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  • Electrical: 1955 Champion converting 6 volts to 12 volts "Waste of money?"

    Let me preface this with stating that my father told me not to become a mechanic, so I am pretty raw, but willing to learn. I bought the car because my dad was about to retire when he found found out stage 3 cancer and it has sat in my garage for almost 9 years. I have been having fun working on it and I have learned some things, but just enough to be dangerous.

    I am sure that this has been covered multiple times, but the search does not let me get very specific, unless there is something I do not know about.

    I went to a car show and had gentleman tell me that he converted several cars to 12 volt and I was wasting money converting everything over to 12 volt, because all the electrical could easily handle 12 volts except for one thing, which I do not remember what it is now...

    I am almost done converting everything, but for future reference
    1) Was he correct?
    2) Does anyone know what that one thing would be?

    Thank you,
    Darryl Dodd, LMT, Neural Reset Therapist
    Thank you,
    Darryl Dodd LMT, Neural Reset Practitioner
    Essential Transformations LLC
    www.essentialtransformations.com

  • #2
    It isn't quite that simple. Pre-1956 Studebaker vehicles were 6 volt, positive ground, while 1956 and later were 12 volt, negative ground. This complicates the matter somewhat because things like radios are both voltage and polarity sensitive. Just about everything else is voltage sensitive, though a widget can be purchased to reduce the voltage for things like light bulbs and gas gauges. Why do want to change? The reason most people want to change is so they can add a modern radio or air conditioning system -- though a widget can be used to convert your 6v to 12v so they will work. If you are considering converting because of slow starting, you might first want to make sure you have the correct battery cables with clean connections all the way around.

    This subject has been discussed here MANY times, and you will get strong opinions on both sides. A search will turn up plenty of threads. Before you embark on a potentially messy conversion, consider why you are doing it.
    Skip Lackie

    Comment


    • #3
      You are really better off getting the car running and stopping, then working on individual systems to bring them up to snuff as you go along.

      For a non mechanically inclined person to take on a huge project like converting from 6 to 12 volts, is a recipe for disaster. Many, many cars have been reduced to being only good for parts by someone energetically starting a huge project, ripping everything apart, then running out of time, money, space, energy, and know how.

      But I just reread your post and it seems like you are already into the project.

      The best advice I can now offer is to understand how to do the conversion. Somethings need to be replaced, some things do not.

      The things that do not need to be changed are:
      -wires
      -switches
      -overdrive governor
      -points

      The things that must be changed are:
      -motors
      -solenoids
      -relays
      -horns
      -light bulbs
      -generator or alternator
      -battery
      -voltage regulator
      -ignition coil
      -temperature and fuel gauges need voltage reducer, like a RUNTZ by 5th ave garage
      -the radio must be rebuilt to handle 12 volts

      Some folks say that the starter motor will be OK in 12 volts, but I am not convinced of that


      What prompted you to change it to 12 volts anyway? It's probably a moot point, but I am on record as saying that it's not a good idea to take on a big project until you understand what you are doing. That's a "you" in general, not specifically aimed at you in particular.
      Last edited by RadioRoy; 06-22-2017, 08:16 AM.
      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

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by RadioRoy View Post
        You are really better off getting the car running and stopping, then working on individual systems to bring them up to snuff as you go along.
        For a non mechanically inclined person to take on a huge project like converting from 6 to 12 volts, is a recipe for disaster. Many, many cars have been reduced to being only good for parts by someone energetically starting a huge project, ripping everything apart, then running out of time, money, space, energy, and know how.

        But I just reread your post and it seems like you are already into the project.

        The best advice I can now offer is to understand how to do the conversion. Somethings need to be replaced, some things do not.

        The things that do not need to be changed are:
        -wires
        -switches
        -overdrive governor

        The things that must be changed are:
        -motors
        -solenoids
        -relays
        -horns
        -light bulbs
        -generator or alternator
        -battery
        -voltage regulator
        -temperature and fuel gauges need voltage reducer, like a RUNTZ by 5th ave garage
        -the radio must be rebuilt to handle 12 volts

        Some folks say that the starter motor will be OK in 12 volts, but I am not convinced of that
        What prompted you to change it to 12 volts anyway? It's probably a moot point, but I am on record as saying that it's not a good idea to take on a big project until you understand what you are doing. That's a "you" in general, not specifically aimed at you in particular.
        My father started the conversion, but he was not internet savvy and did not ask me about, so he was using snail mail asking questions. Add to the fact cancer was already taking a heavy toll.

