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1952 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe

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The Studebaker show was the week before the snow came through. Got about 2-3" of accumulation in central Tucson, but it melted off overnight. Nice to see for a couple more days on the higher mountains, though.


Yes, they could have gone some dramatically different directions with the '52 styling. For '52, they used '50-'51 fenders with a panel added to the lower inboard front edges, and a different (single-year-only) hood.


Spoke with my paint guy again. No work last week due to weather, but I think he's nearing the point of being tired of seeing my car in his yard. Hopefully that will lead to more visible results soon, maybe this weekend.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Photos from March 3rd - didn't get anything done last weekend & won't this weekend & probably won't next weekend either. March 3rd was dent-pull day. Used the "stinger" to weld the posts to the dents, then slide hammer to pull them. Didn't get any good pictures of that. Pulled a dent in the right rear fender that was (and will be) under the fender guard panels. Pulled a dent under the left tail light, and several others that were less significant.













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  • 2 weeks later...

Today's progress (4/7/19) - today was trunk lid day. There was peeling at the forward edge, and some chipping down each side. Sanded/blended those out. This car had been used as a commercial advertising display, so had evidence of multiple applications of vinyl lettering (shading in the paint). On the trunk lid, they'd used a knife or something to peel up the letters (or get an edge to get them started), so there were multiple gouges through the many layers of paint. That's what the areas with multi-colored edges are - blending out the gouge marks. Saw one slight dent to fill after all this was sanded & primed (circled in the after photos). Also took some photos of the car sitting out before we got started - I didn't have any outside shots in the sunlight last time because it was dark when we got done. Also put primer on the bumper brackets all around. Last 3 photos - before working on the trunk, I helped Jeff finish off a pickup truck where he was asked to patch some rust in the door corners. He hand-mixed the paint color, since the owner didn't have a paint code, and it came out right on. I'd never seen that done before.
















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4/13/19 - Frustrating day. Spent by far most of the day watching / helping with another job. Cool to see the process, but I wasn't there for another car. I think this guy is purposely dragging things out to see what he can get out of me. On the plus side, he's found a younger, enthusiastic helper who seems to be really talented and good at getting things done efficiently. Hopefully that guy gets a day on my car. Anyway, here's some photos of the other job going through, plus a little work at the end of the day on my car - the areas at the forward corners of the trunk where the factory lead seams crack through the paint.










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6 hours ago, Eric W said:

4/13/19 - Frustrating day.  I think this guy is purposely dragging things out to see what he can get out of me.


I know your feeling: I bought for 2 years (yes, two years) a '72 Cadillac coupe. I let transport that car to a guy I know who is also located in the USA, to do some work on that car. He hope that the car will be ready to ship to Switzerland at the end of this month!

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  • 3 weeks later...

5/4/19 - yet another frustrating day. He had a "lawnmower" project when I got there. Basically cutting the turf rollers and guards off from a golf course mower to make it the most dangerous "open field" mower in the history of mankind. So I got to help with a lawnmower for about 4 hours, before I started putting parts back in the car, and said something like "I gotta get going". He got really motivated at that point, and cranked away at welding on the lawnmower for about another hour. A person with half a brain 1) wouldn't invite their customer to participate in their own car project and have a lawnmower project waiting instead, and 2) when that customer threatens to leave, they'd push the lawnmower out immediately and not say "I'll just finish up these welds". So got maybe 3 hours on my car today. If this guy would just put the whole 8 hours on my car, it's within maybe 2 days of being done. Strongly, strongly don't recommend this part of this "hobby". It's basically a combination of torture and indentured servitude. Just buy a car with the paint job you want already on it, or deal with a real shop with real time commitments, or just go "rat rod" and accept the "patina". The backyard guy is a big waste of time and money. Did get to see some of the green on the car - got the trunk and a couple other parts done. Darker than I thought it would be, but I think it fits with the time the car is from.











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Clever boy, no PPE!


When I was a young person, we did "the tour" of the Roots Group car assembly plant in Petone, which is part of greater Wellington. The men in the paint booth were mostly Pacific Islanders. Not one of them were wearing any protection. They must have been high as kites! They were assembling Chrysler Valiants, Hillman Hunters, Hillman Avengers and probably Singer Vogues but I am not sure if that trim level was still offered. It must have been about 1971 or 2 or 3. We saw things in there that put me off owning any of those cars.

