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  • Newbie--purchased 53 Commander Starliner-Questions

    Just purchased a 53 Commander Starliner and I have a couple of question.

    1.The car is mostly rust free ie floors, trunk and etc are good, however rocker panels have some rust coming through. the inner rocker panel appear good. I removed the threshold cover and everthing is clean there. The question is--How difficult is it to replace the outer rocker panels? Are the seams welded together, could not tell from just looking at.

    2. Has original engine. compression is 100-120, cold, throttle not open. The engine seems to lack power. Is this typical for this compression--manual says 120-140. Will a 289 bolt up to the original auto transmission? and is original rear end up to handling the 289?

    Any help with these questions would be appreciated.

    Thanks, John

  • #2
    First, let me say welcome John, glad we got to meet ya! Congratulations on the Starliner, they're some of the best lookin' Studebakers around.

    To answer your questions, yes, the rocker panels are welded in and are fairly easy to replace, IF you have some experience replacing body components. They have to be cut out, new panels welded back in, then the finish body work has to be done.

    I hate to say it but a compression test with the throttle closed is really inconclusive. If you got those readings with a proper test, I would say that indeed, the engine is tired. However, lack of power can be a few things, and a complete, serious tune up is the first place I'd start.

    Yes, a 289 will bolt right in, but there is a special procedure that has to be performed, (dialing in the bellhousing), that has to be done if you drop the 289 in.

    Yes, even a model 27 Dana rear end can handle normal, every day driving. We would need to know which model rear end you have to give you a better answer.

    I would first and foremost get a complete set of service manuals for your Starliner. They are easy to get and really still inexpensive. You will find that Studebaker went to great lengths to spell out each function and repair of nearly every component, and just reading the service manual will give you a HUGE education on your car.

    Once again, welcome home, and keep the questions coming! Oh! Pictures of, and any updates on, that Starliner are greatly appreciated here!

    Sonny
    http://RacingStudebakers.com
    Sonny
    http://RacingStudebakers.com

    Comment


    • #3
      First, let me say welcome John, glad we got to meet ya! Congratulations on the Starliner, they're some of the best lookin' Studebakers around.

      To answer your questions, yes, the rocker panels are welded in and are fairly easy to replace, IF you have some experience replacing body components. They have to be cut out, new panels welded back in, then the finish body work has to be done.

      I hate to say it but a compression test with the throttle closed is really inconclusive. If you got those readings with a proper test, I would say that indeed, the engine is tired. However, lack of power can be a few things, and a complete, serious tune up is the first place I'd start.

      Yes, a 289 will bolt right in, but there is a special procedure that has to be performed, (dialing in the bellhousing), that has to be done if you drop the 289 in.

      Yes, even a model 27 Dana rear end can handle normal, every day driving. We would need to know which model rear end you have to give you a better answer.

      I would first and foremost get a complete set of service manuals for your Starliner. They are easy to get and really still inexpensive. You will find that Studebaker went to great lengths to spell out each function and repair of nearly every component, and just reading the service manual will give you a HUGE education on your car.

      Once again, welcome home, and keep the questions coming! Oh! Pictures of, and any updates on, that Starliner are greatly appreciated here!

      Sonny
      http://RacingStudebakers.com
      Sonny
      http://RacingStudebakers.com

      Comment


      • #4
        I might add that as Sonny says, the rockers are welded in. But get yourself a spot weld drill bit from a auto paint and body supply place and it won't be all that hard to get those old rockers off. New replacement rockers are available from Classic Enterprizes.

        That original 232 V8 should be fairly zippy - within reason of course - if you've got the original rear gears in place. The tranny's really a 3-speed but it's engineered to start out in second whenever "D" is selected. Properly configured, the tranny should start out in low IF you manually select low and then move it to drive after you get underway OR by stomping the gas pedal to the floor from a standstill.

        As Sonny mentioned, you'd have to "dial in" the bellhousing to the 289 if you went that route. ALSO, the 289 would have to have the short bolts in the rear end of the crankshaft to work with that automatic tranny. If it's got the longer, stick shift bolts, they'd have to be changed. That entails pulling the oil pan and rear main cap to change the bolts.

        Lastly - Welcome Aboard - to the fascinating and satisfying realm of Studebakering. Once you've tried it, nothing else (automotive[}]) can be quite as much fun!

        Miscreant at large.

        1957 Transtar 1/2ton
        1960 Larkvertible V8
        1958 Provincial wagon
        1953 Commander coupe
        1957 President 2-dr
        1955 President State
        1951 Champion Biz cpe
        1963 Daytona project FS
        No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

        Comment


        • #5
          I might add that as Sonny says, the rockers are welded in. But get yourself a spot weld drill bit from a auto paint and body supply place and it won't be all that hard to get those old rockers off. New replacement rockers are available from Classic Enterprizes.

          That original 232 V8 should be fairly zippy - within reason of course - if you've got the original rear gears in place. The tranny's really a 3-speed but it's engineered to start out in second whenever "D" is selected. Properly configured, the tranny should start out in low IF you manually select low and then move it to drive after you get underway OR by stomping the gas pedal to the floor from a standstill.

          As Sonny mentioned, you'd have to "dial in" the bellhousing to the 289 if you went that route. ALSO, the 289 would have to have the short bolts in the rear end of the crankshaft to work with that automatic tranny. If it's got the longer, stick shift bolts, they'd have to be changed. That entails pulling the oil pan and rear main cap to change the bolts.

          Lastly - Welcome Aboard - to the fascinating and satisfying realm of Studebakering. Once you've tried it, nothing else (automotive[}]) can be quite as much fun!

          Miscreant at large.