        -motors
        -solenoids - Starter Solenoid just died on me so it is replaced with a 12-volt
        -relays
        -horns
        -light bulbs - I need to check
        -generator or alternator
        -battery
        -voltage regulator
        -temperature and fuel gauges need voltage reducer, like a RUNTZ by 5th ave garage - I have a converter and plan on doing this tomorrow or Friday. Having issues with a foster kid right now..
        -the radio must be rebuilt to handle 12 volts - I am still thinking about this one.

        It looks like it just takes two screws out of the instrument panel and pull it out, so I can access it from the wires easier. I have blindly reached into computer servers, swapped memory, flipped switches, so this should be a piece of cake, but when I think that, it is when I get in trouble.

        BTW: So far i have had to pump the brake lines out where the fluid was like yogurt, removed to electric gas pumps and replaced them both with a mechanical pump, replaced the fuel line... so I am learning! For the record it is much easier to remove pain from a muscle without touching the muscle, than figuring some of this stuff out!!


        Thanks again.
        Thank you,
        Darryl Dodd LMT, Neural Reset Practitioner
        Essential Transformations LLC
        www.essentialtransformations.com

        Comment


        • #5
          From Radio Roy: "The things that must be changed are:
          -motors
          -solenoids
          -relays
          -horns
          -light bulbs
          -generator or alternator
          -battery
          -voltage regulator
          -temperature and fuel gauges need voltage reducer, like a RUNTZ by 5th ave garage
          -the radio must be rebuilt to handle 12 volts

          Some folks say that the starter motor will be OK in 12 volts, but I am not convinced of that."

          Fan/blower motors can probably live OK simply by using resistor-type "voltage reducer". Wiper motor has more load on it, and a more variable load at that, and should be replaced. Fortunately, motors from Hawk donor cars are plentiful. Starter solenoid is momentary-contact only, will work on 12 volts, and is cheap and easy to replace when it does die early. Overdrive solenoid must be replaced, because not only is it continuous-duty, it has a high-current pull-in coil that precludes using a dropping resistor. Six-volt horns will work on twelve volts, and probably for a long time, unless you do a lot of wedding processions. Light bulbs must be replaced, concur here. Generator, battery, and voltage regulator, but those are givens in any conversion. Yes, temp and fuel gauges need proper constant-voltage regulators. Dropping resistors will not do.

          A six-volt tube radio could be converted to a twelve-volt tube radio, but it would be a chore. The best course here would be to have the radio converted to a modern solid-state AM-FM stereo, maybe with built-in provision to play mp3's off a memory stick. Can be done without altering appearance of radio.

          The six volt starter will work for a long time on twelve volts, but will burn out if it is used to crank for long periods trying to start a balky engine, say in cases of vapor lock, or extreme cold weather. But you sort of have to use it, because six and twelve volt starters used different pitch teeth on the ring gear. One would have to install the starter drive off a six-volt starter onto the armature of a twelve-volt starter. Might be easier just to keep a second six-volt starter on hand, and do a quick swap if the original starter piles up.

          One other thing: IIRC, some of the six volt cars used a dropping resistor right on the back of the switch to give you the slow speed for heater blower fan and the defroster fan. Changing to 12-volt motors and using the same switches, you will find that "slow" is scarcely slower than "fast". That's because the dropping resistor is sized for the current demand of a six-volt motor, and the twelve-volt motor draws half as much current. And the switches are physically different between years, so simply swapping switches isn't an easy option.
          Last edited by gordr; 06-21-2017, 09:46 PM. Reason: spelling
          Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ETLMT View Post
            Let me preface this with stating that my father told me not to become a mechanic, so I am pretty raw, but willing to learn. I bought the car because my dad was about to retire when he found found out stage 3 cancer and it has sat in my garage for almost 9 years. I have been having fun working on it and I have learned some things, but just enough to be dangerous.

            I am sure that this has been covered multiple times, but the search does not let me get very specific, unless there is something I do not know about.
            I went to a car show and had gentleman tell me that he converted several cars to 12 volt and I was wasting money converting everything over to 12 volt, because all the electrical could easily handle 12 volts except for one thing, which I do not remember what it is now...

            I am almost done converting everything, but for future reference
            1) Was he correct?
            2) Does anyone know what that one thing would be?