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5/10/19 - reasonably successful day. Got the hood done. Took about 3 hours, then letting it set up for a couple more hours so it was good and solid to put back on the hinges. These hinges are pretty easy to remove. The springs aren't for lifting the hood, but for keeping the lower bars of the 4-bar linkage going in the right direction as the hood is lowered. Spent some of the paint-drying time sanding on my car, but still got drawn into sanding for a while on another car. It's really feeling like this guy's operation is limited by the air compressor - spend a lot of time when DA sanding waiting for the compressor. A LOT of time.









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The spray guns don't draw near as much as the DA sander, and with multiple stops to prep another pint of paint for the gun (add hardener, mix for a minute), I think the compressor keeps up with the painting itself. His claimed reason for getting into painting the trunk was someone told him there was a "sale" on the paint at the paint shop. The paint shop is running a sale on certain things, but not paint. Anyway, that led him to ask me to go buy the paint. Then once we had it, he wanted to see it on something. I also suspect this is in part to try to keep me happy by seeing some visible change. But now that I've seen the painting process, it does make some sense to me to do those parts separately.


For one, by painting the hood alone, he was able to do under the sides and under the front edge - just part of the design of this hood where flat metal wraps around and the color should continue there, so the hood looks more factory-painted when it's open.


These parts are sizable portions of the car's surface area, and by having those done, the remaining paint job is essentially the sides and around the tops of the fenders, with just small strips above the rear bumper and below the front and back windows. True, all of that will be about 6x the hood job, but accessing the sides with basically the entire center of the car masked off should be easier to manage than working the sides, hood, and trunk together.

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May 18 - good progress today. Got the remainder of the car blocked down with 320 grit. Still a couple of spots needed additional filler, but it's quite possible we'll get the remainder of the paint on next week. Still not so easy working with this guy. When I got there, there was an hour before work on my car could start. After completing a round of power washing the lawnmower of death, moving various cars around in the yard, his Corvette in the garage wouldn't start, so plug in the charger and wait. I had brought the 6V charger for my car, so I moved the Studebaker fairly close to the garage and got that plugged in (just barely getting it started to make this move, I could tell that after 7 months of sitting in this guy's yard, this was THE LAST start that could be made without a jump or charge).

I brought my own compressor this time, figuring we could run that with his generator. I'd told him ahead of time I was doing this, and he was willing to give it a try. Of course, after I was almost to his place, I saw his text for me (of course) to bring gas for his generator. I had 2 gallons of gas with me for the Studebaker, since it's very low on gas, and what gas that's there was put in over 7 months ago now. I put about half of it into the Studebaker, and the rest would go to the generator. Also per usual, while I was waiting for the Corvette battery to charge, I got to remove the packrat nest (yet again) from the top of the Studebaker's engine. So after an hour of monkeying around with power spraying the death-mower and charging the Corvette, he says, let's work on the Studebaker outside. I had my compressor going and a sander on one side, and he had his compressor and a sander going on the other side. For a moment. Then he came over and used my sander to "show me something", cutting the efficiency of two compressors and two sanders back to one. I really think this guy is a master of the art of slowing things down on purpose.

Anyway, he did little bits of sanding and additional filling for about an hour, then declared it was "take five", which took truly, another hour. Drinking soda & smoking. Then he went off to remove packrat nests from another car (one of his drivers that he hadn't driven in a couple of years), so I was back to sanding on my own. Then he calls me over to help him with the packrat infestation removal. See how this slowness and inefficiency is fine art for this guy? The packrat infestation was typically packrat-clever. They had built a substantial home inside a spare tire suspended under the back of the vehicle. So we pulled the spare tire out to be cleaned. I went back to sanding. Then he calls me over to remove the spare tire hanger bracket. Fortunately, this was really simple - one nut and the bracket slipped out. Then another 2 nuts and a snap-out panel inside the trunk, and the other end of the spare hanger could be removed. Then he had me move the spare to the power sprayer. I'm not sure what he was doing - more smoking?

