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Thread: 1963 R2 Lark "The Whistler"

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    1963 R2 Lark "The Whistler"

    Newbie (well, it was his first post!) Mike Lynch from Phoenix posted a request for more information about a certain 1963 R2/4-speed Lark that drag raced in Phoenix back in the day: The Whistler.

    Rather than tag along at the end of an older Ted Harbit topic, I thought I'd post what I have about the car in a new thread.

    Here goes.
    It all began with a period clipping I cut out of the June 1963 edition of Speed Mechanics, Pages 29 and 30:



    Depending on your screen and monitor, the caption beside the above picture might be difficult to read. Here's what it says:

    "Surprise winner in A/Compact Stock class was a Lark equipped with the factory-blown Avanti engine. It proved to be a real stormer, zipping through the clocks at a speed of 96.49 in 14.59."

    Ray Tanner Motors in Phoenix promoted high-performance Studebakers as much as anybody; he sold a lot of them. Apparently, "the boys" decided to campaign one of their own!

    I wrote them the following letter, which is self-explanatory. I was two months shy of 18 years old when I wrote it:



    I got the following nice letter and photo in reply. Again, self-explanatory. (Yipes; sorry for the poor cropping):



    Page 2:



    Floyd Mendenhall enclosed a nice, glossy B&W photo of the car with his letter, as then being raced, that I have thankfully kept in good shape almost 50 years now:



    Yes, I have examined that Hawk on the extreme right side of the photo, behind the fence, and I'm fairly certain it is a 1956 Golden Hawk among the spectators!

    To answer the next question, The Whistler is yet to be located! There are no known color photos extant, but "we" have analyzed it to death and are fairly certain it is Blue Mist. Andy Petrass has done extensive research and, by elimination, I think we have it whittled down to being one of two possible serial numbers.

    They are somewhere else right now and I need to leave for a meeting, so I'll post them later when I locate them.

    Enjoy, all...and thanks for asking, Mike! BP
    Last edited by BobPalma; 07-28-2014 at 04:15 PM. Reason: corrected original source of magazine clippings...finally, after 50+ years!

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    To answer the next question, The Whistler is yet to be located! There are no known color photos extant, but "we" have analyzed it to death and are fairly certain it is Blue Mist. Andy Petrass has done extensive research and, by elimination, I think we have it whittled down to being one of two possible serial numbers.
    There was a write-up in Jet Thrust News #17: http://www.studebaker-info.org/JTN/JTNEWS/jtn17.htm

    Craig

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    Bob, Thanks for all the information! Any idea how they named the car? Trying to determine if there was any relation to Elmo Tanner the musician or coincidence. Thanks Again.

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8E45E View Post
    There was a write-up in Jet Thrust News #17: http://www.studebaker-info.org/JTN/JTNEWS/jtn17.htm Craig
    Thanks for looking that up, Craig. Here are the particulars from that issue of Jet Thrust News over ten years ago:

    “The Whistler,” 63V15969. This was the handle of the Ray Tanner (Phoenix, AZ) AHRA drag car. Andy Petrass has researched the car’s VIN with the aid of a great photograph but wasn’t able to pin down the VIN. JTN published this photo courtesy of Bob Palma in JTN #5 and #6. The car was a 1963 2 door Regal R2 4 speed. Via Jerry Kaiser, Bill Eastburn relates that the car was Blue Mist. With the aid of George Krem, JTN has determined its VIN to be 63V15969. The car was ordered without heater or radio. The fate of The Whistler and its engine remains unknown.

    I can't remember right now how we concluded that was the probable serial number, but we did. So if anyone locates 63V15969, it is undoubtedly a Very Special Car in The Studebaker World. Since it was delivered in a dry climate, let's hope it is lurking in a small, remote junk yard somewhere in the high southwest hills. BP
    Last edited by BobPalma; 03-25-2013 at 08:27 PM.

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    President Member Lou Van Anne's Avatar
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    Ray Tanner Motors: I spent a lot of time in their showroom...drewling!
    Lou Van Anne
    62 Champ
    64 R2 GT Hawk
    79 Avanti II

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asesolen View Post
    Bob, Thanks for all the information! Any idea how they named the car? Trying to determine if there was any relation to Elmo Tanner the musician or coincidence. Thanks Again.
    You're welcome, Mike.

    I have never heard how the car was named. I always assumed it had something to do with the high-pitched sound of the supercharger being interpreted as a whistle, but that's just an opinion.

