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1954 Commander convertible - First full "Soup to Nuts" restoration

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  • 1954 Commander convertible - First full "Soup to Nuts" restoration

    Hello SDC,

    My name is Charles Martin. I was bit by the Studebaker Bug sometime ago and its been 1 month since my last confession. I bought another Studebaker, 2 actually. I will be tempted again and I will do it again.

    Anyways. I got a project that I want to start a build thread on and I figured this was a good spot because I plan to post a fair amount of pictures. I even bought one of the those digital cameras because uploading off a iphone sucks. I have done a lot of in depth automotive work in the past but never started a FULL blown restoration. The car I have picked up is pretty special. And the "Parts car" (which its not, ill explain later) is pretty cool to.

    A lot has happened in the past couple of months in my Studebaker world. A lot of you know that I had a perfect survivor 1961 Studebaker Lark and I will kick myself one day for ever letting it go. Scratch that, I am kicking myself now. The reason for selling it is because I was having bad thoughts on modifying it. At one time I did pick up the tools and start taking the front sheet metal off. My plan was to make it handle very well while leaving the drivetrain alone. I was cringing the whole time cause at some point I knew that I was going to be meet with the point of no return. I reinstalled the sheet metal that day and put the tools away. Now I have c4 parts staring at me. Oh well put them in inventory.

    I had a problem. I needed something to keep my hands busy and the Lark was perfect as she sat. I came to the sad realization that I needed to sell her and move on. My plan was to build a Packard powered Studebaker to challenge myself and have some fun. I sold the Lark and I probably let her go to cheap but I now had money to burn and burn it did. I put up a feeler ad and you guys sent me pictures of your cars and trucks. Some past the point of no return all the way to final assembly projects, Thank you. There was one that stood out from the rest however.

    The car I picked up from a SDC member is a 1954 Studebaker Commander Hardtop. The special part is that at some point in its life the Hardtop was made removable. The gentleman that I bought this off of also had a 1963 Hawk Gt frame that he planned on using to help stiffen things up for the now "compromised" body strength. Being that the car was a pretty good trip away from my house I could only bring back what I could fit on my 18' trailer and the bed of the truck. I left on a friday and got there Saturday. Next we swapped the body over to the stronger frame and then drove home Sunday. A Nice weekend.

    While driving home from picking up the car I kept having a nagging feeling that I shouldn't install the packard engine and t85 in this car, why, cause Convertibles are cruisers. You want to relax, sit back and enjoy the company of your passengers. But I had already started traveling down that road so I was committed and lets be honest that would be a cool car.

    Now we are up to 2 weeks ago. A friend of mine found a 1961 Hawk in Dover, Delaware, right next door to me. He purchased it and I got it from him because he said he needs another project like he needs a another hole in the head . This was my missing piece and my plan is now solid as I will explain next.

    I now have 2 restoration projects. One for SLOW and one for GO. The 61 Hawk is powered by a 289 full flow and automatic. The frame and bits attached to it are also in decent shape just have to replace some bushings. I am going to install a K member and put that frame under the convertible. This will give me a BIG jump start on the project. I will then have bodywork and interior to do. That leaves me with the following parts. 1961 Hawk Body, 63 Hawk Gt frame, packard engine, t85od trans, Twin Traction rear and a ton of boxes full of parts. This is the car that I am going to get creative with. Did I mention its Pink, blue, yellow, and black. The blue and yellow will be making an exit.

    Now we are up to present day. I am blowing off work for a hour to write this and I will post some pictures later this evening.
    Last edited by what huh; 08-30-2020, 05:26 AM.
    Charles

    1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

  • #2
    cool...so which car is being built first?? photos, and lots of them, thanks. cheers, junior
    sigpic
    1954 C5 Hamilton car.