Then he was off to power spray the spare tire. I got going with the sanding again, and I didn't ask him to start the generator. I just did it. This went on for maybe 10 minutes, then the generator ran out of gas. At this point, I notice he's finished power spraying the spare tire and is back to more power spraying of the death mower. I had a little more gas in the gas can (that I'd brought for the Studebaker), so I added that to the generator. At this point, I'd sanded both rear fenders, the right door was done last week, I'd done the left door and the right front fender. Only left front fender to go, and I wasn't going to let him use this as the excuse to put off painting for yet another week. But he's endlessly crafty. He grabbed the air hose and started blowing out under the hood of the packrat-infested car. So I did what I could with the air hose that was generator-powered. At some point, he stopped my sanding yet again by "showing me" how to use the air to blow out under the hood of the Studebaker. Sun's going down at this point, but I'm not leaving today until this is done.

He finally went off to drive the death-mower around, leaving me with both air hoses. I switched off the hoses every minute or so, since neither compressor really keeps up with the DA sander, and got that front fender done. He returned from the mower to apply filler to yet more spots that had been uncovered. Among other spots, there were cracks, probably from the original body seams, on the cowl at the base of the windshield on each side. At this point, we packed up the gear, and sun was below the horizon, so I watched him feed his horses - another source of delays, as at least weekly, he declares a day when he's unavailable all day long to "go get hay". This is in addition to declaring Sundays off limits, and other various during-the-week appointments that don't matter to me because I have a full-time job. I was sticking around because it was past my dinner time, and I know his wife usually brings us something, which she did, and we had a good discussion of residential solar power, because my house is solar powered, and they want to get into it. Anyway, my prior feelings that this car has been within less than a day's work of being prepped for paint for about a month now are confirmed. If I'm ever tempted to do this again, I'll just do this kind of prep work myself, and present the painter with something that's within a day of being painted. From his activities today (and many other days), I think his real passion in all this is when it's painting time. That and getting the "customer" to do as much of what one might have thought of as his job as possible.

Photos show the car with the shine removed, as result of all my sanding.




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5/24/19 - Big progress today. After last week, I thought it was about prepped, but the painter was pointing out spots needing additional work. And he was also circulating around the car adding 3 different fill products faster than I could sand them down! (All hand-sanding with blocks today.) So it turned into about 4 hours of us cranking away like that, and he started talking about maybe we don't paint today. I didn't say anything specific, but he backed off from that and was talking about maybe we paint the front fenders. I suggested going back to the doors because it's easy to wrap the masking paper behind the door. At which point, he suggested just wrap it at the back of the doors, and we'll paint the doors as well. Just a note on timing - he's got chores around the house until what I consider about mid-day, so he doesn't have me arrive until 11:30. So with breaks & lunch, it's masked at about 6pm. Paint took maybe an hour, including letting the first coat sit for 1/2 hour or so. Then I hung out there for almost 2 more hours so the paint could set up enough to unmask, put the hood back on, and move the cars around in the yard. Putting the hood back on made me nervous, but these hinges are really easy to work with, and it wasn't an issue at all. The rear fenders have now passed through this final prep part of the process, so painting them won't involve the additional hours of patching and sanding.

The 3 products are a blue 3m single-component spot filler, which I don't like, but he does. He thinks it sands real nice, and when there's just a little left, that's true. But when it's a bit larger fill, it has voids that need yet another coat of something. Maybe this has more to do with how it's applied than the product. The other products are a red, very-small-spot single component filler, which he doesn't like for anything but the smallest spots because - I'm not sure, but I think it might crack as it dries on a larger area. The third product I bought yesterday at recommendation of the paint shop. It's a brown-mustard colored single-component filler, Smart brand. This went on almost too liquid, but it fills well and sands easily. He also did a small mix of 2-component filler for one larger dip that was just not getting there with the other stuff.









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  • 2 weeks later...

6/2/19 - big progress today. Completed the green.

Typically frustrating day for me, but the green is done, so I'll bring the car home next week.

Got there and his Corvette was out of the garage, so I thought I'd bring the Studebaker right in. Of course, he's got other ideas - pull the stairs down from the garage ceiling and get in the attic to fix the swamp cooler.

After about an hour of that, got the car in for masking, which I basically did myself.

After I was done with that and thought - time to mix some paint, he brings up a c-list ad for a Studebaker - and proceeds to call the guy and talk with him about it for a while.


Then he shows me a Willy's coupe. Anyway, we finally got to the painting business and got it done. Typical wait time for unmasking, then moved it outside. The masking on the rocker trim came off much better than I expected. That 3m blue tape doesn't leave any residue, even after being on there for several weeks.

