need good CAD for business use, I got the top-end Pro Platinum version and run it on a fast PC. However, even the TurboCAD Deluxe basic version at $129.99 will do 2D and 3D. They offer pretty good deals from time to time that are well below the "list" prices. I'm drawing all the parts and pieces as I go, so I'll have a complete car as a 3D CAD model when I'm done, as well as the real thing. Assembling the parts in CAD has helped me find some errors before I started cutting steel.

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Yep... we can be vocal around here, but I concur with the disapproval of the mini-plate... the new one looks much much better. You would have regretted leaving it the other way when you finished. It's like building a house, you need a strong foundation. You can change paint colors, horns, interiors down the road, but the only way to change a bad frame is to go back to square one.

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What are you running for an engine? Updraft or down draft carb? How about the trans.... free wheeling? Or are you going to mix and match chassis components. Any photos of the driveline?

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edinmass..... Go up to the first post and click on his link. It will ltake to his great web site with a lot more photo's and history. and of course, details of the engine to be used.

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Ed:

The original 1931-33 Studebaker Indy cars used the 337 cu in President straight 8. In the 1933 race, the five factory cars were beaten by an independent entry running the smaller 250 cu in straight 8. Due to the depression, production of the 337 cu in engine was cancelled for 1934 and the factory was developing a racing version of the 250 engine when bankruptcy ended Studebaker's Indy program. At least one of the engines was installed in a factory car for tests. A few completed race engines were sold off, current locations unknown.

My engine will be one of the Studebaker 250 cu in straight 8's, as used from 1929-42 in Studebaker sedans. I found a couple of 1937 blocks to use - they look the same externally as the early engines, with the water pump on the left side. These used insert bearings in the 9-bearing crankshaft mains and also in the rods, unlike babbited mains of the earlier blocks. I've got one 7:1 compression aluminum head. Using old photos and some measurements from the existing Indy cars, I designed and made cast aluminum intakes for four Stromberg EX-23 carbs, as well as the linkages. The cam will be a hotter version of the stock cam with longer duration. While the original engines used a magneto because they didn't carry batteries in the cars, I'll stick with the stock dual-point distributor. My engine will look pretty close to the one shown below in the 1934 photo. Expected output will be 190-200 hp at 4000-4400 rpm, 250-260 lb-ft of torque over a broad range of rpms.

I've got a 1938 President 3-speed transmission, one of the "sideways" boxes with synchromesh. Gerry Kurtz can add an overdrive to it for me, if I decide I need one. Rear axle is from a 1928 Studebaker GB commander coupe with stock 3.31 ratio. With 7.00-18 tires on the rear, that should be good for more than 115 mph, without overdrive. I picked up five NOS axle shafts from Nelson Pease in Palmer, MA, passed along two of them to Bob Valpey for his #37 car. The original factory cars used the same axle with 3.09 ratio. Front axle is from a 1929 President FH sedan, about the same as the originals. My steering box came from the same 1929 President donor car.

Ed, I was in your shop in September with the other Studebaker guys on tour, if you remember.

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After a lot of traveling, I finally got back to finishing the frame modifications. My first attempt at fishplating the cut-and-welded frame rails didn't pass review, so I ground off the small plates and had some bigger plates laser-cut from 3/16 steel plate. There are ten 3/8" diameter holes in each plate where I welded the 1/8" thick frame rails to the fishplate. I added some lengths of stitch welds around the outside edge of the fishplate. A 4"x1.5"x1/8" plate was formed to fit inside the top flange where it had been cut and re-welded, and this got stitch welds around the outside. Each weld was hammer-peened while hot to relieve stress. A little grinding was needed to clean things up. The rails came out straight and, for sure, they'll have enough reinforcement now!

I also added a CAD image of my planned instrument panel. I have most of the Stewart Warner instruments from a 1931 or '32 sedan, just need a tach and oil temperature gauge. The current Stewart Warner "Wings" series has the right while-on-black markings and arrow/crescent needles. Too bad they used the wrong typeface!

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Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)

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Gary, GREAT PROJECT. Consider a quality printing from a photo shot of the face plate you want to use and then do an overlay on the new gauge. Once under the glass no one will know. I did it on a gas gage for the face of a 1933 RR I restored.

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Yes, John, I've done it before on my 1948 Studebaker M5 pickup truck, including the odometer wheels. I made water-slide decals on a color laser printer, coated them with water-base acrylic varnish for protection. For ink-jet decals, I use Krylon clear, but the Krylon will destroy laser-printed stuff. White numbers on a black background (or on glass) are a little tricky.

Here's a page on my web site that describes it: http://www.studegarage.com/instruments.htm

I made the CAD drawing of the instruments in preparation for restoring the ones I have. I was just hoping I didn't also have to re-do a brand new gauge, especially since the modern bezels are crimped on tight all the way around. Sigh!

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