    (Either that, or it had a severe vacuum leak they never located! ) BP

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    To clarify the lettering on the door:



    Below the huge Ray Tanner name is:

    Studebaker Avanti "Jeep"
    1500 N. Central
    Phoenix


    The information below the window is on two lines. The first one says:

    * Owner - Chuck Bradshaw

    The second line is difficult. I've looked at the original under a magnifying glass and can only make out the following:

    * [something] by - Floyd Mendenhall

    That [something] is too long a word to be Tuned. It could be Prepared. BP

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lou Van Anne View Post
    Ray Tanner Motors: I spent a lot of time in their showroom...drewling!
    I wouldn't doubt that for a minute, Lou! BP

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    President Member 62champ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    You're welcome, Mike.

    I have never heard how the car was named. I always assumed it had something to do with the high-pitched sound of the supercharger being interpreted as a whistle, but that's just an opinion.

    (Either that, or it had a severe vacuum leak they never located! ) BP
    Maybe it was reaction of spectators who had never seen the car go down the track.

    One day when my father and Uncle took their '51 to the strip, my Uncle overheard a guy laughing when my dad pulled up to the line. "What is he going to do with THAT?" the guy said pretty loud - a veteran track spectator turned around and responded, "if you just wait a second he is about to show ya..."

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    I note that in December of 1963 you were both using Postal Zones instead of the new Zip Codes.

    My guess on the Whistler name is the sound of the supercharger at high RPMs.
    Gary L.
    Wappinger, NY

    SDC member since 1968
    Studebaker enthusiast much longer

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    Hi All. Mike has been posting photos, now it's my turn! Hope you enjoy.

    Lark 2.jpg
    Lark 4.jpg
    Lark 3.jpg
    Lark 5.jpg
    Lark 1.jpg

    Attachment #2 say's "Serviced by Floyd Mendenhall"

    Attachment #5 says "Don't be caught dead sitting on your seat belt"
    Last edited by studejohn; 04-11-2013 at 10:47 PM.

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    Nice pics. but each one I open boots me from the forum and you cant simply go back.!?

    Dean.

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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    OPPS, look like somebody DOES have the "missing" Whistler!

    Welcome John!
    StudeRich
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner




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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by studejohn View Post
    Hi All. Mike has been posting photos, now it's my turn! Hope you enjoy.

    Lark 2.jpg
    Lark 4.jpg
    Lark 3.jpg
    Lark 5.jpg
    Lark 1.jpg

    Attachment #2 say's "Serviced by Floyd Mendenhall"

    Attachment #5 says "Don't be caught dead sitting on your seat belt"
    Nice pics. but each one I open boots me from the forum and you cant simply go back.!?

    Dean.
    See if this helps.











    This confirms it has no Climatizer

    Craig

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    It did!
    Thank you.

    Dean.

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by studejohn View Post
    Hi All. Mike has been posting photos, now it's my turn! Hope you enjoy.

    Lark 2.jpg
    Lark 4.jpg
    Lark 3.jpg
    Lark 5.jpg
    Lark 1.jpg

    Attachment #2 say's "Serviced by Floyd Mendenhall"

    Attachment #5 says "Don't be caught dead sitting on your seat belt"
    John, welcome to the forum...and the ownership of such a rare car! It is so good to have confirmation of its survival, regardless of condition. Cool beans!

    Since we have photos and correspondence from "back in the day," this would make a wonderful, documented story for Turning Wheels.

    What are your plans for the car? If you'll give me your mailing address, I'll make nice color copies of the 1963 correspondence I have and send them to you. BP

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    [/I][/COLOR]I can't remember right now how we concluded that was the probable serial number, but we did. So if anyone locates 63V15969, it is undoubtedly a Very Special Car in The Studebaker World. Since it was delivered in a dry climate, let's hope it is lurking in a small, remote junk yard somewhere in the high southwest hills. BP
    Yep, John struck GOLD in them thar HILLS!!

    Craig

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    Golden Hawk Member Roscomacaw's Avatar
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    What a GREAT story! John, I hope the whistler's last chapter is yet to be written.
    No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

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    Just read your post..........Thanks for sharing.....one very interesting and very Cool story!!!!!! Loved all the pic that everyone contributed........!!!! By the way, Bob, I was 1 1/2 when you wrote the letter to Ray Tanner Motors!!!

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    Is there a Ray Tanner Jeep today? <G>

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by qsanford View Post
    Is there a Ray Tanner Jeep today? <G>
    Nope! http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&bav...&ved=0CLgBEMgT ...at least in the Phoenix area.

    Craig
    Last edited by 8E45E; 04-12-2013 at 05:15 PM.

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    A little Tanner history at this link...

    http://tanner-motors.com/history/

    When Ray Tanner Sr. first decided to open an auto business in 1945 he had many auto manufacturers to choose from. He began his automobile career as a partner with Ray Korte at Ray Korte Kaiser-Frazer before opening his own used car and Toyapet (now Toyota Motors) lot in 1958. He eventually moved to 1500 North Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix and sold Studebaker and Jeep vehicles. In 1965 he finally imported Swedish made Volvos to the United States and built the first Phoenix area Volvo dealership. He fell in love with the safety, reliability and comfort that all Volvos gave to him, his family and his customers.
    In the spring of 1972, Ray moved the dealership to 2143 West Camelback Avenue where it would stay for the next twenty-seven years. During the young days of the dealership, Ray’s oldest son and namesake, Ray Jr., began working for his father as parts runner and lot boy. No, there were no special family privileges or nepotism in this company. Ray Sr. instilled a hard work ethic in his son and Ray Jr. believed it was not only fair, but necessary, that he work his way up to the top just like any other employee. After many successful years as an office assistant, new car dealer and salesman, Ray Tanner Jr. was promoted to General Manager and eventually Vice President of the oldest running Volvo dealership in Phoenix.
    When Ray Sr. decided to retire from the automotive industry in 1992, he passed the torch to his son, Ray Jr., and son-in-law, George Wylie. Together they were “Committed to Excellence” and aimed to serve the Phoenix metropolitan area with the best prices and friendliest service they could provide. George was the service manager and supervised the timely and fair repairs of all service customers while Ray became the President and C.E.O. as he encouraged his salesman to provide a no pressure, no hassle customer experience just like his father always promised. Together, with Ray Senior’s legacy supporting them, they built the most successful, customer-based Volvo dealership in the Phoenix area.
    At the young age of 11, Chris Tanner, son of Ray Tanner Jr., began working for his father during the summer as a parts runner and shop cleaner. Summer after summer, Chris returned to work for his father as either a parts runner or lot attendant. After graduating from Northern Arizona University, Chris went to work for his dad once again as a new and used car salesman. It was here that he helped to develop the first Phoenix area Volvo website for the dealership and was manager of the online sales department.
    After many years of serving the Phoenix community proudly, Ray Tanner Volvo shut its doors on August 31st, 1999. It was not too long after this that Chris Tanner realized that there was a true need in the Phoenix community for a trustworthy Volvo repair shop. He decided to open Tanner Motors in August of 2004 and has been servicing vehicles at better prices and with better service than the mega-dealers of today. Chris brought the same work ethic and determination to serve the Phoenix Volvo community to his shop on 7th Street and Colter that his father introduced in him and his grandfather before him. Chris has also begun to build a dependable pre-owned vehicle business founded on the same ethics and morals of Ray Tanner Volvo. In addition to the Volvo repair that Tanner is famous for, we also are now servicing BMW and Mini Cooper as well. Tanner Motors is proud to serve the Phoenix Volvo community in an ethical, responsible, and courteous way that is and always will be “Committed to Excellence”.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by asesolen; 04-12-2013 at 02:47 PM.

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update, and nice to see at least one of the family members is still involved with cars.

    Craig

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    Well thanks all who in joyed my find As far as finding Gold in there those hills it maybe.But more like fools Gold. But I sure like the way it shines.Bob thanks fore all that great info on the car and when you wrote that letter to Ray Tanner I was only about 2 months old. Guys like you make this club great. I have some photos to post of the car in its hay day .That Bill Eastburn gave me. And others of the cars present state.

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    Speedster Member 63avanti.'s Avatar
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    wow! this was a great read. Its cool to see that the car is still out there. Any plans to bring the car back to life or maybe add to the national museum as is?

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    Well I have a lot of the hard to find parts to put it back together. But time and money is the problem.Or something like that.As far as the Museum goes I don't think they have the time for it and would put into storage or most likely put in there Auction.

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    President Member SScopelli's Avatar
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    Hey StudeJoh.

    Is Tanner or family able to let you know what block/head combo they had in that car? He said R2, but that is a great interpolation from what I've found and read.

    Did Bob ever take him up on getting Tanner's recipe for making a fast Stude?

    Great to know there is a Phoenix legend as well!

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SScopelli View Post
    Hey StudeJoh.

    Is Tanner or family able to let you know what block/head combo they had in that car? He said R2, but that is a great interpolation from what I've found and read.

    Did Bob ever take him up on getting Tanner's recipe for making a fast Stude?

    Great to know there is a Phoenix legend as well!
    No, Sebastian; I never did. Note that our correspondence was in December 1963. Within the month, Studebaker production in South Bend went belly-up and the R-engine program was down the drain. Note the ominous date on my letter to Tanner: December 9, 1963!

    As a soon-to-be 18-year-old about to enter college, my Studebaker interest fell off dramatically , although cousin George Krem and I stayed with it to get his new 1964 Challenger located and bought in the summer of 1964, and the R3 engine put in it later. BP

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    President Member SScopelli's Avatar
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    I went to see the "Whistler" for myself today. Wow, what a piece of Stude History!

