Studebaker Stories:

My South Bend story, 2002

By StudeBob Kabchef

Studefarming in CA

Believe me, I had looked forward to the 38th SDC meet long before it ever even got close. My trek there in '97 was such a cool experience that I felt certain 2002 and   it's consequent sesquicentennial celebration could only be better. South Bend has a midwestern aire about it that's familiar to my senses. Having grown up on the outskirts of Toledo, South Bend feels very comforting, as it's so much like Toledo. Even if it's not anywhere near as large as the "Glass capitol". My drive to SB in '97 is a story in itself. I won't elaborate on it now. But I did look forward to driving all the way to Indiana again as I enjoy promoting Studebakers by keeping them vibrantly alive and on the highways of the good ol' USA. The sad fact is, I'm a terrible "planner" and "schedule-master". In spite of my knowing that, I still end up  coming down to the wire in a panic! The trip to SB 2002 would shape up no differently.

Having driven out Transtar PU in '97, I really wanted to push our '60 Lark ragtop to SB this trip. And while the car IS drivable, it was/ is far from finished in many ways. But I assured myself that as SB 2002 approached, I'd knuckle down and see to it that the ragtop was made ready for the long drive. Right......

Rollout weekends (weekends I'd hoped to uncap the Lark from it's winter sleeping berth) kept coming and going. I even had a brief flirtation with a fantasy about finishing up our hot rod Daytona hardtop for the trip. I guess I was only trying to distract myself from the nagging notion that the ragtop just was not gonna go to SB.

Other priorities kept poking their needy heads up. There was the well pump that went out, there was this, there was that and all of them begged that their needs were more important than a frivolous drive across the US. A year melted to months and months eventually melted to weeks and I realized if I had any chance of driving a Studebaker to South Bend, it would have to be my trusty old pal of a Transtar.

It got so close to my desired departure date that I finally abandoned doing anything but attending to some details and changes I wanted to make to the truck before I set out in it.

The brakes needed freshening - there was a nagging oil leak I'd just been ignoring - there were a couple of headliner pieces I never HAD bothered to fit to the truck and I'd made provisions for seat belts a couple of years back but had never finished the installation. OH yeah, I'd also toyed with the idea of adding A/C to it and had, in fact, rounded up a really vintage under-dash unit that I was BOUND and DETERMINED to see installed one day. All this I endeavored to do before I left. And hopefully, that departure date would be a week before the meet was to start.

As far as the appearance of the Transtar, I wasn't too worried about making it look nicey-nice. I figured - what the heck - it's a DRIVER! But my faithful body and paint guy, Rick Guzman, wasn't about to let me show up at a meet in a skuzzy-lookin' Studebaker. Even though Rick had not done the paint work on the truck to start with, he felt certain he could breath new life into the faded red and white enamel. Not to mention the be-starred blue fenders I had added as a statement after the 9/11 attack on America.

So while Rick busied himself with the appearance of the truck, I set about attending to details mechanical. In the end - after many days of balls out effort - Rick had the truck looking better than it EVER HAD! It was truly stunning in it's mirror-like gleam. Along the way, I felt compelled to add to the fenders some commemorative notation of the 150th anniversary of Studebaker's founding. I felt sure that this would draw attention to that fact AND to Studebakers in general by my doing so. Besides that, it would be just plain fun! Rick knew of a guy that paints advertising and emblems on commercial vehicles and I hired the guy to do the lettering on the truck's fenders.

Bed sprayed with bed liner - tool box removed and polished - wheels all removed, detailed and polished along with the whimsical little center caps (They're really Buick wheels), the truck finally said it was ready to go.

Of course, given my inability to do things in timely fashion (what's that word? procrastination??), I was now on the brink of departure with 3 days to get there for the opening day. No matter - we'll make it! On Tuesday morning, I started the final loading of "stuff" for the trip to South Bend. There were tools of course, and a few spare parts like I always carry. There were a few parts to be delivered to buyers and friends. There was clothes and bedding and lawn chairs and a cooler and this and that and so on. Whew!

About 3 hours into my preparations it got to where I was limping badly given the pain from my right knee. I don't recall twisting it or jumping on it unduly but it was telling me that it wanted some relief from the rigors of loading all the "stuff". As determined as I was, it got to the point where I HAD to surrender. It was impossible to go on with the pain I was being stung with. DAMN!

I called my doc and got an appointment for an hour from then. Good! Doc'll give me some pills and I'll be on my way! WRONG! Doc tells me I have to GET off my feet and give a bruised muscle... er, tendon... er... whatever it was a chance to rest. OK ......So I went home, plopped into my Laz-E-Boy and festered. About 11 PM, I went to bed. My knee feeling somewhat better for it's rest. Next morning - looked at the clock - swung my feet out of bed and stood up. Hey! I can do this! We're gonna go today. By 10AM or so, I was giving the wife one last kiss before my departure. I know she wanted me to stay and fly to SB. But she knew that my stubborn butt would have none of that after all the preparations that had been made.

Off I went! The truck was feeling really good. She was ready to cruise into her hometown one more time and I could feel it. Right off though, me dang-nabid bum knee was crying about having to draw up my leg to work the brake pedal. Gas pedal wasn't too bad. Besides, the cruise control took care of most of that duty once we got goin'.

But every time I had to apply the brake to accommodate traffic it would start to pain me. It got worse each time. And by the time I got to the other side of Modesto, I HAD to stop to give my limb some rest. I found a quiet little park in a suburb of Modesto and set in the shade of a big oak tree. I wanted to go to South Bend. I wanted to do it in a STUDEBAKER. But my yearning was tempered by the vision of me in some little clinic, of some little burg, along Interstate 80 somewhere. It was not a pretty vision. DAMN! I knew what I HAD to do if I was gonna get there at all. And aside from my rendezvous with a lot of fellow Stude nuts, there was a planned family reunion at my folks place in Michigan after the SB meet. I HAD to make it there. Some way - Some how. Yet I was dogged by the notion that my Stude had only been able to enjoy a mere 10th of the miles it would've taken to get there.

Well, the rest is a bit anticlimactic. I did manage to drive the truck back home and by a stroke of luck - found a flight (at a very reasonable cost) that left the next day. I flew into Detroit, rented a BrandX car and drove across the state to South Bend.

After a superbly enjoyable week with old and new friends, I spent a week visiting with family in Michigan. My dear wife flew in from California for that week. Then we both flew back on separate flights.

I could say a lot more about the meet. It seemed like it would be along meet up front. But it melted like a snow cone on an Arizona sidewalk. It was over before I knew it.

One vision I'll keep for years to   come. One evening of that week, I waited for some fellow Stude friends to join me for dinner at a local restaurant. I was a bit early and I just stood out front and took in the fading hours of an Indiana summer's evening. There was a traffic light on the main thoroughfare in front of this eatery. As I watched the traffic light cycle, each red would catch at least a couple of beautiful Studebakers. Sometimes more. It finally dawned on me that there probably wasn't another place on earth that I could stand and fully expect to see these beautiful, vintage machines come and go. Nowhere! What a spectacle.

We all like to show our cars at meets (some more than others - I'm not a "show" person though) Anyway, the real thrill of Studebakers is not sitting with their hoods open for inspection. It's seeing them in motion and hearing their special engines as they take off from a standstill. Studes belong on the road. The brothers and the company never built a vehicle for any reason than for it to be used. Next SB meet - I'll drive my Lark.

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