Gary_Ash

1932 Studebaker Indy car build

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In a project like this, there are many, many welds and quite a few of them are critical to safety at speed.  I agree that it would be desirable to check the steering shaft and drag link welds - among other parts - for cracks and other potential failures.  But, I have many more welds in the chassis, cross members, spring mounts, etc. that are also critical.  It doesn't seem reasonable to do intensive non-destructive testing on every weld.  Perhaps if I was contemplating serious racing at high speed, then testing every weld might be done.  A simple kit for magnetic particle inspection (MPI), e.g. Magnaflux, runs about $1000.  A simpler dye penetrant kit is about $125.  I have neither, and unless I really suspect a problem, I'm not buying testing equipment or going to someone else for testing service.  I will depend on my good welding training and many years of engineering experience to pick out when to do serious testing.  Where I used to work, they once welded up a 9" thick spherical ball about 3 ft in diameter, then pumped it up to 50,000 psi (pneumatically).  Fortunately, there was no failure and they all lived.  That was before I worked there, because I would have left the building before any pneumatic test of that severity.  Hydraulic testing is much safer.  In the case of welded solid parts,  MPI or dye penetrant is the way to go.  The big question is whether any of my welded parts might develop fatigue cracks over time.  Ask me in 10-15 years how it worked out.

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The Indy car replica left the confines of the garage for the first time ever.  I rolled it out on the driveway for some photos in the sunlight.  If the engine and brakes worked, it would have been a great day for a drive. 

 

indy_car_outside.jpg

indy-car_rear_qtr.jpg

indy_car_front.jpg

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The 12" diameter brakes in the front are 1963 Buick Riviera with 2.25" wide shoes.  The rear ones are from a 1961 Buick Invicta sedan, 2" wide shoes.  The drums are the Riviera 90-fin aluminum drums on all 4 corners.  These drums are hard to find, as even they are more than 50 years old.  The four I have don't have a lot of meat left in the iron linings, but enough to get through inspection and drive for thousands of miles.  There are cast iron replacements available.  Getting the Buick backing plates to fit the Studebaker axles was a real challenge.  Se my website for details:  http://www.studegarage.com/indycar/indyaxlebrake.html.   The original Indy cars had 12" cable-operated brakes from the lighter Studebaker Dictator model, but they had stamped steel drums that quickly became pear-shaped when they got hot.  The guys now driving the Studebaker Indy cars in vintage racing events have all gone to the Buick cast iron drums.  

 

I recently got a preliminary quote on having some new aluminum drums with radial fins made in England.  Radial fins would be more "period correct", though still not "original".  They would likely cost $600-$700 each - unless there are lots more crazy people like me who would want them.  The streetrodders typically go for the replicas of pre-war Lincoln 12" brakes, but those drums and their backing plates are more suited to the much-smaller early Ford spindles.  There is also a guy here in the U.S. who claims he can machine out the old iron linings and replace them in the Buick drums, though his price is almost as high.  Here's a sketch of what the radial fin drum might look like.  

 

 

radial finned drum 1.jpg

splined_hub_Riviera_drum.jpg

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The car is looking great Gary... with the quality of workmanship going into this build, I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

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Sheet metal, at last!  A long time ago - too long! - I bought some sheets of 3003 aluminum, 0.050" thick for the body.  This past week, I started on the front sheet metal.  The lower side panels for the engine compartment were first because they are basically flat.  The bottom edges are hemmed to provide a little stiffness.  The top edges got a Z-shaped bend to allow the lower edge of the hinged hood to slide into something that would hold it.  The left side I made completely by hand with a couple of hammers and dollies, folding the hemmed edge over the edge of a 1/8th inch thick steel plate.  The Z fold was difficult by hand, but it came out OK. 

