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Restoration thread: My 1953 Commander Coupe

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  • Restoration thread: My 1953 Commander Coupe

    Hi folks!

    I've greatly enjoyed the posts on these forums and have been learning a great deal from the community here. As I'm just starting down the road with a restoration of a '53 Commander, I am starting this thread to document progress! I had been on the look out for one of these cars for several years and when it initially appeared on Craigslist I didn't at first strongly consider it -- I'd just completed another multi-year project and I wasn't sure my wife would be up for another! A few days later, however, a friend forwarded a link to the ad and the seller had dropped the price, so I decided I'd drive up and take a look.

    The car lived most of its life in Arizona before coming to California and no magnet test was required -- still in its original sun-baked paint, it is a stranger to bondo. The seller had begun to strip it down as part of a conversion to a Carrera racer, but he did a careful job of removing the parts and it is largely complete. This car was an automatic, but comes with a three-speed + overdrive transmission that can be seen sitting in the background of the pic above.

    I intend to restore the car to its 1953 specifications with the possible exception of going with the three-speed rather than the Automatic. My wife isn't particularly fond of Coral red, though I think it's pretty nice with an Ivory-white top, but worrying about paint color is getting a bit ahead of ourselves at this point. ;-) Over the past several afternoons we've gotten the front-end broken down and were thrilled to discover that it's every bit as solid as it seemed on the surface.

    (click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

    I've also started updating a journal for family and coworkers that are interested in the project. Please feel free to visit and comment - from my previous project I am very much aware that it takes a community to produce a quality restoration. The link for the blog is If you're in or around the south SF Bay area, let me know!

    If there is interest I'll keep posting pictures, questions and updates to this thread. For now I've got to make enough room to finish the disassembly and prepare the car for media blasting.
    Dan M.

  • #2
    Looks to Me like You've found a really good candidate for restoration.....It looks good even without paint on it! Your two-tone color idea sounds good, as does the 3 spd O/D conversion. Good luck with Your new project....and keep those pics coming!


    • #3
      Very cool Dan! Looking forward to watching it go back together.
      Dave Nevin
      Corvallis, OR
      1953 Champion Deluxe Coupe
      Stud-e-venture blog


      • #4
        Nice car and a wonderful candidate. Congrats. BP
        We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

        Ayn Rand:
        "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

        G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.


        • #5
          Me thinks there is a jewel under there!!! Good luck on this pursuit! By all means, keep the pix/progress coming!


          • #6
            Dan, Welcome to the forum! You have a great looking project and we will look forward to seeing it progress. If you have not done so already I encourage you to join the Studebaker Drivers club and contact the Sequoia Chapter, they are the local chapter in your area. This will provide you with a number of great resources and encouragement. You can also get a Service manual from Studebaker International, I suggest the DVD based edition it's inexpensive and you can just print the page for the area you are working on and carry it to your shop. If you want a goal to shoot for, the Pacific Southwest Zone meet will be held in Sacramento in May of 2014, we would love to see you, and your car there in whatever condition it is in at the time.
            Pat Dilling
            Olivehurst, CA
            Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL

            LS1 Engine Swap Journal:


            • #7
              welcome, and keep the photos and updates coming. thankfully this one will not become a Carrera racer...its too solid to be chopped up into a modified racer. being a hot rodder at heart, I know its always best to start with the most complete solid car you can, but I am getting concerned that too many of them are being turned into Carrera racers...not that there is anything wrong with Studebaker race cars, its just that I hope really solid ones stay on the street to live a longer life. cheers, junior
              1954 C5 Hamilton car.


              • #8
                Looks like a great one to start with. Solid body. I see you have a helper. Maybe this intrest will pass on to him. Keep the posts coming.


                • #9
                  I have an unrestored and unmolested 53 Commander starliner and am just up the road in Redwood City. If you need to see how anything is assembled, just let me know and stop by.

                  Good luck on your project. Glad you got it before the other guy FUBAR'd it up.
                  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


                  • #10
                    If your wife doesn't like coral red take a look at Bombay red which was introduced late in the model year. IIRC in June. Most color charts don't show it but I did one of 53 restorations in bombay red some years ago and if you are interested I will send you a picture
                    ed ellis


                    the "SUPER COUPE"


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the encouragement and words of advice! It's good to read that the consensus view is that this is a car worth restoring.
                      I'll be be PMing some of you to follow up -- RadioRoy, I'll definitely take you up on your offer to check out your Starliner for construction details!

                      I'll keep this thread updated as I go. It should be a lot of fun!

                      Dan M.


                      • #12
                        Just remember, you are dealing with Studebaker's finest, so be sure to make those helpers/boys proud!