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1932 Studebaker Indy car build


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I was back at Wray Schelin's Pro Shaper shop this past weekend (May 10-12) for some more 13-hour days of metal shaping on the tail for the car.  All the pieces had been previously formed and some welded together, but it was finally time to do some serious assembly.  I had thought that the forming of the 10 pieces was going to be the most time consuming step - I was wrong.  Wray wanted each panel tuned to the exactly correct shape and smooth enough to not need any Bondo before paint.  The pieces got tacked on the outside, welded on the inside, and then welded on the outside to make a continuous seam without pits.  Using small pneumatic angle grinders (Harbor Freight, Home Depot, Tractor Supply), the weld was ground down almost flush with the panel, then it was planished by hand and with the pneumatic planisher.  Additional leveling of the seam and surrounding was done with steel slapper and dolly until a body file could cleanly scrape away any red Dykem.  An HF orbital grinder with 2" pads of 80 and 120 grit were used to completely smooth the weld area, making the seam almost invisible.  Because the weld metal is a slightly different color than the 3003 sheet, you can still see the seam if you look hard enough.  The slapping, filing, and grinding took hours for each seam.  The inside of the weld has to be ground flush , too, so that the part can fit in the English wheel.  We finished up by wheeling the seam and surrounding area to get a very good finish and shape that flows correctly.  There are no flat surfaces, all are convex to one degree or another.

 

I'm now down to having just two pieces to join together, the left and right halves.  The challenge will be to weld and finish the sharp back edge of the tail where it can't be clamped and access to the inside will be difficult.  I'm getting better at the metal shaping, but it's still Wray who welds and tunes the surfaces.

tack welds.jpg

Tacked seam

 

weld seam.jpg

Fully welded seam

 

weld and grinder with wax.jpg

3" angle grinder with 50 grit and wax

 

weld grinders.jpg

Assortment of grinders

 

slappers and dollies.jpg

Slappers and dollies with shot bag

 

planishing.jpg

Wray with planishing hammer of his own design

 

metal body file.jpg

Filing the surface after Dykem spray to reveal low spots

 

tail inside.jpg

Inside of tail showing location of weld seams

 

tail on buck.jpg

The two sides on the wire form buck.  After 3 days of 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, I'm pretty tired.  Wray's Packard roadster project in the rear.

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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Gary, Your efforts are paying off!  Your racer is going to be blessed with a terrific body!  I am dismayed that all the good tech stuff is either on one coast or the other.  The piece of your body that is in the above picture con sits of how many joined together pieces?  I have used the "warm" Ford grey on a couple of po4rjects myself and like it!  To me, you have chosen the color wisely, but that is not my call anyway.

Al

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Al, if you look at the photo just above  of the back side of the tail, you can count the five pieces that make up each half.  There is about 6 ft of weld seams in each half, plus joining the halves will take another 6 ft of welding and finishing.  Each half is now about as big as even a tall guy like Wray can handle on an English wheel, but you would never want to try making it as one piece..

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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Wow......body work with "no body work" just welding and dressing the seams.......thats about then thousand light years ahead of my abilities. Coach building with no fillers is a truly amazing feat...........craftsmanship beyond anything I have seen in years. Great job.......

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  • 2 months later...

I was back at Wray Schelin's Pro Shaper shop this past weekend to work on the tail section of the car.  After many moons, we finally got the tail pieces welded together.  It was pretty tricky to pull the two halves together to minimize the gap, so we had to use the air saw to trim interfering bits away.  Wray used the TIG to put in a series of spot welds that gradually pulled the gap down to 0.010"-0.020" over most of the 5 feet that needed to be welded.  At one point, I had to climb into the tail and hold a strip of copper behind the widest points of the seam to enable it to be filled from the outside.  Later, Wray ran the TIG torch down the inside to finish the seam.  We ran out of time (again), so my next visit will be focused on grinding the weld bead, annealing the weld zone, and dollying the joint to make it the right shape and completely smooth.  It isn't too bad now, but it needs to be just a little better.

