No announcement yet.

To Convert or not to Convert

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • To Convert or not to Convert

    Howdy Studebaker Fam,

    This is a very generalized question about any tips someone has had with converting their old timer into a more fuel efficient automobile.
    I love the simplicity and generally low maintenance of the "Big Six" that in my 49 Commander but I know for a fact it is not getting very good mileage and that also means it is polluting more than I would like. In the case of this car I am more of an enthusiast than a purist and would love to keep her on the roads around LA. Instead of doing an eventual rebuild of the 6 banger has anyone dabbled in the diesel world? These cars really aren't all that heavy and there is plenty of room under the hood.

    Clearly we don't get into these machines for the fuel economy but looking at the next step down the road I'm wondering if a small block diesel might do the trick.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated and I hope everyone has had a great holiday break!

  • #2
    You don't think a diesel pollutes? Try driving behind one.

    The amount of pollution a car creates depends on a number of factors:
    -design of the car and engine
    -condition of the engine and how well tuned it is
    -how often and how long and how fast the car is driven
    -design and purity of the fuel
    -mileage on the car/engine
    -weight of the car
    -gear and axle ratios

    Are you versed in car redesign and can you handle all of the things that need to be done for this conversion?
    RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

    17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
    10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
    10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
    4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
    5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
    56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
    60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible


    • #3
      Thanks for thinking of us all in your decision process. I've been driving Studes for more than sixty years, but now use a Bolt electric for all our daily errands.

      JMHO, but have your Commander rebuilt by someone who knows how to do precision machine work and how to install positive valve stem seals. The seals will cut pollution substantially. The new rings and slightly more compression will increase fuel mileage.
      Originally posted by RadioRoy View Post
      Are you versed in car redesign and can you handle all of the things that need to be done for this conversion?
      Agree, Roy; if one has to ask the question about is it possible to install a diesel in a '49 Commander, it pretty much suggests he shouldn't try that,.

      jack vines



      • #4
        What diesel would you use that would give you more driveability, better fuel efficiency and less pollution than the original engine in proper tune?

        For the things that you are looking for, convert to electric power with all of the components from a wrecked electric car.
        Gary L.
        Wappinger, NY

        SDC member since 1968
        Studebaker enthusiast much longer


        • #5
          I think that with all the Millions of New and Newer Vehicles on the Road today, that have PCV, EGR Systems, Catalytic Converters, Fuel Injection, Electronic Ignition, all kinds of "Sensors" to monitor the efficiency and adjust it automatically to improve the Air Quality and Fuel Economy that we should not worry about a few thousand rarely driven Older Cars that are not as efficient.

          This does not even include the ever increasing number of Hybrids and Electric Vehicles now appearing in larger numbers.
          The Busses, Airport Shuttles etc. are Now all, or nearly all, CNG, Natural Gas Powered.

          About all we can do is, properly maintain them making sure the Rings and Valves are not bi-passing excessive amounts of pollutants into the Air.

          Converting a Gas Engine to Propane, is a MUCH better Totally Clean Air solution than Diesel.
          Second Generation Stude Driver,
          Proud '54 Starliner Owner


          • #6
            If you are going to drive this car as a daily driver, for say 12,000 plus miles a year, what you would send in time and money will never be recovered. The suspension and brakes will need to be looked at as well. When it comes time to sell this questionable automotive child and it's parentage be prepared to be taking a huge monetary loss.

            If you are just going to use the car to go for ice cream, show up at local chapter events and put very little mileage on the car, enjoy it then when it is time to move on let the next guy decide what they want to do. I wouldn't be worried about the greenhouse effects at all. As Jack Vines always says "your car, your money" As the knight in the Indian Jones movie said about the holy grail "Choose Wisely"

            Bob Miles


            • #7
              For someone who plans on putting a V6 in a '64 Commander, I would suggest an engine rebuild, getting an OD transmission if it doesn't already and a more freeway friendly final drive. This will still come out cheaper than putting a diesel between the frame rails.
              Tom - Bradenton, FL

              1964 Studebaker Daytona - 289 4V, 4-Speed (Cost To Date: $2514.10)
              1964 Studebaker Commander - 170 1V, 3-Speed w/OD


              • #8
                These are some great replies thank you!

