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Anyone have a '51 Commander speedometer they don't need?

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  • Anyone have a '51 Commander speedometer they don't need?

    Hey there, everyone...

    This is my first post here, so I'll start off with "Hello!" My wife and I recently bought our first classic car - a 1951 Commander automatic, which is going to be my daily driver here in Austin TX. We've done quite a bit of work so far, but (and I'm sure this happens to plenty of folks) we keep finding new things to fix. Anyway, we're on the mad hunt for a working speedometer. I've found a couple of guys who will repair them for between $200 and $325, but if someone got one for less than that I'll take it!

    I look forward to learning more about these amazing cars from everyone around here!

    Oh, here are a few photos before we took her to the shop for those that would like to see:
    Steven Gunter | '51 Commander | Austin, TX

  • #2
    Big Studebaker welcome! Make sure to join the Studebaker Drivers Club, and a regional chapter. The "Turning Wheels" magazine is worth the price of membership. Also, pick up three manuals. Those are the shop manual, body manual, and chassis manual. They are available in print and on CD. Hopefully, someone will post links for some of these resources.

    I have a Land Cruiser, about the same as your car, 'cept a little longer. Yours must have an electric fuel pump, unless you have a later engine. I also notice that the automatic choke stove pipe is connected to your intake manifold, instead of the exhaust manifold like mine.

    A question about the speedometer. Do you have it out of the car? Have you tried to lubricate it? Sometimes, it is possible to ease the tiny brass cap out of the lubrication point on the back, near the cable fitting, remove the small felt piece, lubricate, and free up a seized speedometer. Then soak the felt with lubricant, re-install the felt and cap. I've done this and gotten years of service from a speedometer I thought was toast.

    Another thing I would urge you to do. Replace all the old brittle cloth covered wiring. We have vendors who sell new wiring harnesses. While six volt systems don't have the reserve of twelve volt systems, they carry lots of current, (thus heavier gauge wire). Old wire, and an inadvertent short, could burn down your car, the garage, and if the house is close, or attached... everything. Not to cause you any unwarranted angst...but it's kinda important.

    Great to have you here. When searching for parts...patience...eagerness and impatience can get expensive.
    John Clary
    Greer, SC

    SDC member since 1975


    • #3
      Thanks for the information and warm welcome, John!

      We're joining the national SDC and a (hopefully) the local Hill Country SDC at the turn of the year. I should have my car back from the shop around then and it will be fun to meet up with other Studebaker fans. We've already picked up the Service Guide (original!), owner's manual (replica), and the chassis manual (if that's the one with the exploded diagrams) which has been of great help to my mechanic. I'll keep my eyes open for the others!

      When I bought the car, the previous owner had upgraded the system to 12v and added an electric starter. While in the shop we added a new wiring harness and changed out every wire in the car (soldered every end, of course) and replaced every bulb throughout. There was a bit of a cough when trying to accelerate quickly, so we cleaned the gunk out of the carburetor, but that didn't fix it. Then we got a new coil and added petronix, which seems to have taken care of that issue. We added shoulder belts around as well since it's my daily driver and we have to keep our baby's car seat secure. We've also put Turner brakes on the front and are upping the rear drums to a later, larger model drum. Once it's driving we'll get a new muffler and clean up the wheels a bit. Our last step in phase one is to replace the fuel gauge, fuel sending unit (both on order), and repair the speedometer.

      The speedometer is currently in the car, but I've got an extra (non-working) one in the trunk. We're going to pull it out either way, so maybe I'll try to get it spinning. What lubricant would you recommend? Also, is their a diagram to the speedometer in one of the manuals I don't have? I know very, very little about cars, but I've learning a lot in the past month of working on it! My mechanic has been incredibly gracious allowing me to lend a hand whenever I'm available.

      Thanks again!
      Steven Gunter | '51 Commander | Austin, TX


      • #4
        Pearlsnap, Welcome to the forum! I'm happy to see another Commander on the road. These cars are some of my favorite Studebaker designs. Anyway, I noticed the speedometer in your dash is actually from a 50. The center bullet is different between 50 and 51. The center should look like the center on your other gauges. Just thought I would mention it. Years ago, I got a 65 Mustang and did not realize right off that a few parts were from a 66. So it looks like someone must have swapped your car's original out for some reason. I suppose you could repair the one you have currently, or keep an eye out for a 51 specific unit. The guys on here are a great resource and have helped me immensely the few years I've been here.

        1950 Commander Starlight Coupe
        Regal Deluxe Trim
        Automatic transmission
        46k original miles, 4th Owner


        • #5
          Agree with deco-droid about the speedo, also the numbers are the wrong color. The left hand
          cluster needs to be rotated 45 degrees to the right. The temp & gas should be on the left and
          oil & amps on the right. Nice car and I know you will enjoy it. Paul


          • #6
            Wow, great eye! I'd much rather keep looking for the right one, but I need one that works to pass inspection. (This is going to be my daily driver so we're getting it insured that way, which requires a sticker on the window.) Maybe I'll have this one repaired and sell it/trade it when I find the right one. I can only imagine there are more people out there looking for a working speedometer!

            I've slowly been finding parts that aren't quite like what I see in other photos. For instance, my horn button is currently yellow (from, I believe, a '52) instead of red. Thanks for pointing out the speedometer!
            Steven Gunter | '51 Commander | Austin, TX


            • #7
              Thanks for the tip on the gauge cluster! I'll turn it when we swap out the fuel gauge. What do you mean about the numbers being the wrong color? These are showing some of the rust underneath making them a bit orange. Is that what you're talking about?
              Steven Gunter | '51 Commander | Austin, TX


              • #8
                Yes, I have one that works but it has been taken apart for restoration. The face is off and the gold center piece is disassembled. It appears they were getting it ready to repaint.


                • #9
                  Yes I was talking about the reddish color rather than greenish.


                  • #10
                    The speedometer is from a 50 and the numbers are orange because they are rusty.
                    RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

                    10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
                    4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
                    5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon


                    • #11
                      Click image for larger version

Name:	101_2169.jpg
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ID:	1694840this is what I have. If anyone sees anything missing let me know.