It will sit at his place until next weekend when my wife can give me a ride to pick it up.

Then I'll teach myself the fine art of correcting runs and buffing out the paint, but at least it will be back on my schedule.

I do think I picked his brain and was brought through enough of the process that I'd try this myself or at least do all / nearly all of the body prep if I ever do this again.










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6/7/19 - Got it back to my garage. Popped the tail lights on, the headlight surrounds, propped the license plate in the back window, added some gas, and drove it 50 miles back. Pulled it out a little later for a wash. Want to do polishing & corrections before putting the bumpers & trim back on.


Drove pretty well without the weight of the bumpers, spare, and almost no gas on board. The gas gauge pegged on E about halfway back. I got off the highway after about 35 miles to be on smaller roads the rest of the way.







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6/8/19 - got some of the parts on + started paint corrections. Never done that before, so found a couple of videos online. I'm going with 500 grit, 1200 grit, 2000 grit, then polisher with Meguiar's level 5 then level 3. Putting tape around the area to avoid rubbing through something inadvertently. Saw one video where they were using body putty for this, which would be right-on accurate, but they also were using a DA sander with the 500 grit, so they could take the putty down fairly quickly. Sanding "block" is wood, about 3" long x 1" wide, 1/4" thick, radiused - it's a cutoff from an old wooden coat hanger.


Single drip on the left-front fender - disappeared perfectly. Got most of the front chrome on. Will need to get more clips for the scripts - lost along the way. Made rubber gaskets to go under the wiper fittings - these are listed in the Studebaker parts book, but aren't available for this year from Studebaker Int'l - easy enough to cut some from an old bicycle inner tube. Paint correction on right rear fender. It still shows a little, so I didn't achieve completely level. I can rework this.










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6/9/19 - more paint corrections. Working from smaller / lower down to higher & more noticeable. Nearly all on the right side...


First 5 photos - forward upper end of the RH door. Next 3 photos - above the RH door handle - didn't get the after photo. That was the biggest area to resolve.


Trunk stuck itself shut, so I'll have to figure that out. All past history, the trunk didn't really latch. It just stayed shut by gravity. Now it's well-latched, and the release isn't adjusted right.


Main things left are to attach the visor & swap out the wheels. I'll go with a chrome hole filler rather than put the radio antenna back. It's one less thing to have to work around, and the radio doesn't work.














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57 minutes ago, Roger Zimmermann said:

Anyway, you have to wait a very long time to have the paint cured completely.

That's a good point.  Are you getting dust from the sanding, or is it clumping up the paper?  If it's the latter, you might want to give the paint a few more days before final sanding.

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It's been 2 weeks of baking in the sun outside on the front fenders & doors. These sand quite cleanly. I didn't take it down perfectly smooth, so there's more material there to rework if I choose to. The one spot on the rear fender had been only 1 week, and again I didn't take that down completely, but all of this was making dust.

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I'll check it out. When I search for nib file, most results are for a ".nib" file type that's part of Apple computer operating systems! But I see the paint rework tool in there as well.

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Thanks, guys! My wife picked up some vintage suitcases for the trunk. Not sure where I saw the idea, but that's where I'll keep the tool bag, etc. Got to get the trunk latch working though...

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On 6/10/2019 at 3:12 AM, Roger Zimmermann said:

It's not easy to sand runs! Anyway, you have to wait a very long time to have the paint cured completely. As the guy who painted the car was generous with paint, the danger to go too deep is marginal.

Anyway, your car is much better looking than before!

The proper tool is called a nib file or nib tool - it is basically a very fine file mounted on a block of wood - works great on runs.  The only problem is to get one you need a decent automotive  paint store or have to mail order from someone like Eastwood. .

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6/15 - got the trunk latch working on Wednesday. Pulled the back seat, then the cardboard between the trunk & seat, and there's plenty of space between the structural supports to get back in there & pop the trunk from the inside. Also installed a machined cover plate at the radio antenna hole (custom-made for Porsche off eBay). Nicer than a stamped sheetmetal piece.


Got the visor reinstalled today. Made up a little gasket from inner tube for the roof center bracket. Keeping the car in the garage, and with only 11" of rain / year here, it probably won't get wet, but there wasn't a gasket there before.





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