                I've rebuilt a few engines so far and know it can be done pretty easily with this inline 6. In an ideal world I would love to use this car as more of a daily driver. She fires up at least 2x a week as is but we're talking a stock 49 commander here (New brake system install with a great deal of help from members here included) and I don't want to wear the car out too quickly.

                It certainly does seem cheaper to keep the original block - an electric conversion looks to be at least 20k (has anyone found cheaper?)

                This is one of those "Wouldn't it be great if"s and was wondering if anyone had found a genius way to pop an 80's Toyota Helix diesel in there with any margin of success for example.

                Probably a case of wishful thinking


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Youngstudedude View Post
                  This is one of those "Wouldn't it be great if"s and was wondering if anyone had found a genius way to pop an 80's Toyota Helix diesel in there with any margin of success for example.
                  The '80s Toyota diesel was out of date and a terrible polluter when it was new. If one wants to move to solve 21st century problems, it isn't going to be done with mid-20th century tech.

                  jack vines


                  • #10

                    But we can all agree old tech can have a comeback.

                    Studebaker started as an Electric car company in 1902.


                    To go full circle on this if I get the funds ill convert her over into an E-Car.
                    Until then, engine rebuild it is.


                    • #11
                      Young -

                      Well...sort-of. Old tech can...have somewhat of a comeback, but you are going to have to have a great deal of knowledge, understanding of the "older" engine that you want to update.

                      It's much "update" a gas engine to have more power and better mileage (be "greener"). Changing the carburetor to fuel injection, changing the points to electronic, using modern day, gapless piston rings (Total Seal), etc., etc., A small jump in compression ratio, a reshaping of the intake ports in the cylinder heads. These will all have a positive effect on mileage and power.

                      The diesel already has fuel injection, and no need of a normal ignition. You "possibly"...could come up with a better piston ring, not sure there..! There is really no efficiency gainer for the diesel other than adding a turbocharger.

                      If my nickles worth means anything, I agree with the others.
                      Pick up a 259 Stude engine and have a shop with good engine machining knowledge (not necessarily Stude knowledge), have the pieces and parts remachined using todays standards, use today's, modern parts and ideas to assemble it.
                      As was noted, add a 4 speed automatic trans. A GM T-200-4R is a very good choice. Light, very efficient gear ratios, low parasitic drag...all the good ideas.

                      Another good idea...a small Chevy would also fit your desires. Same thing holds true...a fuel injection retrofit, the same gapless piston rings I mentioned above, Most "crate" engines will already have an electronic distributor, and if not...again, a modern pointless ignition will help greatly.

                      An 80's, 90's or early 00's diesel...not a very good idea to lessen your "footprint".



                      • #12
                        I have to agree with Mike here. But if your going to stick with the original motor then try to add these folks to your search.


                        • #13
                          I have a 617 Mercedes turbo diesel in my 39 CE. It has plenty of power to keep up with traffic or tow a small trailer and with a fifth od gear will probably get pretty good economy, though I have not actually checked it. ... I estimate about 25 highway and high teens around town. The 617 is a very very durable motor which I have had a couple dozen or so of so that was a plus for me. I also had a nice one on hand with the five speed attached so there was that. The later motor has all the brackets and such for power steering and brakes plus AC. The truck drives like a ninety something pickup which was my goal.

                          It sounds like a baby cummins too. I get a lot of thumbs up in it. If you search my name here you will find lots of posts and threads from when I was building it.

                          The mb diesel is pretty heavy at 585# but not as heavy as a stude v8.

                          There are no computers on one of these diesels. The toughest thing was providing for the glow plugs and fuel cut off. Neither of those were hard at all.
                          Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.


                          • #14
                            Check out the Cummins 2.8 liter diesel. There are many using them for a repower project. All computer controlled, and very clean emissions, with good power ratings.


                            • #15
                              Sounds great but what will you do with the antiqued planar front suspension and steering. Having owned 3 48 Commanders (2 door and 2 Land Cruisers) finding someone to align and do maintenance work may not be to bad in LA but still presents a situation with brakes as well as other things. The single leaf spring in the front suspension harks back to the horse and buggy day. What you do should be with the utmost concern for your safety and others on the road.

                              I guess I am a wet blanket, but unless you trust someone to do a correct and safe suspension graft and willing to pay for it then go gangbusters.

                              Bob Miles