Eric W

1952 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe

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Lookin' good at the cruise in Eric! I like the colors, they really make the car stand out.

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First photo - 3rd cruise night 10/26 - parked nose in to have the trunk open w/ candy for the kids. Next photos - parts car! '52 Commander w/ significant body rust, otherwise it was only slightly disassembled but seems to be pretty much all there. Last photo - another trunk-or-treat on Sunday, 10/29.

 

When you think my coupe is running & driving - what does it need with a parts car - the more I look, the more it could use. It had been "restored" multiple times, and in some of that, quite a few original parts are gone.

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If you must have a parts car, don't you want the best one you can get? It's a 4-door sedan, body style "W". No title.

 

The parts I'll pull for the coupe would have taken who knows how long to track down. Some of them are '52 Commander specific. Some of them are '51-'52 V8 only.

 

Parts car project #1 - chrome headlight surrounds...

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Parts car - 2nd & 3rd items - dashboard cigarette lighter & sun visors. Before, the lighter hole was covered with a sticker. Sun visors were missing from the coupe. These sun visors need some work, but the starting parts are there...

 

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Made it to a local Studebaker club lunch get together on Saturday. The sandwich shop is in the building that was the Studebaker dealership in Tucson in the 20's. Photo below of the inside of the shop - they have Studebaker-based murals on the walls...

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Parts car project #4 - front bumper overrides. Polished the front bumper with Simichrome. I was surprised how nice that bumper really is! Harvested the bumper over-rides from the parts car. Sprayed them with Rust Kutter (from Tractor Supply). This really takes off the "bloom" of surface rust, as well as converts the metal at the areas where the chrome is rusted through. Not sure that this offers much long-term protection, but my 11% Relative Humidity indoor storage facility (my garage in the desert) will keep these looking as they do now pretty much indefinitely. Let the RK work for an hour or two, rinse off with water & dry. Also then polished these with Simichrome, though they're a little beat up from riding way out front for so many years. I really like the over-complexity of these mid-century chromed styling elements. First photo - trying to show the difference before/after polishing.

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Looking good Eric!

 

Wish I had known about that sandwich shop when we were in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. We would have ate there. We did search out a couple of old dealerships in Phoenix.

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So far this week, parts car items #5 and #6 - use one of the wheels/tires for a spare, and move the ash tray across from the parts car because the chrome is better.

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Ash tray before / after - it will make more sense with a radio replacing that bottom center trim piece (radio blank-off plate).

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Parts car project #7 - "clam digger" grille and radiator lower air guide "pan". The pan in the coupe has a big hole cut in it. Not sure why. But to get that pan out, the bumper comes off and the grille comes out. Since the grille on the coupe is painted (flat green), I'll swap in the chromed parts when the pan is ready to go in. With the grille off the parts car, I see a whole lot of '51 fender under there...

 

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Similar views to when I first got the car, but to show the chrome on the headlight trim rings, the polished front bumper, and addition of the bumper over-rides. Maybe some of the paint polishing shows up too.

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Looking great Eric! You are really making use of that parts car.

 

I noticed in one of the earlier photos, the parts car had what looks like a dealer license plate frame. Is it from an old Studebaker dealership?

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Plate frame says C. A. Bowen & Sons, Oakdale. The plates are 1963. I don't know if that was a Studebaker dealer. 

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Parts car #8 - hood emblem. The "S" looked like NOS - never before installed. #9 - Rear valence panel - below the rear bumper & above the exhaust tips. Didn't even know that was missing from my car, but it does hide the gas tank (and rounds off the bottom of the body). Example photo shows a dual exhaust - not sure if this was ever factory, or if the panel is just modified. #10 - LH side air vent lever retention spring. I did know this was missing, because without the spring, the lever arm bounces out of the door, then the door won't open. I also found a little broken off piece of spring in there. It's kind of interesting to get the spring in or out of there because you can't grab the spring directly. Had to wrap a wire around the lever, grab the wire with pliers and lift the lever up, swing the door out of the way, then let the lever down. Then, there's no tension on the spring at all. Still had to hold the spring with pliers because the opening is too small to hold the spring by hand. #11 - oil filter, bracket & tubes. #12 - fuel pump. This will be for appearance - there's already a later fuel pump down the side of the engine, and several have recommended just going electric & not using the engine-driven pumps at all (but leave them in place for appearance).

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Yes, I'll get to that roof sometime. Today was the grille transplant. Many more fasteners than I could ever imagine, but it's done.

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It seems that your car was repainted once as the paint under the chromed parts is looking a little bit different (or is that dirt?). I hope that you will document the changes you are doing. Memory is not all the time what it should be and many years from now you may forget what was original to that model.