            Thank you,
            Darryl Dodd, LMT, Neural Reset Therapist
            You are listening to the wrong guy~!!. Bulbs can't take 12volts, gauges can't take 12 volts, coil will burn up, heater blower motor will be toasted, clock will smoke, electric wiper motor will burn up. What else do you want to replace????. Fifth Avenue Garage sell a very inexpensive booklet that will guide you thru the conversion should you choose to waste your time and money doing it. Clean and snug all connections and install proper sized battery cables and the 6-volt system will serve you very well for a very long time~!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by gordr View Post
              From Radio Roy: "The things that must be changed are:
              -motors
              -solenoids
              -relays
              -horns
              -light bulbs
              -generator or alternator
              -battery
              -voltage regulator
              -temperature and fuel gauges need voltage reducer, like a RUNTZ by 5th ave garage
              -the radio must be rebuilt to handle 12 volts

              Some folks say that the starter motor will be OK in 12 volts, but I am not convinced of that."

              Fan/blower motors can probably live OK simply by using resistor-type "voltage reducer". Wiper motor has more load on it, and a more variable load at that, and should be replaced. Fortunately, motors from Hawk donor cars are plentiful. Starter solenoid is momentary-contact only, will work on 12 volts, and is cheap and easy to replace when it does die early. Overdrive solenoid must be replaced, because not only is it continuous-duty, it has a high-current pull-in coil that precludes using a dropping resistor. Six-volt horns will work on twelve volts, and probably for a long time, unless you do a lot of wedding processions. Light bulbs must be replaced, concur here. Generator, battery, and voltage regulator, but those are givens in any conversion. Yes, temp and fuel gauges need proper constant-voltage regulators. Dropping resistors will not do.

              A six-volt tube radio could be converted to a twelve-volt tube radio, but it would be a chore. The best course here would be to have the radio converted to a modern solid-state AM-FM stereo, maybe with built-in provision to play mp3's off a memory stick. Can be done without altering appearance of radio.

              The six volt starter will work for a long time on twelve volts, but will burn out if it is used to crank for long periods trying to start a balky engine, say in cases of vapor lock, or extreme cold weather. But you sort of have to use it, because six and twelve volt starters used different pitch teeth on the ring gear. One would have to install the starter drive off a six-volt starter onto the armature of a twelve-volt starter. Might be easier just to keep a second six-volt starter on hand, and do a quick swap if the original starter piles up.

              One other thing: IIRC, some of the six volt cars used a dropping resistor right on the back of the switch to give you the slow speed for heater blower fan and the defroster fan. Changing to 12-volt motors and using the same switches, you will find that "slow" is scarcely slower than "fast". That's because the dropping resistor is sized for the current demand of a six-volt motor, and the twelve-volt motor draws half as much current. And the switches are physically different between years, so simply swapping switches isn't an easy option.
              AMEN, AMEN, AMEN~! A friend of mine who would not listen to me just paid some bum $1400 to have his '51 converted to 12 volts. No runtz, no ballast resistor. No improvement.

              AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.

              Comment


              • #8
                And another amen. I run 6v cars all year round, especially my 50 Champion which starts at any temperature we see here in the mid-atlantic states. When I got the car, which was after a very long sleep, it got new cables, new generator brushes, and a lot of tidying up of mouse-eaten electrics, and cleaning of contacts. Lights are bright, blowers are strong and the starter turns it over at a good clip. This was all waaaaay less work than converting everything. I've put 11,000 miles on it in the last 3 years, including 1435 miles round trip to South Bend this year.


                In 25 years of servicing antique cars full time, chiefly Packards, I find that many people have very low expectations of how these cars should run. Remember Grandpa was expected on time at the office even in February, and Grandma didn't wait for a perfect day to drive to the store. Just bring systems back to a standard condition and you will see why Studebakers had a reputation as good reliable cars.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Funny, how we attempt to "police" one another about how they attend to their business, their possessions. Of course, it is a natural tendency of merely being human. As humans, we seek the fellowship, and comfort of "like minded" individuals. Joining this forum is a good example. Sometimes, "Like Minded" only in terms of being Studebaker enthusiasts, and very little else. Coming here to ask for opinions is like tiptoeing through a minefield. You never know, when the requester is going to be offended, or pleased by the comments. At the same time, the advice provider can sometimes go off if he thinks his comments are not respected. To add to the "excitement"...fellow members of the "Studebaker Forum Herd" sometimes, begin lobbing "opinion mortars" at each other.

                  When giving advice to a fellow member, (even when requesting how to treat his car) it reminds me of an old saying..."You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

                  However, I have never heard that saying followed by, "BUT IF YOU TRY TO FORCE HIM...YOU COULD DROWN HIM!"

                  So, for my opinion, I will only offer that I have three licensed and tagged Studebaker vehicles. One is V8 powered and two six cylinder powered. All are old enough to be six volt systems. They have not been converted, and I have not encountered any problems to cause me to convert them to a twelve volt system. The one twelve volt system car I have is, momentarily, retired, (a '60 Lark V8). Having a twelve volt system, enabled me to conveniently add a CB radio, air conditioning, and a little FM radio adapter. The only "conversion" was to replace the generator with a one wire alternator. Other than "CONVENIENCE" to add these (at the time) off shelf accessories...I have found zero advantage in the performance of the car, over the older ones with six volt systems.

                  So, I'll conclude by saying that you have been offered a variety of opinions, but it is your car, and your decision. What ever you do, I hope you enjoy your project and see it through to completion.
                  John Clary
                  Greer, SC

                  SDC member since 1975

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I know that I come on too strong sometimes. It's just that I have seen so many folks make mistakes and work so much harder than they have to ( and sometimes make a simple repair into a real nose bleed) all because they went with their first impulse and could not be swayed to look at alternatives.

                    When I start to do something, I design it and redesign it in my head several times, then sleep on it and redesign it again. Most of the things I build do not even start until at least revision five.

                    The most important thing about fixing a problem is to troubleshoot and determine what is wrong. Most folks just start tearing things apart. We have had two instances recently where someone thought the timing gear was bad and either proceeded to open up the front of the engine or was determined to do so. Some simple tests can determine if the timing gear is OK without removing anything major. Every time you tear something apart that didn't need to be torn apart, you run the risk of introducing new problems that can potentially mask the original problem.

                    I try to teach, to show the easy way to do it, the smart way is usually the least invasive way. The best way to do things is not necessarily the first way that comes to mind.

                    Someone coined the term "willingness to embrace bad ideas and reluctance to let go of them" and that often applies to requests for help on this forum. I try to get folks to see a better way, but my techniques of persuasion are sometimes/often lacking.

                    In this case, the OP's father started the conversion (a fact that came out later in the discussion) so he had no choice but to continue.
                    Last edited by RadioRoy; 06-23-2017, 12:14 PM.
                    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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Did this on wife's 53. It was not easy because stuff just does not work. Mostly it is straight foreward (changing bulbs) No need to change starter but would need a 12v generator. My big problem was dropping the voltage to the fuel gage and tep mp. gage.NONE of the cute little things you can buy for this work. You must make your own. The parts are cheap and it does not take long to assemble. If you want intructions get back to me with contact info and I'll mail you a copy. I had to change it cause the only torque converter available took a 12v Delco starter ( yes, it did take me a little while to figure it out 'cause the supplier did not really volunteer that little tidbit of information.)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        "Most of the things I build do not even start until at least revision five."

                        "The most important thing about fixing a problem is to troubleshoot and determine what is wrong."

                        Sage advice indeed from Radio Roy . For CASOs, politicians, folks in industry and the general populace alike.

                        I'm pretty sure they were two of the five on the tablet that unfortunately were lost to history as documented here -
                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah-WdAwVg9c

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          This is a little out there, and I do not recommend doing it. I bought a 1950 Ford F3 truck around 30 years ago. The previous owner was pretty savvy with electrical, and he had left all of the 6 volt intact, but added a complete 12 volt system to the truck. This meant two batteries, a generator and alternator, etc. It had the 6 volt starter, but if that didn't crank as well as you needed there was a toggle switch under the dash to flip it to 12 volt start. ( separate solenoid and cables) I drove it that way for years as a work truck, but recently converted it to a rat rod. I ended up removing all the 12 volt and keeping the 6 volt system. I am running a 6 volt optima battery. and it always fires up and runs great. Again, I do not recommend this idea, just thought it might be interesting to some.
                          Tom Senecal Not enough money or years to build all of the Studebakers that I think I can.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Did Ed (SN-60) retire?
                            Does your 1955 Champion have a DG transmission.
                            Heaven forbid!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ross View Post
                              And another amen. I run 6v cars all year round, especially my 50 Champion which starts at any temperature we see here in the mid-atlantic states. When I got the car, which was after a very long sleep, it got new cables, new generator brushes, and a lot of tidying up of mouse-eaten electrics, and cleaning of contacts. Lights are bright, blowers are strong and the starter turns it over at a good clip. This was all waaaaay less work than converting everything. I've put 11,000 miles on it in the last 3 years, including 1435 miles round trip to South Bend this year.


                              In 25 years of servicing antique cars full time, chiefly Packards, I find that many people have very low expectations of how these cars should run. Remember Grandpa was expected on time at the office even in February, and Grandma didn't wait for a perfect day to drive to the store. Just bring systems back to a standard condition and you will see why Studebakers had a reputation as good reliable cars.
                              Well-stated, Ross, and spot-on. Thanks. BP
                              We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

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

                              Comment

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