View Full Version : On the Road with Grace - Day 3 (another long one - sorry)

07-09-2010, 08:54 PM
July 9th, 2010 – Day 3

When I was a kid at 4-H camp in the late 1950s and early Sixties, I learned a camp song that had the phrase, “Smilers never lose, and frowners never win.” That reminded me of the saying that winners never lose, and losers never win. (Yeah, I think that true if you hold a different definition of “winning.”) But that reminded me of John Paul Jones’ remark, “I have not yet begun to fight.” (Yes, I’m rambling, but I’m a ramblin’ man.) Make your point if you have one, please. Well, a good nights sleep and the SDC Forum (plus a close reading of my shop manual) put things in a different light. So here goes:

Whenever I’ve had charging system work done on Grace, I’ve always let Fleet Electric of Harrisburg, PA do it. I’m not atypical when it comes to passing off the “mysteries” of the workings of a voltage regulator to the “experts.” But after “talking” with Tex Grier and Jim Turner on the Forum, it sounds like the new Delco-Remy voltage regulator is fine, but it needs to be adjusted. Reading again through the regulator section of my shop manual tells me that it is the cutout relay that “tells” the generator when to charge the battery and when it’s fully charged. The air gap between the core and armature is supposed to be .020 as should be the gap between the contact points. That’s easy to check and set, providing I put my extra set of feeler gauges in my tool bag. (Keep your fingers crossed, ladies and gentlemen.) The point when the cutout relay contacts close to pass generator current to the battery to charge it is based on the closing voltage, which should be between 6.05 and 6.98 volts with a voltmeter connected between the GEN terminal of the regulator and ground while the generator is turning, that is, when the engine is running, of course. Funny thing about being a prepared non-Boy Scout; I have my tach/dwell/volt/ohm/etc./etc./etc. meter in the trunk of the car. I guess it’s time to check this out…after breakfast.

(8:20 PM – Day 3)

Tonight we’re in Elkhart, Indiana. Hey, wait a minute; I thought you were heading to Milwaukee. Yes, we were heading there, but after spending most of the day at the Studebaker National Museum, and after talking with Andy Beckman who frequently visits family in the Milwaukee area and so is familiar with Chicago traffic, Bob and I decided to take a pass on this year’s Millers at Milwaukee vintage race car meet. As Andy said – and as Bob, a career truck driver – there is no good way to get around Chicago. The roads have been under construction for the past 40 years with probably no end in sight. Bob and I agreed that when we next plan on going to the Miller meet, we’ll do it in a modern, air conditioned car.

So why Elkhart, Indiana? Well, not too many miles east of here is Eldon Hostetler’s Hudson-Essex-Terraplane museum – the one we passed up yesterday in order to get to South Bend and Studebaker resources. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

At breakfast at a really tiny café called Mindy’s, we met a biker who, during a conversation with one of the proprietor’s of the café mentioned the word, “Studebaker.” This prompted me to start a conversation with him (he drove his ’62 GT Hawk to Mindy’s) that lasted the better part of 30 minutes. He’s had his Hawk for about 7 months; it’s a survivor – unrestored but running well, even with a blowing a bit of blue smoke on acceleration. Upon returning to the hotel, I went to the car and took the voltage regulator out and dug through my tool bag, finding (hooray!) my extra set of feeler gauges. The hotel garage was stiflingly hot, so I brought the regulator and the tool bag back to the nicely air conditioned room where I took its cover off. Checking the gap between the contact points, it was on the money – a perfect .020. The gap between the armature and core, however, was way too big. It took a bit to loosen the adjusting screws that hadn’t been turned since the regulator was built goodness knows how many years ago. But when I had freed them up, it only took a few minutes to set the gap correctly. Yes, on returning to the car, I should have checked the closing voltage with the engine warmed up and running, but I could do that just as well in the museum parking lot as the hotel parking garage.

We didn’t even get into the museum before a family of three came over to the car to ask about it. Once inside, it wasn’t long before I spied Andy Beckman, officially introduced myself (though we have talked before at the York swap meet), and thanked him for being so willing to help. I told him more about our previous troubles and how I hoped I had finally solved the charging problem. Then he was off to a staff meeting, and I continued my tour of one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. And I don’t mean just car museums; I mean all museums. It is well worth the trip from anywhere, and you should be prepared to spend the whole day there. This is not just a collection of cars lined up in rows. It gives you not only the history of the car company, but also South Bend and many of the other industries located there. It is not lacking either in telling the story of the Studebaker family. The artifacts are simply amazing.

Bob and I hadn’t gotten past the early history of the Studebakers in East Berlin, PA and Ashland, Ohio, when a young woman came up to me and asked if I was Alan Mende. When I told her I was, she said that Andy had asked her to track me down because she – Courtney Meyers – was the Education and Public Programs Coordinator for the museum and they would like me to move my car in front of the museum so they could take some photos of it so they could post them on the museum Facebook site. Of course I would. Later, she asked me to write down some information to go along with Grace’s photos.

This was a distinct honor for me. I have to remember that in the course of a 10-year restoration, I got so close to the “forest that I couldn’t see the trees.” While my initial thought might be, “What’s all the fuss about,” I have to remember that to many other people, a 1954 Commander Starliner hardtop is a rare sight indeed that in many ways still looks as fresh a design as it was when it was built. Someone once said that when Studebaker introduced the Starliner, the other car companies were building dumplings.