 

For the right side, I got a little smarter:  I called up my buddy with a 52" wide sheet metal brake and invited myself over for a visit.  The hemmed edge was done in 5 minutes.  We were able to get the brake to fold the first part of the Z about 90 degrees and the second one just a little more.  I took the sheet home, shoved a piece of 1/8" flat stock into the crook of the Z and used the English wheel to flatten the Z while still leaving enough of a groove for the lip of the hood.  The lip will be offset about 1/8" so the outer surfaces of the hood and side panel will be flush.  I cut a long slot with rounded ends to allow the panel to got over the exhaust manifold, then hand-hammered a 3/8" wide flange all around for stiffness.

 

I got one side of the hood pretty well finished this morning.  It's the first piece I really ever made on an English wheel, so I spent a lot of time swapping lower dies to get the curvature right.  The back edge of the hood has a 6" radius curve while the front edge at the radiator shell has a 3" radius.  The right and left hood pieces get joined by a long continuous hinge with removable pin.  The side panels get rows of 2.5" louvers, 18 to a row.  I have located an old-style hot rod custom shop that will punch the louvers for me.  One more hood piece to go!

 

I ordered a 3X rivet gun kit with bucking bars from Aircraft Tool and Supply and a selection of universal head aluminum rivets in 5/32 and 3/16 shank diameter.  The rivets will join the hinges to the hood pieces and attach the rest of the skin to 1" aluminum angle to attach to the frame rails.  There are several hundred rivets to be set.  I wonder what I'll have to give my wife to get her to hold the rivet buck for me? 

 

right_side_panel-flange.jpg

left_panel_hood-sm.jpg

right_side_panel.jpg

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Xclnt! Did you have to anneal the aluminium during the bending? I have watched people making a motorcycle fuel tank annealing it before continuing working on it.

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While the hood and side panels for the engine compartment are out getting 74 louvers punched in them, I've been working on the cowl and forward section of the body.  The side pieces will be mostly flat with only a small bend where the body reaches full width.  These pieces will eventually be welded to the cowl and riveted along the bottom edge to some 1x1 aluminum angle iron for attachment to the chassis.  They will get a wired edge where the driver and passenger enter, but this will be covered by padding and upholstery. 

 

The cowl is complex because curves 180 degrees around from right to left but also curves up about 6 inches above the steering wheel to form a "saddle" shape.  I think this is the toughest piece of sheet metal in the car.  I'm about done with the big U curve after much time on the English wheel.  I've still got to fine-tune the bends and roll out some dips and wrinkles, but it's coming along.  The lower edges need to come in a bit more to match up with the body sides where they will get welded. 

 

The hard part will be to curve the rear edge upwards.  I'll need to use some stretching dies in the planishing hammer for this, but sets of those seem pretty expensive for what little time I plan to use them.  Harbor Freight doesn't seem to have sets of accessory dies for the hammer.  My current plan is to buy some 7/8-9 grade 8 bolts and reshape the heads to get what I want.  I'll be copying some dies I saw at Kent White's Tinmantech course a few years ago.  The linear stretching dies are shaped like a wedge with a flat rectangle on top.  The narrower the rectangle, the more it stretches.  There are a couple of them in the attached photo.  I haven't had to anneal any of the metal yet, but I've got a Tempilstick for 750 °F for the 3003-H14 aluminum sheet.

 

The hood bulge pieces are made, waiting for the hood to come back from the hot rod shop with the louvers.  I'll cut the opening for it and TIG weld it in.  My new AC TIG arrived last week, so I've been practicing on steel and aluminum sheets.  A little too much heat, and a big hole opens in the aluminum!  I'll need a lot of practice before tackling some of the aluminum welding.

 

Here's a photo of the hood and cowl on the original #37 Studebaker car.

 

stude_indy_car_37_hood.jpg

cowl_flat_sheet.jpg

cowl_bend1.jpg

cowl_bend2.jpg

cowl_side.jpg

flow_form_3_kentwhite.jpg

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Smart move to PRACTICE  & PRACTICE with your new Tig setup. 

 

I found that it works for me to have a friend that Tig welds everyday to do the long welds on sheet aluminum.  His welds look so nice, so small, and grind/file/sand out so well, that I just hire him at $50.00 per hour, and he gets a lot done in an hour.  I stick to welding the thicker/smaller pieces.  The first time I hired him I asked him to do a test piece, I said NOTHING PERSONAL, just would like to see your work, he smiled,and wasn't offended.  Since we have become very good friends.

