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ATTN all hot rod and custom builders; I got a few questions on building a convertible...

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  • Body / Glass: ATTN all hot rod and custom builders; I got a few questions on building a convertible...

    Hey guys,

    So, I got this '57 Packard sitting around. If I do the car, I have already decided it's NOT going to be stock. A little back ground on that, but I'll keep it short. To be fully honest, I get bored redoing what the factory did. It was someone else's idea, not mine; there isn't any "originality" in redoing what is already there. Plus, I really am not a big fan of the roof line on these, although I love the rest of the car. So, I got a wild hair. I really really want a convertible, but I can't afford one right now; plus I got this Packard that I need to do something with. Well, what about doing the Packard; and turning it into a convertible? I did a photo edit of a '57 Clipper, and wow; it looks really good! So, I now know what I am going to do with it....

    That leads us to the questions. The body is obviously going to lose rigidity and strength. I was considering keeping it a 4 door, maybe doing a suicide rear door treatment. Should I weld in the rear doors to gain more rigidity?

    I was also thinking of a "X" member out of a Wagonaire or Lark convertible being grafted in; do you guys agree?

    Anything else I am missing? Additional frame braces or strengthening? I'm not afraid of the job, I just don't want to start it and have it become another butcher job. I'm not starting for a while, as I got a couple other larger projects to finish first; not to mention funds. So, just in the planning stage, and getting a few things rounded up over time. (Also, lets not go down the top issue yet. I got some idea's on that, but we'll take that road when it comes......)

    Thanks guys!!
    Dylan Wills
    Everett, Wa.


    1961 Lark 4 door wagon
    1961 Lark 4 door wagon #2 (Wife's car!)
    1955 VW Beetle (Went to the dark side)
    1914 Ford Model T

  • #2
    No idea how it'd work starting with a sedan.. I've always wanted to take a '60 Lark ragtop and merge it with a '56 two door. Doesn't really help you at all but it does tie in here.

    Comment


    • #3
      You're on the right track, after the roof goes your only support for the body is in the doors and the floor, which isn't a whole lot. I've seen this done a few ways:

      X member ran underneath the floor.

      X member behind the rear seat and tied to reinforcements under the floor, or going through the doors.

      Additional sheetmetal and bracing in the body, floor, and doors.

      I've seen services where they would cut and append a ragtop to almost near anything, even a PT Cruiser, so it can be done. Prior to removing the roof, you'll want to box in the body with lengthwise and widthwise braces, much like removing the body from the frame, because once the roof goes, the body could get mighty floppy in the middle where the doors close.
      1964 Studebaker Commander R2 clone
      1963 Studebaker Daytona Hardtop with no engine or transmission
      1950 Studebaker 2R5 w/170 six cylinder and 3spd OD
      1955 Studebaker Commander Hardtop w/289 and 3spd OD and Megasquirt port fuel injection(among other things)

      Comment


      • #4
        Dylan,
        Don't take this wrong.... But do yourself a favor before you start on a major project like this.
        Sidle up with an experienced builder for a while and learn the craft. Trade sweat for learning.
        Then...Most importantly... Make a plan (which is the stage you are in).
        At age 17, I thought I could be Darryll Starbird, Dean Jefferies, and Ed Roth all rolled into one.
        Having a vision, and a passion is one thing.
        Figuring it out how to pull that vision off is another thing altogether.
        I like your style! Hang in there...Make a plan...gather your resources...plow ahead...one step at a time.
        HTIH
        Jeff
        HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)

        Jeff


        Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain



        Note: SDC# 070190 (and earlier...)

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi, Dylan: What Jeff Rice said.

          Do you have a copy of the May 2011 Hemmings Classic Car? If so, please read Jim Richardson's last-page column (Page 96). It is so well-written and hilarious I've read it several times...and will likely read it again.

          But it is also serious and speaks to what Jeff says. 'Worth your time even if you have to go to the library to find a copy. Cheers and best. BP
          We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

          Ayn Rand:
          "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

          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


          • #6
            "I've always wanted to take a '60 Lark ragtop and merge it with a '56 two door."