 

While at Pro Shaper, I got most of the wire form done for the seating area.  The driver sits 4" forward of the "riding mechanic" and the seats are not quite 16" wide.  The drive shaft passes just under the seating area, so a hoop around the front end of the drive shaft at the U-joint is critical for safety.  I still have to put in the  rest of the wires to finish defining the seat area and form the sheet metal, but this won't be too bad as it will be mostly covered by upholstery.  Ultimately, the seating area gets welded to the tail section.  The gas tank goes under the tail with a hose up to the filler.  See the April 25 post.  I've got the bronze casting for the filler, need to polish it a bit and send it out for chrome plating.  I got the filler cast just in time, as the guy running the shop chose to retire early and closed the foundry.  I still need to make the wire forms for the belly pan and the wings that support the tail over the rear of the chassis and hammer out the aluminum for the parts.

 

The engine block came back from the machine shop after cleaning up the bores.  They are currently 0.030" over the original 3.062".  The crank was checked, no cracks!  We're just sorting out which main bearing inserts we will use.  Jerry asked if I had any 0.001" under, but the answer is NO, and I don't think there ever were any.  I have a few that are for 0.002" under, a couple for 0.020" under.  Shims may be needed.   I'm now searching for some rod bearing cap bolts.  Jerry wants to use high quality, modern bolts, but finding 3/8-24 x 2.5" bolts is a little challenging.  I've contacted SPS and ARP to see what they can supply in non-catalog items.   In the end, I wound up with nearly three sets of main bearings and one good set of rod bearings, all NOS from before 1940.  Fortunately, the cam bearings are being reproduced, valves are available.  We'll re-use the pistons and rods.

 

I called Librandi's in Harrisburg two weeks ago to ask about the grille shell plating.  They waffled.  The grille has been there since mid April, hasn't been started.   I know they can do good quality chrome but the wait is a killer.  

 

The chassis is back from the paint shop, needs re-assembly.  Along the way, I'll have to phosphate treat and paint all the other bits that attach to the chassis.  Wray hassled me that I should not have painted the chassis until all the body was done, but my "critical path analysis" argued for painting now, even with the risk of scratching the frame rails.  I know Wray had the best interests of the car at heart.  The gray chassis paint color is the same as on a Ford 9N  tractor.

 

I started generating the paperwork to get a clear title.  Let's just say that this will be an interesting process, hope it works out.  More on this when it happens.

 

So, progress continues, albeit not as fast as I or anyone else wants.  When will it be done?  I keep telling people, "Tuesday, it will be done on Tuesday."  Just don't ask me WHICH Tuesday, LOL.

 

welding tail bottom.jpg

welded tail rear.jpg

welding in tail - Wray.jpg

welded tail side.jpg

gas cap cast.jpg

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As a P.S., I did get a complete 3D CAD file from HUM3D.com based on about 200 photos and 3D files of components that I sent to them.  I paid them to do it, not cheap.  They did an amazing job, got details down to the rivet heads at the correct spacing.  They even added the graphics I wanted.  After downloading their 3D CAD files, I was able to convert them to a 3D printable version and have made a couple of solid prints on my little Creality Ender 3 printer.  It takes about 2.5 days to print out a 10" long version in good detail.   

 

 

268279617_Indycarprinting.thumb.jpg.d0d9c591ff1a771767c57acf7482ddbc.jpg370213543_StudebakerIndy25-3.thumb.PNG.913257c8b7359e98e589028fd7cbacae.PNG

Indy car printed 2.JPG

Indy car printed 3.JPG

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  • 2 weeks later...

This past weekend (Aug. 4, 2019), we went to the memorial gathering for the late Robert Valpey at the family home in Center Harbor, NH.  I brought three of the four grand-children.  We got to see Bob's 1931 Studebaker Indy car the last time before it went into a trailer to go to the Gooding auction in Pebble Beach on Aug. 16-17.  It was in perfect condition, all buffed and waxed, but it was sad to know it won't be there anymore.  I hope it goes to a good new home with someone who will continue to drive and race the car.  

 

1846707337_1931StudebakerIndycar37.thumb.jpg.7df6236cf6177574c94fc625e95f905d.jpg

 

Studebaker Indy car 37 with family.jpg

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Back on April 7, I posted some photos of taking the chassis apart for painting.  I anticipated quick reassembly, but it didn't happen for a variety of reasons/excuses.  Anyway, all the chassis cross members, frame rails, and some small parts got painted gray at a local body shop.  I cleaned up the various other bits like shock mounts, engine mounts, spring hangers, etc. and painted them black, as well as the angle iron frame for the cockpit area.  Currently, all the pieces are scattered on the garage floor, looks a lot like a kit to "build your own Indy car".  Once that paint is completely dry and hard, I can reassemble the chassis and start fitting the body on.  Wray Schelin tells me it's too early to paint anything as I'm likely to scratch the paint during fitting, but I think I need to risk it.  Taking the car apart and reassembling it multiple times is a real chore. 