 

NOT sayin YOU can't/won't win out, but it is a skill to tig weld thin materials.

 

Your car is looking good, YOU have good reason to be PROUD.  I'm sure YOU have learned a lot during this build, that to me is the fun of a build. 

 

Dale in Indy

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I went to the Fastenal store, bought a few 7/8-9x2" grade 8 cap screws.  A few hours in the little Rong Fu milling machine turned one of them into a linear stretching die for the planishing hammer.  I probably destroyed the 1/2" end mill in the process, but it got the job done.  Grade 8 bolts are really hard, but they can be cut.  A little polishing with 60, 150, and 600 grit paper yielded a 1/8 x 3/4 rectangle for linear stretching.  It can also turn a flange at an edge.  Here's my die with a 7/8 cap screw and a shot of the dies I saw at Tinmantech.  I cut about an inch off the threaded length and the die dropped right into my Harbor Freight planishing hammer.  I gave it a quick test, and it seems to work and hold up. 

 

Kent White made a small version of a cowl for me as I watched (a few years ago), sanded off the hammer marks, and wired the edge - photos below.  Soon we'll see if I remember anything from his course in N. San Juan, California .

linear_stretch_die_7-8_grade8_bolt.jpgstretch_dies_tinmantech.jpgkent_white_at_planishing_hammer.jpg

kent_white_smoothing_cowl_shape.jpg

kent_white-shaped_cowl.jpg

kent_white_wiring_edge.jpg

gary_cowl.jpg

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)

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After a long series of Google searches, I finally found a place that would sell me some 1/4" diameter soft steel wire for wiring the edges of the cockpit.  Mostly, they sell by the ton.  I wound up with about 100 ft of the wire, only need 12-15 ft, so if you need some let me know.  Most of the 1/4" rods at the hardware store have been drawn enough to harden them a lot.  The soft wire can be readily formed by hand.  The wire I got had been bright annealed, then galvanized.  That should keep it from rusting quickly while wrapped in the aluminum body skin.

 

The shop that is doing the louvers made up a sample of several types of louver dies they have: 2.5" flat, 3" flat, 3" crown, and 3.5" crown.  The crown styles are more rounded, project out farther.  I compared the samples to the photos I have of the Studebaker Indy cars as they look today and as they looked in 1931 and 1932.  I think the 3" crown type looks closest to what the Rigling/Dreyer shop in Indianapolis used back then.  I told the shop to go ahead and punch the 74 louvers. 

 

 

steel_wire_quarterinch_galv.jpg

louver_sizes-shapes.jpg

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It took a few weeks, but I finally got the hood and side panels back from the hot rod shop that punched the 74 louvers.  They did an excellent job, put all the louvers exactly where I wanted them, and the shape is right.  Now to weld in the bulge over where the carbs go and add the leather straps.

 

Forming the cowl is turning into a wrestling match with the aluminum sheet.  It may not be possible to stretch it enough to both curl up towards the back and down-and-around for the sides, so I might have to make some cuts and add more pieces.

 

 

hood_louvers_2.jpg

hood_louvers_1.jpg

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Looks good Gary! We shared a trailer to Pebble Beach with Bob's Indy car. Quite a load! Ed

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Saw these today on a silver smithing post and thought of your build. This isn  a 18k gold monopoly car. Almost as rare as a 

1932 Studebaker Indy car. Thank you for your great post.

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Yes, Bob (1937hd45), I do have a photocopy of the 14 pages of the Ray Kuns article on "Building a Speedway car".  However, what I have had been photocopied in B&W multiple times, so I can barely see the photos.  Some good, clear photos or scans of the pictures would be helpful.  I also have an original 25"x19" blue print of the chassis drawing.  You could send away to Ray Kuns for those back in the day, circa 1935. 

 

It's interesting that the photo you posted from the article shows the car in its 1933 configuration when they used the larger egg-shaped body.  You can see the brackets on the frame rails that were added for the wider belly pan and body support.

