Studebaker Stories


Lady Luck

By Anna Marco,

I didn’t want the entire car and Charlie Goss wasn’t selling just the motor.  He said, “Only if you take the whole thing.”   That was NOT part of my plan. I only want the motor for my truck project, not an entire car to go along with it. However, some plans have plans of their own. Luck is fortune that operates to good advantage of an object. A personification of luck often involved in a gambler's superstitions is Lady Luck.  I didn’t know we had just met.

Chance or good planning?
Charlie wanted his twins to fix the old 55 and race it on the dry lakes but the boys didn’t want too.  They’re into motorcycles.  In 2008, I reluctantly buy the jalopy for $400 just for the mill in a “What the hell am I doing?” moment.  Lucky me?  Not sure. I only wanted a motor. Now I have to pay storage for two cars just to house a V8. That’s gonna cost $1800 a year and that could be going to car parts.

I don’t like to gamble but I want to be the object of good fortune. When I throw money on the table its for good reason. I guess if you need something to do, get your ass off the couch and build a hot rod because it will keep you busy. Usually I only impulse spend on shoes.   Now I am worried about California EPA crap, high registration fees and a trunk full of unidentifiable parts. Fortune is smiling upon my thick skull but I am too dumb to know. I buy the old gal because Ricky Gazafy said so.  He’s partner to this crime and sees treasure where I don’t, but I trust him and need a motor. It’s a windfall right? Dunno.  The V8 is badass, it turns over and it’s enough for me.

Good Fortune
June 2010:  I have three hot rods, storage bill anxiety and don’t want a 1955 V8 in my V6 truck anymore. I want a flathead. Off to the salvage yard to find a 1945 flathead so I will stop whining about dropping “a ’50’s era motor in my ’40s era truck.”  Instead I end up with a Dodge mill from a friend of John Saltzman’s  because Keith Dean said so and that’s how I purchase stuff.  The V8 stays in the old ’55 just like Ricky originally planned. Guess he had his own agenda from the start, didn’t he?

Custom glass expert Paul Rick stops by to pop windows, change petrified rubber and give much needed advice. Later, he proffers,  “There’s some rare 60’s speed parts in that car including a Hurst shifter.  You wont find cars like that at car shows.”  Hmmm, seems Alan Mayes said the very same thing just last week. He’s building a Stude too.

Upon closer inspection my little Studebaker is an intact,  low-slung, Commander with a 289-ci mill, 1960’s A/C in a custom console, an AFB Carter carb with water injection setup, a Frantz oil bath filter, dual exhaust, and original rare 60’s Offenhauser valve covers with breathers that are worth more than the entire car. Also one cast iron 4bb manifold, late 60’s custom button tuck interior, a fold down rear seat with a console and an interior safe fabbed into the quarter panel!  There’s a cool split GM front seat, that early ‘60s Hurst shifter on the floor, a frenched antenna, solenoid trunk popper, electric fuel pump, an old FoMoCo Mercury AM radio, all the chrome and trim, and only 60,000 miles on her. Whoever owned the car before me sunk some money into her with the intent of customizing it.  I just hit the rusty motherlode. Now that’s luck.

Special Stude
I join the Studebaker Drivers Club and write to the Studebaker Museum requesting a build sheet on my vehicle.  Weeks later I receive my Stude “birth certificate” in the mail. Dual exhaust and a power kit are factory and the car was once Alpena Blue. Ain't that a kick? Mom’s first car, a ’50 Ford convertible was a similar shade of that color--another good omen. I find an ELVIS charm in the old ashtray and begin to think, “Well, the car is starting to rock but when it is going to roll?”  Pessimists question luck even when it stares them in the face.