 

I've got the basics of the wire frame for the seating area started.  Fitting two people in only 32 inches of width is a little like modern airplane seats in "cattle car class".  Fortunately, I have photos of the seating area from both the blue #18 car and the green #37 car with the upholstery out of the way.  In #37, the battery is below a hinged door under the passenger seat.  Note that the original cars didn't have batteries.  One of the photos without upholstery revealed that Bob Valpey had cut a hole behind the passenger seat to reach in under the tail section - I wondered how I was going to assemble the gas filler and hose to the tank.  With that info in hand, I can finish the seating wire form and start beating more aluminum.  The belly pan and "wings" to support the tail will be the last sheet metal items.

 

Only four more days till the auction of #37 at Pebble Beach.  I was very fortunate to have that car at my disposal for photos and measurements for all these years.  Thank you, Bob Valpey and Pat Curran (Bob's caretaker of cars). 

indy car kit.jpg

cockpit frame painted.jpg

seating wire form.jpg

seat area 37.jpg

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You are right, it looks lit a 'kit" to me also.  However, I know the amount of work that you have invested to get to this point.  Keep up the good work.  I am anxious to see what the original Studebaker Indy car will bring at auction.  You are lucky that you did have a car in close proximity to be a guide as you proceeded with your construction project.

 

Al 

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The $1,000,000 bid was phoned in.  I have 2 “suspects” in mind, but I don’t know who bought it. Happy motoring to whoever it is.

 

For sure now, the Indy Speedway Museum will never let the #22 car out the door. 

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No, I don't think the sale price of the #37 Indy car affects the price of a clone.  Still don't know who bought it, but working on it.

 

Meanwhile, I was back at Wray Schelin's Pro Shaper shop for more work on the tail.  The weld seams got ground down and a 4 ft long piece of oak cut to a chisel edge was used to hammer the rear edge of the tail seam into a straight line.  Wray and I then worked on wheeling the waves out of the top surface of the tail that were the result of welding.  We turned the wheels 90 degrees on Wray's "Poppa Bear" English wheel to be able to reach in 40 inches on the tail..There are a few more areas that need tuning, but we're getting there.  

 

I finished building the wire form for the seating area that will be joined to the tail eventually. Fortunately, I have photos of the seating area with the upholstery removed in both the blue #18 car and the green #37 car.  Once the wire form was done, I made patterns from brown paper for cutting the aluminum.   The seat bottoms are the most difficult pieces as they are pans that need lots of shrinking around the edges to mate with the seat backs.  We started forming with a mallet on the stump, paused for annealing, then tried Wary's huge power hammer and his Pullmax with shrinking dies.  As the driver's side pan came into shape, Wray put a Delrin chisel-shaped head into an air gun and "flow formed" the corners of the pan to match the wire form.  The passenger side pan is half done.  Fortunately, the other pieces for the seats are much easier to form.  I'll have to go back in September for more work on the tail.

 

Two other guys were working at Pro Shaper over the weekend on the Virgil Exner 1947 Studebaker concept car.  They decided that some of the pines at the belt line weren't right, so they reshaped the wire form and started making new panels.  With only one pastel chalk-on-sandpaper sketch as a guide, it's amazing that a car body can be made at all.  Nearby on the shop floor, a recreation of the 1930's Edward Macauley concept Packard in coming together, as well. 

 

 

tail in English wheel.jpg

seating wire form.jpg

seating paper patterns.jpg

seat bottom anneal.jpg

seat bottom flow forming.jpg

exner future car study.jpg

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After painting the frame rails gray and other pieces black, I’m reassembling the car. Since I’d only assembled it once before, the order of things isn’t clear but I’m taking notes for the future. It wants to be put together from one side to the other rather than from front to back. All the important pieces went back into place with only a few cases of taking things out again to put something else in place first. The plating company (Librandi’s in Harrisburg, PA) says the grille is almost ready, will ship next week. I can’t wait to see it in place. 