          1957 Transtar 1/2ton
          1960 Larkvertible V8
          1958 Provincial wagon
          1953 Commander coupe
          1957 President 2-dr
          1955 President State
          1951 Champion Biz cpe
          1963 Daytona project FS
          No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

          Comment


          • #6
            Congradulations on purchasing one of they most beautifull and collectable Studes ever built.
            So many of these cars have been modified I really think it would be in your best interest to keep her bone stock,as an investment.I had and drove a 54 Commander coupe for several years and found the 232 adequate power wise.Id keep her #'s matching.
            The rocker panel swap is easy and Id reccomend Classic Enterprise's patch panels too.Ive used their patch panels on several rusty Studes Ive restored.You'll need some body work skills or farm it out to your paint shop.

            Comment


            • #7
              Congradulations on purchasing one of they most beautifull and collectable Studes ever built.
              So many of these cars have been modified I really think it would be in your best interest to keep her bone stock,as an investment.I had and drove a 54 Commander coupe for several years and found the 232 adequate power wise.Id keep her #'s matching.
              The rocker panel swap is easy and Id reccomend Classic Enterprise's patch panels too.Ive used their patch panels on several rusty Studes Ive restored.You'll need some body work skills or farm it out to your paint shop.

              Comment


              • #8
                Welcome to the wonderful world of Studebakers. You are starting with my favorite, a '53 Commander Starliner. I agree with the answers given to your questions. You are very lucky to find a '53 with the main rust being only rocker panels. If the car is complete and that good, I would recommend keeping it as original as possible. Of course, it is your car and you can do as you want. I have had both stock and modified '53s.
                Do an engine warm, throttle open, compression test and let us know what the readings are. I wouldn't swap engines unless yours is dead. What I prefer as a swap into a '53 is a 259 V8 with a '55 DG250 automatic (first gear start).
                Join the Studebaker Drivers Club (this site) and get the owner's and shop manuals for your car. Follow this with John Bridges' book; Studebaker's Finest.
                Gary L.
                Wappinger, NY

                SDC member since 1968
                Studebaker enthusiast much longer

                Comment


                • #9
                  Welcome to the wonderful world of Studebakers. You are starting with my favorite, a '53 Commander Starliner. I agree with the answers given to your questions. You are very lucky to find a '53 with the main rust being only rocker panels. If the car is complete and that good, I would recommend keeping it as original as possible. Of course, it is your car and you can do as you want. I have had both stock and modified '53s.
                  Do an engine warm, throttle open, compression test and let us know what the readings are. I wouldn't swap engines unless yours is dead. What I prefer as a swap into a '53 is a 259 V8 with a '55 DG250 automatic (first gear start).
                  Join the Studebaker Drivers Club (this site) and get the owner's and shop manuals for your car. Follow this with John Bridges' book; Studebaker's Finest.
                  Gary L.
                  Wappinger, NY

                  SDC member since 1968
                  Studebaker enthusiast much longer

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks Everyone for the help and suggestions. I did get the manuals for the car. Will recheck compression with throttle open.

                    Just another question on the rocker panels. I can't really see any of the welding spots for the outer panels?? Do the front and rear fenders need to off to it right?

                    Thanks Again, John

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks Everyone for the help and suggestions. I did get the manuals for the car. Will recheck compression with throttle open.

                      Just another question on the rocker panels. I can't really see any of the welding spots for the outer panels?? Do the front and rear fenders need to off to it right?

                      Thanks Again, John

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        no - the fenders don't need to come off. They're not attached to the rocker panels at all. The majority of the spot welds are under the lower door edge weatherstrip. Then there's a couple braces - or gussets - and that's it.

                        Miscreant at large.

                        1957 Transtar 1/2ton
                        1960 Larkvertible V8
                        1958 Provincial wagon
                        1953 Commander coupe
                        1957 President 2-dr
                        1955 President State
                        1951 Champion Biz cpe
                        1963 Daytona project FS
                        No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          no - the fenders don't need to come off. They're not attached to the rocker panels at all. The majority of the spot welds are under the lower door edge weatherstrip. Then there's a couple braces - or gussets - and that's it.

                          Miscreant at large.

                          1957 Transtar 1/2ton
                          1960 Larkvertible V8
                          1958 Provincial wagon
                          1953 Commander coupe
                          1957 President 2-dr
                          1955 President State
                          1951 Champion Biz cpe
                          1963 Daytona project FS
                          No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            On the 61 Cursed Purple Hawk, I just changed the drivers side rocker a month or so ago. There is a tab on the rocker ends that fits up under the front and rear fenders. I had to unbolt the front fender in the cowl area and for the rear, unbolt thru rear side window (took interior panel off)and bottom of fender in order to move them out enough to get the old rocker off and weld the new one back on in these locations.
                            Haven't got around to changing the passenger side yet but it needs to be changed as well.

                            53commander HDTP
                            53 Champion HDTP
                            61 Cursed Purple Hawk
                            64 Champ long bed V8
                            64 GT
                            64 Champ long bed V8
                            55/53 Studebaker President S/R
                            53 Hudson Super Wasp Coupe

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              On the 61 Cursed Purple Hawk, I just changed the drivers side rocker a month or so ago. There is a tab on the rocker ends that fits up under the front and rear fenders. I had to unbolt the front fender in the cowl area and for the rear, unbolt thru rear side window (took interior panel off)and bottom of fender in order to move them out enough to get the old rocker off and weld the new one back on in these locations.
                              Haven't got around to changing the passenger side yet but it needs to be changed as well.

                              53commander HDTP
                              53 Champion HDTP
                              61 Cursed Purple Hawk
                              64 Champ long bed V8
                              64 GT
                              64 Champ long bed V8
                              55/53 Studebaker President S/R
                              53 Hudson Super Wasp Coupe

                              Comment

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