Lickity split the Commander is stripped down to bare metal. We throw cream primer by Hot Rod Flatz courtesy of Jim McGowan & the fine folks at The Kustom Shop on the sled so it wont rust while everything is ripped out. Soon wiring, hoses, brakes and the radiator are taken to task and the block gets those petrified petcock and freeze plugs drilled out. That was a bitch. Ricky hammers 40 dents out, then repairs a crushed rear bumper and tail fin. After 400+  endless hours of days & nights bodywork/blocking/prep is completed,  a custom shaved and filled dash is installed and the ashtray and radio are tossed into storage. Soon a completely new floor pan (front to back with a hatch door over the transmission for easy access) is dropped in to replace the rusted one and we seal it all up with a product called Blue Magic Pure Rubber Coating. Go get that stuff!

Roll The Dice
I got my stylistic bearings from many talented men: Ricky Gazafy, Keith Dean, Larry Watson,  Craig “Kiwi” Hopkins, Tick One, Fabio Chamness, Paul Rick, Dennis McPhail, John Saltzman & Alan Mayes. It’s hot rod “Anna-rchy” & I've been overthrown.  Regardless of what I think about dry lakes racing & automatic transmissions, the car will remain a 3-speed, and mimic a mid 50s’ to early 60’s Bellflower custom.  The men have taken over thus I am reduced to bankroll and begging for power steering which I won’t get. Shortly thereafter, a guy walks in and offers a straight trade for a nice old T-Bird.   Ricky counters,  “Don’t want to sell it ‘cuz passions run this project and the owner is emotionally attached.”   Does that mean him or me?  I dunno, but one thing’s for sure, the car is not going anywhere.  I suggest you go talk to Alan about his ‘52 concept Stude instead. Bet that’s not for sale either. Studebaker skeevers hold onto their steel.

Got Paint?
“So, are we going to use flake or ground glass, or not?”   Not once will I ever get a straight answer. I go crazy until Larry Watson states, “The car will be two tone green like the second version of the old Doss custom & any scallops will be outlined in Metallic Gold by One Shot.”  Flake & ground glass are vetoed twice. I fantasize about laced scallops which never happen and Lime Green striping replaces Gold. I am allowed metalflake but on the steering column only.

Eventually, I appreciate my “Stude-bank-breaker.”  It’s a clean design with fine lines but its been sitting for five years sucking cash. No irony its green. I ship bumpers off to Victor at Millennium Chrome (Ontario, CA) for triple plating, gauges to Shannon Hudson at Redline Gauge Works (Santa Clarita, CA) for refurbishing, and the cooling system to Jeff Johnson at Fontana Radiator (Fontana, CA). Paul Rick will handle re-wiring, glass, motor and finish work and a new 12 volt Painless Wiring kit will pulled by an 8-year old named Jasper. Willy at DW Auto rebuilds the Carter carburetor. John Saltzman wrangles choice parts from Mr. A.W. Turley (1956 Packard tail lenses but I gifted those to Mark Hopkins for his custom Ford Victoria).  After a long spell, my project looks better. The block gets painted Moss Green and the motor fires with 80 lbs of oil pressure in the gauge. Tick One paints a car portrait and my ’55 turns into a four-leaf clover. Joint custody is shared with Ricky and we name her “Lady Luck.”

What’s Luck?
I am fond of the little custom; She morphed into a beauty. Eventually I will buy whitewalls, Tranny John makes custom 1958 Olds hubcaps & Craig Hopkins at Kiwi Custom installs new interior. In September 2009, the car is witness to the biggest California wildfire in history escaping with just a layer of ash raining down upon her. Luck is planning, paying attention, intent, taking advantage of an opportunity to make things better.  It’s an element of chance but that’s what makes life exciting doesn’t it?  Yes, it took awhile to realize a sweet ride fell into my lap but that’s the kick of taking a chance.  Maybe ya’ hit a little lotto. Meanwhile a friend sent me an original brick from the Studebaker plant that was being torn down. Its made of pink river clay. His grandfather used to work there. I have a real piece of Stude provenance and its sitting on my desk

By the way, Lady Luck never raced on the dry lake, but we did get an offer of $20,000. Bet  Charlie’s boys wished their Dad had never sold her.  Did I mention I got another Stude-bank-breaker from Charlie as well?  Half a truck from 1947. Nothing from the cab back. Wish me luck.

 

 

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