 

 

99AB9486-3DD1-4472-A73F-EA7946EF1C0E.jpeg

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Having painted the frame for the cockpit, I attached some 1"x1/16" woven web to the angle iron frame to keep the skin from squeaking when it moved.  As with the original cars, I used some split brass rivets, same as used on Model T Ford transmission bands, to hold the webbing in place. Squeezing the rivets was slow going, even with the right tool.  I put the cockpit skin over the frame, clamped it in about a dozen or more places, then fitted the flanges to the sides for riveting in place.  With everything clamped in place for the best alignment, I marked off the rivet holes on 1.5" centers, drilled with a #20 drill, and used my aircraft-quality rivet gun to put 24 rivets , 5/32" shank diameter, on each side.  I used a bunch of Clecos to keep the alignment of the skin with the flanges during the riveting process.  Rosie would be proud of me!  With the cockpit frame mounted on the chassis, I put the skin in place.  It looks pretty good, compares well to the original Indy cars.  The flanges will be held down tight to the chassis with a bunch of 1/4-20 screws from the bottom and acorn nuts on top.  Finishing the tail and the belly pan will require installing hundreds more rivets.

  

cockpit frame.jpg

cockpit riveting 1.jpg

cockpit riveting 2.jpg

cockpit riveted.jpg

cockpit side 37.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

At long last (21weeks), the grille shell came back from Librandi's Plating.  It was worth the wait, nice work on grinding and filling the rusty places and holes, very good quality chrome.  The end result is a long way from where I started.  It will look good on the front of the car, a very good copy of the original 1932 grilles.

 

 

indy grille plated 1 (sm).jpg

Stude_Indy_car_18_ash0709 (sm).jpg

indy grille part welded.jpg

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It's amazing what twenty five dollars of chrome plating will do to transfer a grill shell.............just saying.......🤑

 

Looks great, just like the rest of the build. 👍

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I already knew the answer...........look at the positive side.......it’s just about the only chrome on the car. Us guys who like big closed cars really take the pipe...........car looks great. 

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Another 3-day session with Wray Schelin at his Pro Shaper shop.  While I worked on forming up the seating area from more aluminum, Wray spent a lot of hours fine tuning the surfaces on the tail.  He sprayed blue Dykem over the rear-most area and ran a body file over it to highlight the high and low spots.  A few taps with a steel slapper settles in high spots, but the low spots take more effort.  Wray stuck a small magnet to the outside with some duct tape on the offending spot, then ducked inside the tail to locate the spot with a piece of steel and bump it out.  His standard of acceptable is an error of less than the thickness of one coat of paint.

 

I had thought the seat area was going to be simple and quick - wrong again!  I did get the two seat pans formed up, the small separator between the two seats, and the seat backs, as well as the top pieces above the seats.  The seat pans get riveted in, everything else will get welded once it all fits together.  Here are the pieces and a photo of the #18 original car.  See the wire form back in the Aug. 26 post.

 

I also snapped a few shots of the replica of the 1933 Mcauley Packard one-off speedster that is being replicated in the shop using only old photos to determine shapes and dimensions.

 

gary at pro shaper 92119 (sm).jpg

seats in progress (sm).JPG

seats form rear.jpg

seats detail.JPG

Mcauley packard front (sm).JPG

Mcauley Packard rear.JPG

Mcauley Packard speedster 1933-colorized (sm).jpg

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When I got the tail back home, I just had to place it on the chassis to see how it looks.  It needs more finishing and trimming of top and bottom edges, but it's starting to look right.  Mike Cleary, owner of the blue #18 car, came to visit this week, so I got a lot more info from him about details of his car.

 

The fuel filler assembly came back from the chrome plating shop (D&S Plating, Holyoke, MA).  This was cast in silicon bronze from the pattern that I 3D printed.  The finished part looks great, is the last part that needed to be chromed.  The Phillips head screws need to be replaced with hex head screws since Phillips screws weren't used in cars until 1936.  Now I need to get the fuel cell to mount in the rear of the car, and the electric fuel pump, and ...

 

 

 

Indy car rear 092419.jpg

gas cap plated closed.jpg

gas cap plated open.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

Back in September, I thought I was making good progress on the seats.  Back at Pro Shaper this past weekend, I brought the whole car along to make sure the tail adjustments were going to fit the chassis correctly.  I stuffed the wire form for the seats into the chassis to see how it looked all together and decided there was not going to be enough clearance for rear axle motion.  But, it was good to find it before welding the seat pieces together.  I spent a few hours modifying the wire frame to gain about 4 inches of clearance above the axle housing , rear U-joint, and driveshaft, then made some small patches to weld into the seat pans after cutting away the inside corners.  Because of their weird shapes, it took a lot of time to form them, weld them in, and grind the welds.  But, that got done and now the seating area can get welded and riveted together.  While the added bumps do stick up in the seat pans, once the cushioned upholstery is in place, the seats should be comfortable enough.   There will be rubber stops installed to limit upward axle travel.  The front drive shaft U-joint will be enclosed in a tube attached to the transmission to prevent "pole vaulting" in the event of U-joint failure.

