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Engine and Trans swap

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  • Engine and Trans swap

    I inherited my 61' Lark Studebaker from my grandfather after he passes, and I'm now set on restoring it. This car is my first major project. The car doesn't run, the engine is locked, but the electrical system seems to work fine (turn signals, horn, lights.) I want to swap the stock 4cl. engine and transmission out with a completely new one, at least a V6 hopefully a V8. I really don't know what will fit inside, but there is a lot of room under that hood. I'm curious to what kind of engine I should put in and how big it can be. Please tell me your suggestions.

  • #2
    My first car was a 60 Lark with the OHV Six. I guess somebody transplanted that in there. But I was always happy with the performance and reliability of that engine. I bet there might be somebody close by who would have a replacement six at a reasonable price.


    • #3
      Pete -
      Most any automotive engine will fit!
      Long ago...a guy installed a 392 Hemi in a brand new Lark.
      Big block...Chevy, Chrysler, Ford...

      All you have to do is watch out for front sump oil pans...the rest is a snap.


      P.s. Your car didn't "originally" have a 4 cylinder engine in it! It was either an I6 (196 I believe) or a V8 (259).


      • #4
        A '61 Lark would have been equipped originally with either a 259 V8 or a 170 OHV six. The little Studebaker sixes are quite short, because the cylinder block contains 3 pairs of "Siamesed" cylinders lacking a water passage between them.

        Count the spark plug wires!

        Is the car manual or automatic transmission? If the former, sometimes you can bust loose a lightly locked engine by putting the transmission in high gear, and having a pair of husky friends "rock" the car to and fro.

        Where was the car stored? In a barn or outdoors? I have seen mouse nests, built in the bellhousing around the flywheel, SO DENSE that they locked up the engine, believe it or not.

        The easiest Brand X swap would be the pitifully common Chev 350 V8, or any other engine of that family. Since '65 and '66 Studebakers came stock with a Chev-style 283 in them, there are factory motor mounts available that set a 283-400 cu. in. small-block Chevy in the right place. It's still not a slam-dunk, because you will have issues with exhaust pipes, throttle, clutch, and transmission linkage, etc. Also, the radiator may have to be moved forward.

        If the engine is locked up, cannot be freed, and you don't want to rebuild it, I'd suggest that the easiest way to revive the car would be to wait until some street rodder pulls a good running engine out of a comparable car, and snag that. Watch this forum for a while, and one will turn up, or watch the classified ads in Turning Wheels. Note that if your car is presently a six, and you want to upsize to a V8, you will have to swap all of: engine, transmission, rear axle, front and rear brakes, front springs, and exhaust pipes, plus throttle linkage and maybe radiator, too. It's all bolt-on parts, but they all have to be done. BTDT, trust me on this. If you don't do the springs and the brakes, the car will sit low in front, and it won't have enough stopping power to be really safe.

        I'd also suggest that you post back and give your general location; there may be one or more people here who live nearby, and who would be willing to come look at your car and give you valuable advice as to how to proceed on it, maybe even recommend whether you should proceed or not. I know it was your grandfather's car, and therefore has great sentimental value, but unless it is in remarkably good condition, other than a locked engine, it could become a terrible money pit. That may not matter to you, but it is best that you know beforehand that you could easily wind up pouring nearly $20,000 into a car that might not fetch $10,000 on a quick sale.

        Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands
        Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands