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...crack a cold one and drink to new beginnings

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  • ...crack a cold one and drink to new beginnings

    Just a little tale, just in case you're bored.

    Bought my 64 Lark Daytona 4dr in 2005 while living in San Diego. I was pretty mechanical but knew absolutely zero about Studebakers, even dropped the infamous "who makes Studebaker?" when I went to look at it. I wanted a fixer upper for my first project, didn't care what make or model, I just knew that eventually one would grab my attention. Found it in Auto Trader and met the owner for a test drive. I fell in love with it right away and took it home. There was plenty of work to do cosmetically, as well as, under the hood. It had a bone stock 259 in it with from what I could tell, nearly every original part, including a spare fluids bottle in the engine compartment. It ran fairly rough but with a bit of motivation it would always start. Looked pretty run down too, with an oxidized flat black paint job, smashed drivers front fender, busted up grill, drooping ripped headliner and so on. I was 24 years old, full of energy and pumped to drive this car.

    It didn't take long to figure out I couldn't walk into the local Pep boys to get parts, they hadn't a clue what I was talking about nor did their computer. I'm sure we all know its a bit much to ask at most Mega Parts Stores for a guy to open a book. So I turned to the internet and found some great resources. First one was right here at this forum, where I was quickly advised to hunt down a Shop Manual. I got my manual, began daily searches on eabay, and drove a bunch of you nuts with ridiculous questions. I was able to pick up enough to keep my car drivable and kept myself busy doing what I could with what little tools and resources I had. I did a bit of tuning, replaced the smashed fender and grill, but thats about it, until my nieve buddy offered to let me use his garage for a weekend to paint the ol Stude.

    A weekend turned into 6 months. Everytime we got something done we ended up saying "well we came this far, might as well do it right and...." Well what was supposed to be a quick flat black paint job turned into: Shaved trim, emblems, antenna, few body lines, removed glass and headliner, built a roll pan for the rear, lowered front bumper, primed inside and out...except for engine compartment, painted metalic silver, installed new headliner and re-installed front and rear glass. Theres alot of you that probably could have knocked all that out in a couple weekends but everything I just mentioned was the first time I'd ever attempted these tasks and it wasn't long into this project that I found myself working alone. I don't at all blame my buddies and I am forever indebted to one for the long term garage use.

    When it was all said and done I ended up with a car that looked amazing from 15 ft away, and a ear to ear grin everywhere I went, and christened the whole shabang with a Studebaker tattoo! I drove my Stude nearly every day for about a year, and spent a bit of time after a divorce with this being my only car. I had to park my car in storage at one point while I went overseas for about 7 months. When I returned I couldn't wait to re-unite with my car and prayed it would run...especially with it being my only car. After sitting for months, I hooked up the battery shot some hot sauce in the carb and she fired right up. I proudly drove her for another 6 months or so until my time was up in the service and I was able to move home.

    I moved back to northern California and moved into a shop/appartment and appartment are loosly used, but I had all the space I needed to get some work done. I bought an old 4runner to get around in and decided to start a rebuild on my engine. When I was still in San Diego and actively on the forum, I got in contact with Biggs and he offered me a spare engine if I came and got it. He gave me a great long block with a 289 crank in it, a spare bell housing and a drivers side door. I am forever gratefull for his generosity and promised him that day that it wouldn't go to waste. So with the spare engine and nearly 2 years of hoarding parts, I went for it.

    I'd never built an engine but luckily my uncle has a shop right across the street from the place I was in and he is a veteran mechanic. I picked away a few hours a day after work, under my uncles direction, for about a month or so before I had it all back together. When the build was done this is what I ended up with:

    Block/Heads Hot tanked
    Bored .080" over
    Original 259 crank (donor crank was too far out for available bearings)
    Flat top pistons
    R2 cam, Springs and Lifters
    Aluminum Cam Gear
    Converted 4 barrel Intake
    Edelbrock 1403 Carb
    Delco Distributor w/ Pertronix Ignitor
    Electric Fuel Pump and Fan
    True dual exhaust to 3 chamber flowmasters

    I didn't have the money for a different tranny or rear axle so I was stuck with the original 2 spd auto and rear D27 with 3.07's. The engine ran circles around the old stock setup and I can promise you that a freshly released Jarhead in this car with no one to answer to but himself got interesting, fast. I am not proud of everything I did in this car or the condition I was in at times while driving it, but I was having an amazing time. I can't say that my transition back into the real world was easy, I saw a bit of freedom and ran with it. There were a lot of tough times and so many memorable great times. The ol Stude got me everywhere I needed to go. It was my regular bar hopper, limo for dates, commuter, hotrod, dukes of hazard reinactor, and so much more. I drove that car so hard, pitched it sideways, blasted donuts, top speed runs, and charged country roads every chance I got. 27 yrs old, working for myself, living in Durham California, a wide spot in the road, gave me plenty time and freedom from the law.