 

I did sit in the car with the seat pieces in place on the wire form.  I discovered that the steering wheel is pretty low, not any clearance over my lap.  I can rotate the steering column up easily as the steering box mount was made to allow this.   I'll also make a new dash panel to get a tight fit to the cowl.  Once the tuning of the tail itself is done, we can weld the seats to the tail.  That will take some tricky forming of the front edge of the tail to mate to the seat backs plus a lot of welding.

 

Work on the engine continues.  The rods got shot peened, and the entire rotating assembly balanced.  I had to order some special cylinder head studs from ARP, but now the assembly can be finished and engine block buttoned up.  I hope to be able to pick up the engine in a couple of weeks.

 

Seat pans before modifications

seat pans before mods.jpg

 

Modified wire frame over axle

wire frame over axle.jpg

 

Passenger seat pan partially cut.  Line marks final cut.

seat pan cut.jpg

 

Seat patch welded in place

seat pan welded.jpg

 

Modified seat pans

seat pans after mods.jpg

 

Sitting in the car.

sitting in car.jpg

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

Absolutely brilliant piece of work. Been a while since I went through an entire thread. If I may offer a bit of my personal preference, bring the centerline of the steering wheel hub up a bit more, this will help you get more varied hand placement options on the steering wheel, being able to get your hands on both the bottom and top of the wheel can be very helpful in quicky/twitchy/spinning situations. Personally, I set the centerline of the wheel on a big car at about the middle of my chest. Thank you again for sharing this amazing build.

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Yes, once I got the basics of the seats in place, I realized I was going to have to move the steering wheel up, if only to clear my lap.  No hefty guys were ever going to fit in there, even though the steering wheel has a quick release.  It will be an easy fix, as the whole steering box can be rotated in its clamp.  I guess the original cars were adjustable for the various drivers - and they were all skinny as rails.  I'll mill about 3 inches off the aluminum slab that supports the steering column below the dash and re-tap the holes.  I'll have to trim a few inches off the bottom of the dash panel, too.  The firewall already has a slot for the steering column.  The seats can't go down any lower because the driveshaft is down there.  Right now, though, it's pretty cold out in the garage, and running the 60,000 BTU HotDawg heater burns through a few hundred bucks of propane in no time.

steering_box_ mounted_1.jpg

Indy driver group 1933 (small).png

steering column and dash.jpg

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Third from left in the photo is Cliff Bergere - you can see the initials CB on his sweater.  He started at Indy 16 times, three of them at the pole, including 1946 at age 49.  He was also a stunt driver in a couple of Hollywood movies.  Unlike much of that 1932 Studebaker team, Cliff lived to the age of 84.  No resemblance to me as he was certainly much taller than I am and he had lots more hair on his head.  The later picture here is from 1966 when he was 70.  I don't know how the taller guys fit in those cars because you can't adjust the seats.  

 

I did make some similar sweaters using all-cotton sweaters from the last cotton knitting mill in the U.S., now closed...

 

Bergere_Cliff.jpg

1966-WB-128-Cliff-Bergere1.jpg

indy_sweater1.jpg

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Gary,  Keep up the good work on the Indy Special!  Have time to celebrate a pleasant Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Remember that we are kicking off a new decade so we need to be very thoughtful of our New years Resolutions.....make it count!

Al

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I have only recently come across your posts. What an amazing project. Not for the faint hearted! I spent yesterday and this morning reading the posts right from the beginning. I have  thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Mike

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A Studebaker guy went to visit our friend Jerry near York, PA, and got a few photos of the engine rebuild.  Boy, it sure looks great to me.  Almost done with this part of the project.  Jerry is a meticulous guy and has addressed even the most minor details of the engine rebuild.

 

 

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image_73818.jpg

image_73819.jpg

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For the head, having never seen the CC from a Studebaker, how does it look? Just looking at the deck, you should be able to get a nice bit of quench over the top of the piston. Will you have any work done to the block to "improve" things?

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