 

I'm sure it's that Kuns drawing that caused the problems with the fabrication of the chassis of my car.  Look carefully at the drawing and you'll see the rear spring shackle ABOVE the eye in the end of the frame rail.  In the photo you posted, the shackle is clearly below the eye, as it was on all the Studebaker cars and all of the photos I've seen of other Rigling-Dreyer cars of the period.  Kuns - or his draftsman - got that detail seriously wrong as they drew the frame rail end much higher than it was.  There are a number of other significant errors for anyone wanting to build another car, but maybe I'm the only one crazy enough to actually do it.  Most of the dimensions, though, are correct, as I checked them on Bob Valpey's #37 car.

Indy_plans_1.jpg

indy_plans_12.png

Indy car kuns plans 25x19in.jpg

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We were at a large Kiwanis car show in Concord, NH on Sept. 10.  The local Studebaker Drivers Club chapters turned out 32 Studebakers for the show, including the original 1931 Studebaker Indy car owned by Bob Valpey.  Bob was busy with another car event, so he sent his friend Pat Curran to drive the car at the show (it did arrive in a trailer, as it's a long way from Bob's house).  I got a chance to grab lots more photos of details and take dimensions of things I had forgotten to get on earlier occasions.  The car had been to the Pebble Beach show earlier in the summer, so it was shined up very well.

 

Here's a link to a YouTube video I made so you can see what the REAL car looks like and how it sounds: 

 

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Thanks for sharing the detailed information and pictures. I want to make some body parts for my speedster-to-be and this thread will be great inspiration.  

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Two steps forward, one step back...

 

After a lot of searching, I had located a 1937 Studebaker President 3-speed transmission with overdrive and manual lockout (Warner T85-1 with R1-1F overdrive).  That would have allowed cruising at low rpm in overdrive and vintage racing with the overdrive locked out for good engine braking.  Unfortunately, when I got the transmission bolted in for a test fit, the overdrive case was so wide that my legs didn't fit in the rest of the space.  I started a transmission search again and finally located a plain 3-speed transmission, no overdrive or freewheeling, from a 1936 President that would bolt into place.  I picked it up in Hershey last week.  It's half the length of the OD unit and gives me leg room on the side.  With the large tires and 3.31 ratio rear, 60 mph will need about 2100 rpm - and 110-120 mph at 4200 rpm, so the loss of overdrive isn't a burden.

 

I pulled the 80-year old transmission apart to check for chipped teeth, etc.  I spent two days degreasing the thing with kerosene just to be able to look at the parts and remove the 1/2" of black sludge on the bottom of the case.  Some previous owner had put Extreme Pressure (EP) rear axle lube in the transmission, so it all stank to high heaven of sulfur.  DO NOT put axle lube in transmissions - it eats up the brass parts, like synchronizer rings.  I use Pennzoil Synchromesh fluid or 40 wt or 50 wt non-detergent motor oil.  It's a pet peeve of mine that the automobile community doesn't understand that gear lubes are viscosity rated at 70 °F and engine oils are rated at 212 °F, so 40 wt motor oil really has 75-90 wt viscosity at the temperatures found in transmissions, i.e. it's not much above air temperature.  Fortunately, all the gears and synchronizers look fine.

 

Once it was apart, I wanted to replace the bearings.  South Shore Bearing in Quincy, Mass. actually had the complete set of bearings in stock, including the big front one with the snap ring groove.  Their main man Steve has all the old parts catalogs and cross-over tables, and he is very pleasant to deal with.  The search for .010" thick vegetable fiber gasket paper was a little crazier, as I could buy a minimum order of $20-$50 worth from a couple of suppliers, but at about 65 cents a sq ft, I could have rebuilt 50 transmissions.  I finally found a place that would ship a small quantity (equalseal.com).  I'll trace around the old gaskets and cut them out.  The old gaskets are in my basement workshop, and my wife just asked me, "What stinks down here - old car parts?"  Yes, dear! 