            Matthew, you just described my dream car (Studebaker version)
            R1 and a 5-speed, 4-wheel discs, OH MY!!

            and Dylan, your convertible dream is an excellent one, but Bob and Jeff are right. I can visualize your Packard 4-door ragtop, but I could never build one, or afford to have someone do it, either.
            sigpic
            JohnP, driving & reviving
            60 Lark & 58 Scotsman 4dr

            Comment


            • #7
              While I respect the knowledge resident on this forum, for fabrication advice I suggest you visit the H.A.M.B.: http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=5

              The knowledge and creativity there amazes me every time I visit. I would actually be surprised if someone there has not done exactly what you are contemplating. I will warn you in advance, sometimes the language or the attitudes there can be a little rough around the edges so don't go in there with thin skin. Use the search tool and ask good specific questions and will find the folks there very helpful.

              Good luck on your project, I love it when someone takes one of the less popular cars and does something really neat with it.

              Pat
              Pat Dilling
              Olivehurst, CA
              Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL


              LS1 Engine Swap Journal: http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/jour...ournalid=33611

              Comment


              • #8
                Here's one idea to ponder.

                Either make or cut out of another car...the transmission/drive shaft tunnel. The entire thing...from the firewall to the trunk.

                Then trim it so you have a 2.00" to 3.00" form fitting "tunnel" running the full length of the floor. This should add conciderable strength to the floor if done correctly. You'll need to make some vertical supports to weld in (about 12" to 14" apart)...between the stock tunnel, up to the new tunnel. You can weld them to the floor first, then drill and plug weld them to the new addition. The new tunnel should be "full" welded, front to back. No stitch welding.

                Sounds like a bit of work..yea, but I'd bet down the proverbial road a few miles...your cars body, door fitup, etc., will love you for it.

                I'd also think about the same thing on a lesser scale under the rocker panels.
                Make "hat" sections to weld to the floor. You know, sections that look like a Top hat...sliced in half, from one ear to the other..
                I believe the floors already have some in them.
                Just make them about 3/8's tall if you use them inside. This way the carpet will cover them. If you use them under the floor, make them about 1/2" tall.

                Remember the "X" framed 58 to 64 Chevy cars. I cut one up once upon a time. The rocker panels were made up of 7 (yea, seven) layers of steel in the rocker area... Except at the pinch weld area, none of these touched each other except for single layer sheet supports welded in. Just a bunch of tubes, one inside the other, all interconnected.
                This is the only strength these bodies had because of the frame design.

                Also simillar to the new Corvettes...one big long torque tube from the engine to the trans. (rear mounted transmissions). That's much of the Vettes front to rear strength.

                Have fun.

                Mike

                P.s. - As you might guess, the trans. tunnel strengthening will necessitate bucket seats of some kind, no bench seat..!
                Last edited by Mike Van Veghten; 06-02-2011, 07:48 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Just a thought here from one of the least qualified forum members on this subject. Perhaps a visit to a shop that builds limo conversions would be of value. Those folks have to have the best knowledge of frame requirements and modifications. Regardless of the "body" capsule, once you stretch one out like they do, the frame science has to be done to perfection.

                  I am thinking "boxing" and perhaps some "I" beam sections welded in. Once you provide the rigidity...good mounting with proper insulation for noise reduction will be required.


                  There have been a number of modified "Topless" bullet nose Studebakers built. I say "Topless" because most of the ones I have seen do not have a true working convertible top. They are fair weather cars used strictly for parades, and shows. Modifying a car to have a good dry operating convertible top is a much a challenge as anything you will do in this project.
                  John Clary
                  Greer, SC

                  SDC member since 1975

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I sell "X" members from the wagons cheap if you plan on going that way...Bob
                    Candbstudebakers
                    Castro Valley,
                    California


                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Dylan

                      Like Jeff, John and Mike I also don't want to discourage you, However, now come the expected "But" There are several Studebakers converted to convertibles but they are all two doors so the beam lengths and moments they were dealing with are much less than your plans with the four door. So getting all the doors to gap correctly and minimize body flex is a daunting task. Welding the rear doors closed would help but it would not be proportioned correctly IMHO, and just not look right. The only way to do that is to lengthen the front doors or find longer doors from a hardtop if that option exists. It can be done and I can point you to a couple of posts that show 50's Packard four doors converted to two doors and chopped but no 'verts. They looks very good.

                      I like Mike V's suggestion about the tunnel structure for bracing but doubt that would add sufficient rigidity to the door areas. What you could do in addition to Mike's suggestion is to duplicate that along the door areas by adding a 2 X 3 box structure about the frame and tied to the frame at intervals. This would result in a higher step over to get in but only the inner door bottoms would need to be raised leaving the outer skins and structure stock looking.

                      I think the four door 'vert would look great.

                      Pat D makes a great suggestion to go to the HAMB for advise. They have some great fabricators that really will help if you ask. They just don't like Rat Rods and just introduce yourself and the project before you ask the question the first time. It's more out spoken than this forum but the but the variety and depth of fab skills is more extensive than here. I read it as much as I do this forum.

                      Good luck

                      Bob

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        And, speaking of 4 door convertibles with suicide back doors, you might look for an early sixties Lincoln Continental convertible and study how they did it.


                        http://3d-synthesis.com/22-Lincoln-1962.html

                        Pat
                        Pat Dilling
                        Olivehurst, CA
                        Custom '53 Starlight aka STU COOL


                        LS1 Engine Swap Journal: http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/jour...ournalid=33611

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the tips guys! I really do appreciate it, every project that comes out of my mind needs a good dose of reality. Not giving up though, those mocked up pictures I did looked awesome!

                          On those Lincoln convertibles; I got a good friend that has a '66 Lincoln 4 door convertible, but it's still in his warehouse in Texas. I am really thinking about trying to go see it though, as I'm sure it would hold lots of answers and idea's on how to get the body, and the top, correct.

                          The fact of bringing up modifications at the rocker panels is kinda intriguing to me. The rocker panels on these old sedans are fairly "tall", I wonder if I can hide most of said boxing UNDER the floor, so it looks as a potential factory one off job?

                          And it was mentioned of a potential body brace behind the seat by PBR2. I was thinking on that, but maybe I'm missing something. There IS a body brace there, as most other post war Stude's; are we thinking of something more substantial in the same spot?
                          Dylan Wills
                          Everett, Wa.


                          1961 Lark 4 door wagon
                          1961 Lark 4 door wagon #2 (Wife's car!)
                          1955 VW Beetle (Went to the dark side)
                          1914 Ford Model T

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            While I haven't done the modifications to turn a sedan into a convertible, I have been told how its been done in the days of yore using nothing more than a simple axe(many many years ago, from folks with very simple of tools). I also have a similar experience when I first pulled the '55 up and found that the torque boxes were gone, and that it was rusting through the door sills where it joins the firewall, which caused the car's body to flop around in the middle. In that, I have found that on the hardtops, that if those areas are missing, there's nothing holding the body together except the roof, which wasn't helping very much, and the thin sheet metal in the floor, so in the case of making the sedan into a convertible, there will need to be some substantial bracing added under the doors. If I recall, I think that was what made convertibles considerably heavy, all of the reinforcements that were moved around and under the vehicle to make it stiff again.
                            1964 Studebaker Commander R2 clone
                            1963 Studebaker Daytona Hardtop with no engine or transmission
                            1950 Studebaker 2R5 w/170 six cylinder and 3spd OD
                            1955 Studebaker Commander Hardtop w/289 and 3spd OD and Megasquirt port fuel injection(among other things)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The Lincoln convertibles started with heavy plating the length of the rockers. There are several strategically placed braces of different sizes throughout. It's obvious expert engineers did a lot of designing, and it paid off; those slabside convertibles are remarkably sturdy, with no cowl shudder common to most convertibles. Of course, these are unibody cars to start with, which helps.

                              I had several of those cars, some in beautiful condition. Some of the classiest cars ever made, and near the top of my list. I sold them all a couple years ago save for a couple parts cars.
                              Proud NON-CASO

                              I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

                              If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

                              GOD BLESS AMERICA

                              Ephesians 6:10-17
                              Romans 15:13
                              Deuteronomy 31:6
                              Proverbs 28:1

                              Illegitimi non carborundum

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