It was after 4 PM when Bob and I finally left the museum. Sitting in the car and deciding what we should do – drive to Milwaukee or take a pass – a group of people from the Far East, China as it turned out, came walking past and stopped to take some pictures of the car. As one of the men moved to the front of the car to have one of his friends take a picture of him and the car, I got out and motioned him to come and sit behind the wheel. He was an engineer from Hong Kong here for conferences. We all talked for a while before they went into the museum. I need to mention here the international pull that the Studebaker National Museum has. Not only was it visited today by people from China, we also heard a family speaking German as they went through the exhibits.

No sooner had our new friends from China leave us than another fellow started talking with us. His dad is 89 years old and after being wounded in WWII and making a final recovery in South Bend, he went to work for Studebaker. He had some very interesting stories about how a foreman came over to him when he was working in the foundry and told him that he should take a break because with the amount of work he was doing, he was making the first shift look bad. Why don’t you go into the tool crib and join the card game going on there. His work ethic though was to give a days work for a days pay. We all know that featherbedding workers contributed in some part to the eventual demise of the company. Well, this man’s father wasn’t part of the problem.

Bob and I are ready to try for a third time to leave the museum grounds when the president of the Michiana Chapter of the SDC (I’m sorry I don’t remember your name, but since you’ve been following this little saga on the SDC Forum, I’m hopeful you’ll remind me) came over and asked, “Does this car have a name?” When I told him “Grace,” he said he had been following us on the Forum. Aren’t Studebaker people great? We all know the answer to that, too.

Finally (and I don’t want anyone to misinterpret that we felt at all put out by anyone who came over to talk to us because we thoroughly enjoyed your company) we got back on the road to Elkhart. Bob and I realized that we had missed lunch and decided to find a place to stop. We stopped at an Advanced Auto parts store so I could try to find a point file (yeah, I know who’s going to stock point files when there aren’t any new cars on the road with points) and while paying for a battery carrier (a spare for the tool bag) and a spark plug gapping tool (great also for setting the points on a cutout relay), we asked Tammy, one of the staff, to recommend a restaurant. Her suggestion was Logans Roadhouse. The steaks were prepared just the way Bob and I like them. After a leisurely dinner, we got back on the road (I flooded Grace again so Bob gave her a spritz of ether liven her up) and made Elkhart around 8. Tomorrow is another day. Stay tuned.

Bob Andrews
07-09-2010, 09:24 PM
No apologies for length needed. Love living vicariously through your posts. Talk about a great feature story for TW!

07-09-2010, 09:29 PM
Thanks Bob. When we get back home I'll send the complete story to Art and Anne.

07-09-2010, 10:11 PM
I know it is kind of sacrilege to talk about putting something so modern in a restored vintage car, but for long road trips, it is a good thing.
I had to take a different vintage car (from 1959, though a 1960 model) cross country in 2007. The car had to cross the desert states (eastern CA, NV, UT) then the Rockies, arrive in Dearborn MI, then head to PA, down the eastern coast to Louisville Kentucky, and back across the country (in 105 degree heat) to Los Angeles from there.
For that trip, my mechanic put in the Pertronix (which fits in so nobody can see it or that it exists).
Plans were to return the points at the end of that month long road trip.
Well, so far I haven't had it done. Been on a 6002 mile summer road trip in that car in 2009. Pertronix still needs zero attention.

Sure, you can bring spare points with you on all the road trips, and adjust them as needed. It is not like they cost an arm and a leg.
I know lots of people who have spare points in their trunk.
But the Pertronix just makes road trips so much easier, and it can be taken back out for authenticity any day you feel like it.

07-10-2010, 05:42 AM
Hi aenthal,

All you say is true about Pertronix, but it doesn't make the car interior any cooler or the fuel system any less prone to vapor lock. Years ago, I had an Allison pointless electronic ignition system in our early 1970s drivers because with the amount of driving my wife and I did, changing points so often got to be old. Believe me, once Grace's judging cycle is complete this fall when we try for an AACA Preservation Award, there will be a few modern additions made to her. But even with the windows all rolled up and the A/C on full blast, Grace will never be as quiet or comfortable as my wife's Lexus. (Sometimes she even lets me drive it.)

07-10-2010, 09:05 AM
Never as quiet as a Lexus, yes.
But tell me about the last time you had your Lexus parked and somebody came up and excitedly asked if they could take a picture of it.
Vintage cars make friends wherever you drive.
A Lexus just makes the trip.

07-10-2010, 09:47 AM
Vintage cars make friends wherever you drive.
A Lexus just makes the trip.

That would look good in stone.

Bob Bryant
07-10-2010, 10:36 AM
"So why Elkhart, Indiana? Well, not too many miles east of here is Eldon Hostetler’s Hudson-Essex-Terraplane museum – the one we passed up yesterday in order to get to South Bend and Studebaker resources. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself."

East of Elkhart is Shipshewana where the Hostetler Hudson-Terraplane-Essex is located. It also happens to be where my mother graduated from HS after learning English when she started elementary. Shipshewana has developed into quite a tourist venue with the Mennonite/Amish history there.

Alan, I am eagerly waiting for your assessment of the museum there. Hope to see it some day. Thank you.

52 Ragtop
07-10-2010, 03:55 PM
I spoke to Alan about 2 hours ago, they are on their eway to Noblesville! I think we'll end up downtown on the square tonight for the "Saturday Night Cruise in"