    Well, amazingly that lasted for about a year or more before working for myself wasn't paying off like I'd hoped and it was time to take a job. I took a job with an aerial firefighting company working on P3 Orions. Work was quite busy and time with my old Stude was limited to a survival drive here and there. I began leaving for the summers and parking my car in my aunts back 40. Other than a few start ups in the beginning stages of parking it in a field, my poor neglected car in which I put so much work and play into sat for a solid three years untouched.

    I had moved to the Sacramento area at one point, work took over my life for the most part and my car fell deep into the back burner department. It had been at least 3 and a half years since I drove her regularily, maybe 5 since I'd dropped into the forum before I finally found time and space to get her going again. Three weeks ago I pulled into my aunts to rescue my old pride n joy. There was grass growing in through every crevice and out another, paint job was a total loss, brake lines and who knows what else gnawed through, and signs of old battle wounds from sticking her in a ditch at some point were ripped and rusted. Ridden with hornet and rat nests, I loaded her up on a trailor and off to my shop in Woodland. Other then the need of paint, brake lines and a massive cleaning, it help up extremely well. I popped the hood to see there was no obvious rat, weather or any other type of damage other than some surface rust.

    I slapped the battery from my truck in and tried to crank her over. Turned over real nice, fuel smelt to be okay but would not fire. Did some basic trouble shooting and found a munched wire from ignition to coil. Slapped a quick fix on it, gave it a few pumps, and bam! Fired up first crank, bazooka blasted a giant rats nest out the exhaust, and screamed in all its glory. I might have cried if my ear to ear grin did have my eyes squeezed shut.

    I'm now 32 years old, quite a bit matured in comparison to 27 years old, still love my Stude more than ever, and am extremely excited to be back it. I feel like that car has got me through highs and lows and had its share of its own. I have given, and taken even more from it, and I finally have a day here and there to put some time back into it. I have big plans for it and do not intend to rush through anything. I hope there are a few people out there that are interested watching this project come back to life, and I plan to post (much shorter) updates and pictures as things progress.

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  • #2
    Originally posted by bennys_64 View Post
    Just a little tale, just in case you're bored.

    That is a flipping great story. Go for it!!


    • #3
      Great story. Good luck on the rebuild.
      1962 Champ

      51 Commander 4 door


      • #4
        Benny, nothing like hearing an old Stude roar back to life after sitting dead for months or years!


        • #5
          It just sounded so good, can't wait get after it. Pretty excited that a bunch of my buddies my age are really into the car as well. I rent a shop from a buddy and he has been all over craigslist looking for 64 Lark since I brought mine to the shop. He had the pleasure of going for a few rides before it was parked, hope he finds what he's looking for. Thanks for the support guys, hope to have some progress to report this weekend.


          • #6
            Can't wait to see the progress you make.
            Joe Roberts
            '61 R1 Champ
            '65 Cruiser
            Eastern North Carolina Chapter


            • #7
              Benny, it sounds like a great time to be had by you and your buddies. You are exactly what Studebakers and the club needs! These wonderful cars are ready for the younger generations to discover, and keep their legacy going into the future. Good luck getting yours back into the condition you want it, and drive it as much as you can because that's where you'll enjoy it the most. We are all here to offer whatever help we can give you, whenever you need our help. Bill Van Alstyne


              • #8
                Looking forward to seeing your progress. If you want some other Stude folks to hang out with the Karel Staple Chapter is active in Northern CA, in fact our November meeting was at Rieff's gas station in Woodland. I am over near Marysville and just happen to have a 64 Cruiser that I am parting out if you need some parts.

                The Karel Staple web page is where you can learn about upcoming events. Come join us!
                Pat Dilling
                Olivehurst, CA
                Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL

                LS1 Engine Swap Journal:


                • #9
                  Benny, put your "memory" hat on and pick up where you left off +/- 5 years ago! You'll have it "streetable" sooner than you might think. Great story, keep us up to speed on your progress. The 64's are one of my favorites as well!

                  Dan Miller
                  Auburn, GA


                  • #10
                    Great story! Welcome back to the fold

                    Clark in San Diego | '63 Standard (F2) "Barney" |


                    • #11
                      Whoa! Benny! So good to hear from you again. Biggs here - I just changed my username. If you get down my way, stop by for a visit. Anything you need for thagt blaster of yours? Lemmee know! Enjoyed reading the whole tale and I didn't have to be bored to do so. Keep us posted. BTW, check your PM box (the notification tab at the top of this page).
                      No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.


                      • #12
                        Benny, Great story, keep working on the car.
                        And also, Thank you for your service.


                        • #13
                          Great to have you and your Stude back together again. Good luck with the rebuild.
                          Story sounded familiar as I parked my 62 Daytona 2Dr Hdtp when I enlisted in the Army in 66. It sat in my grandmothers garage on blocks until my return. I borrowed my parents car to go get the Stude alive again. My dad told me to just make sure the fluids were up and get it off the blocks, he would help me get it running that evening or over the weekend. Well, I was 19 and not happy driving a 64 fairlane 4 dr, 6 cyl 3 speed on the column. I did all those things my dad said to do and decided to see if she would crank. After the battery charger was on it for several hours, she cranked, and after a squirt of fresh fuel into the carb she roared to life. Long story made short: I drove my dad to my grandmothers that evening in the Stude to get mom's Ford from the garage. I never had any doubt that the Stude wouldn't revive easily. The next major trip was to take the car to my new base, Fort Bragg, NC were I found that it was about the only Stude in the area. When I blew the rear gears at the drag strip, I had to jury-rig some spider gears to get it to move. No more racing until I was discharged and drove it back to Indiana. Tried a burn out and blew the rear again. Easy fix this time, TT rears were plentiful in South Bend.
                          sigpic1966 Daytona (The First One)
                          1950 Champion Convertible
                          1950 Champion 4Dr
                          1955 President 2 Dr Hardtop
                          1957 Thunderbird


                          • #14
                            I have every intention to join the local SDC chapter, but it may be a few months or so till my stude is drivable. I have a lot of big plans for my car but want to do it in as managable of a fashion as possible. I'd like to get it cleaned up and streetable for the time being and then through time put it down for a week or two hear and there for medium to major mods.

                            Pat- I imagine I saw your Cruiser on Craigslist recently and there may be a couple items I might be interested in. I'll try to take an inventory soon and get with you before its too late

                            Biggs- I'd ultimately love to get my car roadtrip worthy and drive it down for a visit sometime. I'll never forget your genorosity and would be stoked to show you first hand what its gone towards.

                            With that being said, lets get this party started. Back when I painted my car I bought a set of front fenders off e bay and replaced my smashed fronts drivers side. I held on to the passenger side and recently decided to use it. Years ago when I shaved the trim I was too aggressive with filling the hole left throughout each side of the car and a fewe spots warped. The front passengers side took the worst of it since thats where I started. Well here I am with a new fender that only has a few pin holes to fill from the old emblems.

                            I removed the old fender and was amazed at how incredibly heavy it was with the old undercoating on it. I don't think the fresh fender weighs half as much. With the fender off I have plenty of room to get in and remove the rest of the coating I can get to. Most comes of easy with a sharpened aluminum scraper but some spots are pretty o'nry. It did its job though, no rust to be found. The fender off also made my warn out bushings stand out like a sore thumb. I think I might as well remove the other fender as well since I kept the welding to a minimum when I replaced it.

                            Once both fenders are off I'll clean out the remaining undercoat, replace bushings, and run through the brakes.
                            I need to replace the old beat down radiator and once its out, the front of the car will be pretty much wide open and make for an easy removal of the engine/trans in one shot so I can easily trim my inner fender wells a bit, and paint the engine compartment, frame, and suspension.

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                            Should be back out to the shop Saturday evening to pull the drivers fender, radiator, and who knows what else, thats the glory of it all.


                            • #15
                              Benny, I'm right down the street from you here in Elverta. Let me know if there's anything you need. I don't have the parts stash I used to, but usually can find anything in this area from all the contacts I've got. Been here over 40 years with my Studes.