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This particular one has very little originality left to it. At the Studebaker club meeting, I met one man who owned the car in the early 1970's. He confirmed that it had always been in Tucson (based on paperwork he found in the car when he got it). Even back at that time, there was documentation that the engine is not original - it's at least a '53 engine, if not later. He attributed that to bad cams in the '51 - '52 engines that required many of them to be replaced. He sold the car to a local pest control company who used many old cars as marketing for their brand. Also at the club meeting, I met a man who worked for the pest control company as a mechanic. He told me he'd painted this car maybe 5 times. He said it was originally something near this light green color, but also in the layers of paint it was dark blue metallic, tan, red, and the present light green. Given that the pest control company's purpose was to locate the cars around town (they hardly need to start and move a little), when something broke, they "fixed" it with whatever was available, without worrying about whether it's original. The mechanic still has a key to my car's ignition on his key ring - because many of the company cars were changed to the same ignition switch / key!

 

What I've found so far on the dash that isn't original is the ignition switch, headlight switch, horn switch, starter switch, and a manual switch was added to bypass the automatic overdrive. The turn signal lever also isn't original. The windshield glass was replaced by this same mechanic with 2-piece flat instead of the original 1-piece curved because when it got broken, it was quicker/cheaper to cut 2 pieces of flat glass rather than hunt down an original curved glass.

 

I went through the brakes in earlier posts, but when I got the car, it had later ('54-up) rear drums with the '52 fronts. This would not be a safe combination to drive because the rears would have proportionally more stopping power. The fronts were missing a lot of the self-adjuster parts. So rather than hunt down the numerous (and expensive) missing parts in the '52 fronts, as well as down-grade the rears to '52, I found a pair of '57 front drums and loaded backing plates and got the brakes going that way.

 

The engine doesn't have the original fuel pump because people have told me they were more difficult to get parts for, and possibly less reliable - anyway the engine is later, and it appears to have come with a fuel pump that mounts to a different boss. Not sure why there's no oil filter - maybe it was lost in the engine replacement. All Commanders were supposed to come standard with an oil filter. The exhaust manifolds have been cut up and re-welded to make the dual exhaust. The hill holder brake valve (also standard on Commander) is gone. When I replaced the brake line I could see a small splice where it would have been. It appears there never was a radio because there's a radio blank-off plate at the bottom of the dash. Though the car has a radio antenna, the wire is coiled up - not strung across the dash as though it ever connected to something.

 

The mechanic also told me that all of the glass was broken out including the curved back windows. I believe this was a fairly common result for these marketing cars - they still use them around town to this day, and I've seen them with the windows broken out.

 

The entire interior is replacement. Seat fabrics, headliner, side panels, door panels, kick panels - all replaced. The door handle rings are missing. Sun visors weren't reinstalled when the headliner was replaced. Headliner wasn't reinstalled per original. There's no windlace around the door openings. The door sills are bent up flat metal (not original).

 

So what's original to this car? Not a whole lot. I'm just trying to make it look better, keep it running, and replace things with original parts where I can.

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Eric, regarding the windshield, you say the mechanic replaced the windshield with 2 pieces of flat glass instead of the one piece windshield. Are you saying he rigged up a center strip to hold the pieces of glass? Are the two flat pieces of glass laminated? I looked back in your pictures and it appears that your parts car has a one piece windshield - would that be something you would switch out for the two piece windshield?

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Nice job on the grille Eric.

 

Love the pics with the Saguaro cactus in the background! We just got back from Arizona about a month ago, our youngest son works in Scottsdale. The vegetation in the southwest is unique, and a big change from the trees and grass in North Carolina. 

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Chris - I'm not sure when Studebaker changed from 1-piece to 2-piece glass. Google images of 1947-1948 Studebakers, and they're almost all (but not all) 2-piece glass. As an "independent" car maker (not Ford / not GM), Studebaker would use the same body stampings for more years than Ford or GM. They used this same basic body from 1947-1952. So when the one-piece glass came along in 1949 or so, it isn't fully curved, but rather 2 flats with a relatively sharp bend right in the center, so it would appear it could fit any model from 1947-1952. One piece glass may have been an extra-cost option at first, or only offered on certain higher-level models. I saw something in their marketing materials about eliminating the center trim strip as a visibility improvement, but I don't really notice it when driving. I don't know if I'll move that glass over from the other car, since the center strip on the coupe also now is an attach point for the visor support (but I'll probably hold onto the one-piece glass & trim).

 

When this windshield change was made on my car, I don't know if they harvested a center strip from an older Studebaker or just made something up. I haven't looked that closely at it. I think they were wise enough to use automotive safety glass when this was done in the late 70's / early 80's. The pest control operation, even back then, had locations across the entire southern U.S., and they cycled hundreds of cars through the shop. The mechanic I spoke with said the company owned two auto transporters - one based in Tucson, and the other in Florida. When they wanted to rotate cars between cities, the Tuscon transporter would go as far as Dallas. The one from Florida would also go to Dallas, and the company's cars would be transferred all the way across the country.

 

Some photos of hot-rodded / street rodded Studebakers of this vintage show 2-piece glass with just a thin seam of sealant at the center, but the angle must be enough that one piece of flat glass can't be used.

 

Thanks Paul - that location is about 2 miles down from my house. Really feels like it's out in the country at that spot, though there's houses all around.

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