    Comment


    • #3
      If you need/want it, I will have a spare X member from an Avanti chassis. That would provide plenty of stiffness.
      78 Avanti RQB 2792
      64 Avanti R1 R5408
      63 Avanti R1 R4551
      63 Avanti R1 R2281
      62 GT Hawk V15949
      56 GH 6032504
      56 GH 6032588
      55 Speedster 7160047
      55 Speedster 7165279

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds like some fun projects. The removable hardtop will be unique.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by junior View Post
          cool...so which car is being built first?? photos, and lots of them, thanks. cheers, junior
          I will do the convertible first and work on the hawk if I need a break from it

          Originally posted by 64studeavanti View Post
          If you need/want it, I will have a spare X member from an Avanti chassis. That would provide plenty of stiffness.
          I would be interested in that, would save some fabrication. Is it in Florida?
          Charles

          1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

          Comment


          • #6
            As promised.

            Where the gold paint meets the black is where it separates. In the last picture you will see a spike coming out of the A pillar. Far as I can tell that has been installed for strength in the A pillar. It is possible that goes all the way to the roof as some sort of alignment pin also. We will see when I get the top off.

            1954 Hardtop


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            Attached Files
            Charles

            1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

            Comment


            • #7
              1961 Hawk

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              Charles

              1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

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              • #8
                Originally posted by what huh View Post

                I will do the convertible first and work on the hawk if I need a break from it



                I would be interested in that, would save some fabrication. Is it in Florida?
                Yes in Florida. We do have a summer place near Crossville TN. Will be heading to Wimauma tomorrow, then back to TN around the end of August.
                78 Avanti RQB 2792
                64 Avanti R1 R5408
                63 Avanti R1 R4551
                63 Avanti R1 R2281
                62 GT Hawk V15949
                56 GH 6032504
                56 GH 6032588
                55 Speedster 7160047
                55 Speedster 7165279

                Comment


                • #9
                  Pictures on the day of the body swap. It was a bit precarious but we all kept a sharp eye and ear.

                  We welded in a pair of hawk doors to aid in doing this job. There was not much substance to the floors and the torque boxes are all but gone. Along with the hardtop conversion you can easily picture how things would have happened if we didnt take this step. A Studebaker Taco.

                  Held the doors in place and bridged the gaps with some 1/8" flat stock. Worked Great!

                  In the last pic you will see that there are blocks of wood under the firewall mounts that bolt to the chassis. The 63 Hawk frame had some extra stuff that didnt allow us to fully seat the cab onto the chassis. No problem will take care of the later. With the welded doors doing there job we decided to place the wood there as a spacer and tow it home.

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                  Charles

                  1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Cool pictures. Looks like you have your work cut out for you.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Where there's a will there's a way.
                      This is inspiring!
                      "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                      Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                      Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                      '33 Rockne 10,
                      '51 Commander Starlight,
                      '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
                      '56 Sky Hawk

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ran across something in my travels. Packard engine with no serial number. On the back of the engine it says 440971 which I’ve learned means that it’s a 374. The guy I got it from said that it was a crate motor. Pretty cool and It spins freely so I picked it up.

                        The 352 sitting to the left.
                        Charles

                        1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have an engine sitting here with no home. Giving me thoughts

                          Charles

                          1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I fixed the body mounts today, well clearanced them anyhow. Got the body sitting on all the mounting points like it should be. I am uploading some time lapse videos to Youtube. They are not cinematic by any means but what to see how it went. Maybe Ill do more of them but I dont even know where to start with editing software.

                            I missed a video somewhere where I decided to take the body off the frame cause it was getting in the was of cutting the torque boxes.

                            https://youtu.be/l6VZ6p8-MJc

                            https://youtu.be/kK1_zg-ziug

                            https://youtu.be/DPbi51xvzBU

                            https://youtu.be/QIWnVMJMGdM
                            Last edited by what huh; 08-29-2020, 02:26 PM.
                            Charles

                            1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I was cleaning the garage and I couldn't help myself. I had to see it with the top off. There are 2 alignment pins on the top of the windshield with 3 latches. I also discovered snaps that must have held down a "cap" to give a finish look or a soft top was in the works at some time. A rear deck plate has started to be install to give a more finished look.

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                              Charles

                              1961 Lark Regal VIII 259/auto -- Lucy

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