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frame swap

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  • frame swap

    hey everyone, this is my first post and i was wondering if anyone has completed a frame swap to a champion. I have a 1950 champion and i am hoping to put a new frame under it. it will ultimitly become a very mild hotrod, and i need to get started. this was my father-in-laws car and dream. he passed away at easter and i am doing the car in his memory. it will have a 350 and an automatic. i have a 1979 impalla with good everything, but the body that is the likely doner candidate. any help would be appreciated.

    with Gods love

  • #2
    There are a couple of options open to you.

    First, if the Champion is in relatively good shape, and running or close to it, I'd urge you to keep it stock, or at least keep it all Studebaker. Could well be your cheapest option, too. Most any part you are likely to need is readily available. There are a couple of vendors that specialize in hop-ups to the Champion six. An engine done up that way may never have the power of a big-block V8, but it will look cool as all get-out at a car show, and the exhaust note is sweeet.

    Remember that the Champion is a light car, and especially in the '50 and prior models, almost nothing about the frame and running gear shared commonality with the Commander cars with the bigger engine.

    Second option: do a front frame clip on the Champion, using the K member out of a Dodge Diplomat or other car in that family. If you strip all the suspension components off the Champion frame rails, you can simply set the rails down on top of the K member and weld them in place; no need to cut and splice the frame rails. (You still have to know what you are doing, and there is some trimming and fitting involved, but you do gain a more modern suspension without the issues that can arise when you try to splice a hat-channel frame.) That gets you disc brakes and power steering in one fell swoop. You can easily install a Chevy engine if that is your preference. I've seen this done to a couple of Studes, and it seems to me to be the best alternative to a frame swap. You WILL have to swap in a tougher rear axle, an 8 3/4" Ford might be a good choice here.

    Third option: swap out the entire frame. I know of one '48 Stude that sits on a Chevy S10 frame, and it looks pretty good that way. But be advised that the only frame that fits a Studebaker properly is a Studebaker frame. Due to a shocking lack of forethought on the part of the other manufacturers, none of their frames come close to properly fitting a Studebaker body "right out of the box." All kidding aside, I'm just pointing out that the frame swap option means you will HAVE TO cut, fit, weld, and cut, fit and weld again until you get the body trimmed to fit the frame, and the frame trimmed to fit the body. That sort of chore is best only attempted if the body is stripped and gutted of its interior.

    BTW, the '79 Impala frame is probably way too long and too wide for the Champion body, and it is a perimeter frame, too, IIRC. Most of the smaller cars are unibody, and offer no frame to swap. Chevy S10, Dodge Dakota, and Ford Ranger, or Japanese mini-trucks will be pratically your only source of late-model ladder frames with disc brakes and I.F.S.

    Hope this helps.

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


    • #3
      thanks gordr. i should have been more preciese. the car is in good enough condition but there is a piston sized hole in the block. The car has been under a roof since the early 60's when the motor blew. the mechanics of the car all need to be replaced so swaping the body is a more feasible option. I know this will be a lot of work, but the car represents much more than just a classic or hotrod. Thanks so much for the reply.

      with Gods love


      • #4
        I'd also look at 'clipping' the original frame, but in a different way. Total Cost Involved (TCI) sells front suspension kits that use Mustang II suspension components with rack & pinion steering. These weld to the original frame and TCI can adjust the width to fit just about any car. The rear leaf spring suspension should work well enough with a different rear end like those from a late model Mustang or Ranger (8.8"). The 'B' body Chevy with be too long and too wide. The cost involved (no pun intended) will be more than buying a TCI kit.

        If this is going to be a mild rod, I'd go with the Stude 289 just to be different, but there's nothing wrong with a SBC. Of course you should be able to locate a '50's Caddy engine or a Buick Nailhead reasonably cheap.

        Tom - Lakeland, FL

        1964 Studebaker Daytona

        Michigan Speed -
        Club Hot Rod -
        LS1 Tech -
        Tom - Bradenton, FL

        1964 Studebaker Daytona - 289 4V, 4-Speed (Cost To Date: $2514.10)
        1964 Studebaker Commander - 170 1V, 3-Speed w/OD