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'50 Champ rear end lights

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  • '50 Champ rear end lights

    I'm trying to re-attach a wiring harness from the rear of my car to the terminal buss on the firewall. There are 4 wires in the harness, but the shop manual shows 5 -- brake, tail, gas gauge, left, and right signals. My car does not have turn signals, so that eliminates 2 wires, leaving 3. But I have 4. Where does the fourth wire go?
    Now another problem, which may be answered by the first problem. The car has backup lights, but no wire in the trunk harness for them. I assume I might as well count on looking on the shifter for a reverse switch at some point, but I haven't done that yet. And, there is no reference in the shop manual for backup lights, and no wiring info. It's as if they didn't exist for this car when it was manufactured.
    Thanks for any help.

    '50 Champion, 1 family owner

  • #2
    I might be wrong, but IIRC, one for tail lights/license light, one for brake lites, gas gauge, and a ground.
    The B/U lights were optional, and not in the factory harness. They would hook up to the neutral-safety switch, (4 wires, 2 for the solenoid for the no start in gear, and 2 for the B/U lights.

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    • #3
      Since 1947, Studebakers had the arrow indicators in the dash for turn signals, whether or not they were ordered and installed. To have "provisions for" turn signals built in, requires a left and right Stop light wire in the rear harness that can be wired to the turn signal switch for turn signals or jumpered together for stop only, at the steering column.

      There are never ground wires on metal bodied cars, all lights are "frame" grounded.

      I have worked mostly on '53 and up Studes. not as many '47-'52, so I have not checked deeply into this for a '50 Champ., but most Studes are wired this way.

      So that gives you Left and Right Stop/Turn, Tail & Lic., and fuel gauge for (4), only cars with back-up lights should have (5).

      As mentioned the back-up lights were an option and are shown in the Body Parts Catalog as "Accessories" and may be in the Shop Manual in a separate wiring dia. for accessories.

      On the factory setup, the rear harness would NOT go to a "terminal buss" as you say, but to a round 5 way double ended "bullet" disconnect on the engine side of the firewall since the harness is routed along the frame outside of the car on all models up to 1959. The other side of the disconnect goes to the main chassis Harness to go to the Headlight Light Switch, stoplight Switch, fuel guage and steering column.

      Something like 98% of '50 Champions would be manual Trans. so the backup light switch would not include a "Neutral" switch for Auto. Trans. It would be mounted on the column, under the hood at the shift levers, if it had the option only.
      Hope this helps!

      StudeRich -Studebakers Northwest Ferndale, WA
      Second Generation Stude Driver,
      Proud '54 Starliner Owner
      SDC Member Since 1967


      • #4
        Thanks a lot. It looks like I will have to run a seperate wire for the B/U lights after finding a reverse switch. It's a real puzzlement to me. My Dad bought the car new, so if the lights are in the body, I cannot imagine why they weren't wired in or why I can't find the wire. The turn signal wires are on the buss (which is bolted to the firewall with 5 terminals), but the car has never had them, although the sockets are in the light units.

        '50 Champion, 1 family owner


        • #5
          Originally the 1950 models had T/S and fog light wiring included in the harness. In about mid-year they eliminated these wires and eventually changed the 5-way connector to a 3-way. During the changeover period some cars came with the 5-way connector with nothing connected to the lower two terminals. Your 4th wire might be for the back-up lights maybe? Any visible color codes? Don't know why there is no wires at the light assemblies, sounds like the installation never got completed?
          When wired as per instructions the back-up lights are powered by the tail light circuit. So that means they won't work unless the parking or headlights are on too.
          If your car is an automatic I think the back-up light switch might already be in place.

          Dwain G.
          D 'N Q RACE ENGINES


          • #6
            My dad bought the car in December of '49, I don't know the date of manufacture yet, will someday with a production order.
            The dash harness has 5 wires which all connect to a 5 stud terminal buss. The harness going to the rear has 4 wires. I have gotten voltage from the terminal buss to the tail lights, brake lights, (both in the same bulb, different filaments),and license light. That involved only 2 of the 4 wires, and I am pretty sure that neither of those 2 wires was the brake light wire. That is because the lights were on whether the pedal was depressed or not. I just have to spend more time with the pedal to figure out which wire it might be. Wasn't able to do any work on it today, so don't know more from earlier suggestions yet. If the fourth wire is for the backup lights, I haven't found it in the trunk. The license wire was in plain sight, just disconnected. I'll have to look in the trunk and under the fender for another wire if that is the case. Would the back up lights voltage source come from under the dash instead of directly from a switch on the column? I figured I would look for that reverse switch and then follow the wires, but haven't done that step yet. The dash harness and terminal buss both visually match the wiring diagram in my shop manual, just the chassis harness doesn't match. And the car did not come with turn signals. And there is no mention of backup lights anywhere in the shop manual.

            '50 Champion, 1 family owner


            • #7
              Bob, if your car has backup lights, and assuming it is a straight gear 50, either Champion or Commander, then there should be a switch under the hood at the reverse linkage, where the switch is activated by putting the car in reverse. I just finished both of my Studebakers backup light activation. The reverse light is looking for activation of the negative portion of the battery with the ignition switch on. I got the negative side of the battery by running a wire from the OD Relay IGN terminal to one side of the backup light switch, and the other side of the switch went to the wire feeding the backup light. As for the turn signal lights, both of my cars, Champion, and Commander has a seperate bulb for the turn signal lights. That bulb is under the tail light/brake light bulb. So you should have two bulbs in the tail light area. Just don't do like some weenie did with my Commander. He sawed off the little knobs of a 1157 blub so that he could put a 12 volt blub in a 6 volts socket. I don't think that he knew he would be messing things up where you couldn't see the brake lights. Anyway you run into stuff like that with these old cars that have had weenies working on them. Patience pays off. I rewired my Champion with all new wiring harnesses and put the wires on the terminal board just like they are layed out in the wiring diagram, and everything worked when I throwed juice to the car. I might also mention that I am an Electronics Technician, so this sorta stuff is 2nd nature for me. You'll get there, 'cause I can tell from your question that you have the patience.


              • #8

                Shown is back up light switch and mounting bracket on my 50 Champion. Note the clamp
                at bottom of bracket that attaches same to steering column. The switch is actuated by the reverse rod finger that pushes in on the switch button. It is wired from the ACC position of ignition switch through one of the switch terminals and then from the other terminal to the back up light (and over to a second light if present).
                Hope this helps.

                Dick Curtis
                Santa BArbara
                The 1950 Champion Starlight
                Santa Barbara


                • #9
                  Yea! Thanks for all your posts, they all have had value, and I hope you keep helping me.

                  I finally spent some time on that today, and successfully found the source terminal for the gas gauge and the matching wire from the harness, so now I have a gas gauge. I also found the source terminal for the tail lights and matching wire, and have tail lights. I'm really happy with the progress I made today.

                  That leaves two wire to the rear that I don't have identified. I did find the reverse switch, just like yours Dick and thanks, so will see if one of the two wires left in the harness can be found in the back end and maybe connected to the lights. Tried to look under there today, but I seem to be bigger than I was as a child and now will have to jack up the car to get under it.

                  Countryboy, my tail light assemblies do have the second base for the turn signals, but no wires connected to the connectors. The car has never had signals, so I don't care about them. But, other than maybe this harness that's torturing me, a lot of the parts for them are there.

                  Anyone want to come step on the brake pedal for me?

                  '50 Champion, 1 family owner


                  • #10
                    Coutryboy, I forgot to mention to you that there have been NO weenies working on this car. NOT EVER!! heh-heh, just my and me. This is the car they had when I was born, and I learned how to work on cars on this one. I don't think it has ever been worked on by anyone else except for some of the major restoration.

                    '50 Champion, 1 family owner