    It is ruff. It looks to have been a Racer that was passed around a bit to a few owners.
    The modification made to it for racing were ruff by today's standards. Welded on brackets then cut off, a few "on the field body modifications" made with a sledge hammer and rattle can paint here and there to cover the scars.

    But I'd still take her home in a heart beat!

    Barn finds seem to be about finding that proverbial lost car in the Barn. While the "Whistler" was found out side and not in a barn, the barn find in this story was finding some performance car parts.

    John had indicated that in his journeys he came upon this box with a cam in it. He found this way before he came across the car.
    DSCF4106.jpg
    Here was the shipping label on the Box. It took me a moment to remember what C.O.D meant.
    DSCF4105.jpg
    Closer inspection it shows it was a special order for "Floyd Mendenhall c/o Ray Tanner Motors"
    DSCF4109.jpg
    Inside the box was a fresh ground "Hard Face" Studebaker performance cam. It was complete with a box of thin wall lifters. The last picture below is the stamp on the end of the cam
    DSCF4107.jpg DSCF4110.jpgDSCF4108.jpg

    On another parts find he came across a box with a disassembled SN-60 supercharger.. The lip on the intake was stamped, well you can look at the picture for yourself..
    DSCF4114.jpg

    OK, so a bit off topic here , but It will relate in the end.. Hollywood likes these movies where a guy gets killed and his ghost comes back to avenge his death. Clues pop up here and there and in the end they guy gets his justice..

    Could it be that the "Whistler" has some unfinished business in the relevancy of racing history?
    It survived all these years with its racing badges covered up or faded away, being passed about used and abused and yet did not end up crushed in a junk yard.
    Then by happenstance, its pieces scattered about the states coming together and then finally finding the car.
    As John noted, he has a few of the hard to find parts and it is only a matter of time until another piece of the "Whistler" is found.
    The ghost of the "Whistler" can rest a bit easier today knowing someday it will get its justice!

    You cant make this stuff up..

    Thanks John for letting me come by to see it!

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing those photos!!

    Craig

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    300 degrees duration and .505" lift.

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Very cool stuff! Thanks for sharing.

    Note that Floyd's letter of December 12, 1963, mentions the optional factory cam kits...well, I guess they did come from a factory, even if it wasn't Studebaker's! BP

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    President Member r1lark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    Very cool stuff! Thanks for sharing.

    Note that Floyd's letter of December 12, 1963, mentions the optional factory cam kits...well, I guess they did come from a factory, even if it wasn't Studebaker's! BP
    Maybe it was obtained via the Paxton Division, and shipped directly to Tanner Motors?
    Paul
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    Visit The Studebaker Skytop Registry website at: www.studebakerskytop.com

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    President Member SScopelli's Avatar
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    I've seen some people post build sheets for their cars. How does one go about getting the build sheet?

  35. #35
    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SScopelli View Post
    I've seen some people post build sheets for their cars. How does one go about getting the build sheet?
    From The Studebaker National Museum:

    https://studebakermuseum.org/store/production-orders/

    Send them the appropriate fee and the vehicle serial number and they will send you a copy of the Production Order (not the original document, of course). You don't have to own the vehicle, so it is useful if you are negotiating to buy a vehicle (car or truck) and you want to verify any seller claims as to originality or authenticity.

    I might add that The Museum does not own these documents. They have them, but must "rent" the information from the rightful owners each time they sell it. Hence, the fee charged is not all profit, and is a good source of income for the museum. There still isn't a free lunch.... BP
    Last edited by BobPalma; 04-22-2013 at 04:17 PM. Reason: added SNM link

  36. #36
    President Member SScopelli's Avatar
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    Hey John,

    Having a hard time finding this post?

    Here is a link to an old Hemming article about the Red Tomato that mentioned "The Whistler."

    http://www.hemmings.com/mus/stories/...feature21.html

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    SScopelli thanks for the info.

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    Hay all what's the chances of the engine being found. Any one running it in there car?

  39. #39
    President Member SScopelli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    From The Studebaker National Museum:

    https://studebakermuseum.org/store/production-orders/

    Send them the appropriate fee and the vehicle serial number and they will send you a copy of the Production Order (not the original document, of course). You don't have to own the vehicle, so it is useful if you are negotiating to buy a vehicle (car or truck) and you want to verify any seller claims as to originality or authenticity.
    Thanks to Bob for the information.. Well it was not 4 or 6 weeks, but real quick!

    Here is the copy of the build sheet:


    A real bare Bones car!

    As noted in the Jet Thrust news the engine is JTS 1412..

    Sort of what this picture has on it.. But this block is JTS I4I2!

    Last edited by SScopelli; 07-28-2017 at 04:13 PM.

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    Great post . Too Bad it can't come together sooner!

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