 

 

no_room_for feet.jpg

1937 Pres OD trans T85-1.jpg

1936 T85 case & cluster.jpg

1936 T85 main shaft & end.jpg

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Good deal Gary! Those gears look great, unusual in a 80 year old transmission. That shifter has a beautiful curve in it -- will you be able to use it as is, or will you have to modify the cane?

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Yes, Paul, the cane needs to have a little more bend to it.  Actually, the one in the photo is the cane for the 1937 OD transmission, but both canes are about the same shape.   When I tried the '37 OD box, the cane hit the bottom of the dash in reverse and 2nd, so I need to get out the torch and bend it down another 15-20 degrees at the bottom.  I'll probably need to compensate by increasing the bend at the top, too, so that the shift ball is easy to reach.  The original cars probably had the shift lever shortened quite a bit.  Here's a photo of the #37 car's chassis at the start of its restoration in 1974.  However, some of the other cars have canes of completely different shapes, perhaps personal preference of the owners/drivers.

 

 

37 at Stockbridge 1974.jpg

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All the bearings, gasket paper, and seals arrived by USPS or UPS - like most of the rest of the car.  The front ball bearing was a challenge as the snap ring did not want to come off.  I convinced my wife to stand close and shove a tiny flat screwdriver blade behind the snap ring when I spread it with needle nose pliers.  She's a trooper!  Once the snap ring was off, I pushed the bearing off in the hydraulic press and put the new one on.  The rear bearing was a little easier, but only a little.  The rear yoke seal was originally felt but was replaced with a nitrile lip seal. 

 

With the .010" thick vegetable paper gasket sheet in hand, I cut the front, rear, and top gaskets with an Xacto knife and hollow punches.  I'll smear them with gasket dressing during assembly.  The countershaft was ugly and coated with some deposits, so I put it in my little HF lathe and cleaned it with a green 3M scrubby, then finished off with 2000 grit paper.  There are a few pits, but I'll live with them as the rest of the surface is very smooth and shiny.  The reverse idler shaft got the same treatment. 

 

The empty transmission case got bolted to the bell housing and the shift lever placed on top.  It was clear the 2nd and reverse positions were going to cause the shift lever to hit the bottom of the dash.  A little heat from the MAPP torch enabled adjustments in shape with some hand pressure on the heated shaft.  Once it was visibly red, it bent easily.  The shaft needs a new shift ball, but a $3.00 ball for an old Ford tractor will be just right.  I was able to check  that I do now have more room for my feet and legs with the smaller, shorter case.  It will still be tight to get gas, brake, and clutch pedals in there, but it's do-able.

 

I've spoken with Jerry Kurtz about the re-assembly process, and it looks straight-forward.  There are some choices about the sequence of putting in the front shaft, rear main shaft, and countershaft, but it will be OK in the end.  [Ha, ha, ha!] Along the way, I need to clean off any remaining grease so that it can be painted.  It does seem strange working on a transmission that was used for a few straight-8 cars for only one year, even if Warner Gear made this T85-1 and many others for various brands of cars.  Some of the parts interchange with a 1937 Studebaker 3-speed w/o overdrive, but not all of them.  Why were there so many variations?  I've read that the T85 design eventually evolved into the T-10 4-speed - quite a longevity for an engineering design.

 

shift lever formed 1 sm.jpg

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According to The Hollander 18th Ed. 1952, the T85-1 case was used for '36 Pres. but there was a change in the insides between January and February. The case was still the same and the same as '37 Pres., #188239.

Up to Feb the main shaft was T85-2G, after Jan it was T85-2K, same as '37 Pres. 3C.

The 2nd spd gear was T85-11A up to Feb and after Jan was -11K. '37 Pres is -11B.

The main drive gear was the same for both boxes and different to the '37 3C.

 

All other internal parts are the same as

'35 Chrysler C1 Airfl. to #6604782;

                    C2 Imp. to #7014221;

                    C3 Cust. to #7528661;

'36 Chrysler C9 and

DeSoto '35 Airflow, all less O.D. The Chryslers use a different case but it is still a T85-1.

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