View Full Version : Well, it "almost" runs.

10-29-2008, 09:31 PM
"It" being the '38 Commander sedan I dragged home a couple of weeks ago. I was able to get the engine unstuck, and wrote about that in the thread on that topic in the Tech Forum.

Today, I took off the starter, and polished up the commutator, freed up stuck brushes, and lubed the bushings. It cranks really well, although the starter drive kicks out a tad soon.

I cleaned the points, and installed a fresh set of spark plugs, and some wires. Took off the stock carb, which had the throttle plate rusted shut, and bolted on an old Carter AS off a Lark. Put a little funnel on the fuel inlet, and poured fuel into it. And primed it, too.

Try as I might, I could not get the darn thing to run, and stay running. It will fire on all, or nearly all, cylinders, but it just can't muster up the gumption to really run. Picks up revs cranking on the starter, but as soon as the starter kicks out, it spins to a stop. I thought the exhaust manifold might be clogged with a mouse nest, and took off the manifold and blew it out thoroughly. No joy.

I spent a lot of time trying to start it, and ran down 2 batteries. Best it would do is huff away softly for a half-second or so after the starter kicked out. I wouldn't call that "running". I'm pretty sure the problem is simply the rings are so bad, or so stuck, that it has next to no compression. Even when firing on all cylinders, the unmuffled exhaust is curiously quiet. It's just not sucking in the mixture, I guess.

I'm not going to waste any more time on this engine. It'll come out, and go into storage as a rebuildable core. One thing I didn't hear was any knocking from the bottom end. Not saying the bearings are perfect, but it wasn't apparently on the bitter edge of throwing a rod when it was put away. So chances are the crank and rods will be OK for overhaul.

Somebody here expressed interest in the transmission. It's available; won't know the condition of it yet. It appears to be an overdrive, as it has a control cable running to it, but I don't see any electrics. Was the '38 overdrive strictly mechanical?

I can see this car as a perfect candidate for a rod of some kind. It's a low-end Commander (W3 body), and is missing so much interior trim, etc., that a full-on restoration would leave you buried in it face down. Some pictures follow. I do have all four fenders, and the hood side panels, hood, and trunk lid. Bumpers are missing, I think. The grille is very nice; one or two slats are slightly bent, but not kinked, and should be easily fixed.





Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

Dick Steinkamp
10-29-2008, 09:36 PM
Gord...you are a glutton for punishment [^] ;)

I wouldn't give up too soon on that motor. I agree with your assessment of little compression. I'd put your favorite unstick concoction in in the cylinders for a while...spinning the starter every now and then. If you can free up a few rings...enough so it will start...running it should free up the others.

Happened to me with one of those '37 Plymouths I got from Fred Cook. Wouldn't start for me...same symptoms as yours...but the guy I sold it to is now driving it without ever having to take the engine apart.

Dick Steinkamp
Bellingham, WA


10-29-2008, 09:46 PM
Well, Dick. You're right, I probably could get it running. But #1 piston has at least an inch of its top perimeter missing, and there's a notch out of #2, as well. So I might get it running well enough to drive around the yard, but it wouldn't be long before the bad piston broke up completely.

If the pistons were intact, I'd spare the time for it. But they are not. It's rebuild time for this puppy. At least, I now know that it probably can be rebuilt, unless the block has hidden cracks.

By the way, check your e-mail. I have the clutch linkage support you need.

Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

10-30-2008, 09:34 AM
Gord, Studebaker George is wanting an OD tranny for his '38 Commander, as well as that radio delete plate. I sent him an email, maybe he'll get in touch with you.

Would you sell the grille? That's cool as heck. :)

Matthew Burnette
Hazlehurst, GA

10-30-2008, 12:22 PM
Matt, I'd sell the grille with the whole car. I think I would sell the transmission separately, and the radio delete plate, as neither of those would be required for rat rod or street rod, anyway. IMHO, this car is not good enough to warrant a proper restoration. And it's the cheapest version, to boot.

If it gets done as a rod, at least there will be one more car that looks like a Studebaker, and wearing a Studebaker badge back on the road. If it waits for the restorer who wants to do it "right" it may sit forever. Having said that, though, if anyone here wants this car to restore it, I'm open to offers. Just looking at realities, here.

This car has a weird rear U-joint, too, like a disc with with rubber buttons in it. Seems to be intact, whether it's functional or not, I don't know. The car does roll.

Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

10-30-2008, 08:10 PM
Well, I got an e-mail from Studebaker George, so he has the inside track on the tranny.

Today I offloaded this car's partner in crime, a '55 C-cab pickup, from my trailer. That proved to be entertaining. The pickup is an abandoned rod project, and has a '70-something Chevy 1/2 ton front clip (disc brakes) grafted into it. They slipped the Chevy clip inside the Stude frame rails, and welded it under about the middle of the doors. I haven't given it the third degree, but at first glance, the clip job looks OK.

For a rear axle, they installed what seems to be '57 (?) Chevy passnegr car rear axle. This is a drop-in type axle, that uses real wheel bearings on it. Bolt circle is 5 on 4 3/4" I went back out to the wreckers where I bought these beasts, and he gave me a donut spare with a Unilug pattern, and that fit on in place of the missing wheel. I installed 5 new studs, because they were all busted off.

Went to roll it off the trailer, since it was now up on all four wheels. and found I could not steer it. Inner tie rod end on the driver's side had separated, and the Pitman arm was off, and it proved not to fit the shaft on the power steering box that was installed there. I'm kind of at a loss to explain how that all came about. Anyway, I had a guy there to estimate the concrete work for my big shop, and graciously offered his F-350 to drag the Stude off the trailer, so that's what we did. Wheels that won't roll will slide if you pull hard enough.

So now the poor truck is sitting on the ground, and it's clear of the trailer. I can fire up my tractor, and put the edge of the loader bucket under the front frame horns, and trundle it across the yard to its resting place.

When I get some time, I'm going to have a real good look at the clip job, and see if it can be salvaged. If so, I'll get a donor vehicle, 305/350 plus OD automatic, and drop it in this beast. I'd probably figure out some way to make front and rear axles match, too.

Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands