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Steering wheel splines, cracks, shifter mods.

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  • Steering: Steering wheel splines, cracks, shifter mods.

    New to Studebakers. '55 Champion Coupe. Are the splines on my car the same as those used on any other manufacturers' steering wheels and steering shafts. Yes, I'm building a custom, but not changing the basic appearance of my lovely coupe.

    The steering wheel has several hefty cracks which I can repair, but the area with the grooves all around the rim present a challenge recover neatly. Has anyone successfully recreated those grooves?

    I have a three speed now and would like to switch to automatic column shifter. Anyone ever modify a stick column to automatic? Finding a column jacket is seeming difficult, so I might try fabricating my own three speed jacket assembly into an automatic jacket. This too sounds challenging, but what the heck, I'm retired and enjoying my first Studebaker after 50 years of Chevys and Mopars.

    Jerry in Denver, Colorado

  • #2
    Hey Jerry, Welcome to our world! Don't know your age, or exposure to Studebakers. Don't know if you are aware of the Studebaker Drivers Club, or its size, international expanse, and resources. Don't know if you are rolling in money or a pauper. Regardless, you are welcome.

    As for your steering wheel, there are a couple of brothers in Pennsylvania, who offer steering wheels. They are true craftsmen in every way. Hopefully, someone will see this and post a link to their website. In addition to lots of hard to find parts, they reproduce steering wheels better than the ones offered from the assembly line back in the day. They are not cheap. They require a rebuildable core in the exchange. They are worth the money.

    As for the spline being compatible with other makes, I'm not sure. Also, it is possible that the splines are cut asymmetrical to fit only one way on the shaft. If I'm wrong, surely someone will correct me. Anyway, I urge you to take the time to join the SDC, join a regional chapter, make a few friends, and buy the body, chassis, and shop manuals for your car. Even when customizing, or modifying, these manuals are excellent tools for understanding what you are working with. Our monthly magazine, "Turning Wheels," is worth the price of admission. It is second to none in the collector car world. Taking the time to research the vendors/resources, and interesting website links will put you way ahead of charging ahead on your own, reinventing wheels that are already turning. Welcome, and hang around here, post pictures, and share your story.
    John Clary
    Greer, SC

    SDC member since 1975

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    • #3
      Your splines should be 13/16" an odd ball size. Grant makes an adapter, but nothing early Stude specific anymore. The differences are in the finisher plate that goes upside down on the adapter.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by 60jerry View Post

        I have a three speed now and would like to switch to automatic column shifter. Anyone ever modify a stick column to automatic? Finding a column jacket is seeming difficult, so I might try fabricating my own three speed jacket assembly into an automatic jacket. This too sounds challenging, but what the heck, I'm retired and enjoying my first Studebaker after 50 years of Chevys and Mopars.

        Jerry in Denver, Colorado
        Don't even think of going to the trouble to fabricate your own. The automatic columns are still readily available. Just put out a WTB here and one will be in the mail soon.

        Those with Parts Manuals at the ready, what years columns and shifters are interchangeable with the '55 Champion C/K ? Since he's changing wheels would it be any advantage to go with a later box and column?

        Better also think through any modifications to the entire steering system. The next question from new owners is usually, "How to I add power steering (or rack and pinion power steering?)" Been covered here a zillion times, so do a search and be prepared for a week's worth of reading.

        jack vines
        PackardV8

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        • #5
          I think this is the link John was referring too.
          http://www.shrockbrothers.com/steering_wheels.html
          Ed Sallia
          Dundee, OR

          Sol Lucet Omnibus

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          • #6
            Grant has a total of three. All the same spline, but for different column combinations.
            They "used" to have one for the earlier than 1960...but I don't think they make it any more. I looked for one for a friend a year or so ago, not in the catalog any longer. But just to the "Grant" website and see what there is to see.

            Mike

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            • #7
              Thank you all for the welcome to SDC. I'm an old guy who's been a car guy for many years. Next month I turn 71. I had exposure to Studebakers as a child (family had a fairly new '52 Commander 2dr sedan, then when in high school dad got a '60 Lark that was a Nebraska state government car. About two years old with 259 automatic. I tried a very small number of drag races but couldn't out accelerate very many. I'm not quite a pauper, but car parts must be purchased on a monthly basis as retirement bucks permit.

              i suspect that finding a compatible spline on another brand will be unlikely. I have one Chevy and one Mopar steering wheel so will give them a try. If there were a matching spline I expect it to be from something older than what I have. No hurry on that 'cause I'm still disassembling and little assembly has happened. I have built up and installed the bracket for a swing brake pedal and dual master cylinder. Rear brake lines are replaced and fronts are happening this week or next. I've removed the steering box and removed about a cubic foot of grease and dirt from it and its surrounding area. Wish I had a helper to do the scraping and cleaning. I'll be taking the steering box apart to look it over and try to reduce the leakage. Appears to be the Saginaw box. Thank goodness. Building is fun, but tear down isn't.

              I've obtained a service manual, as I do for any old car I get. I have lots of manuals after all these years.

              It's good to know that I stand a chance of finding a steering column jacket for an automatic. I need to move the car around right now with the flathead. Didn't run when I trailered it home, but a little work and it runs just fine. No dead holes but really dirty oil. I don't see an oil filter, so who knows what's inside. Think I'll change it to preserve what I have.

              I don't feel a need to look into power steering at this time. If that comes up later I'll deal then. The first power steering car I ever drove was a '64 Chevelles. I'm from the "Armstrong steering" days.

              I have joined SDC and intend to get hooked up with Turning Wheels soon.

              Thanks for the steering wheel link. Pricy little boogers, aren't they.

              My my wife took a couple pics when we got the Champion onto the trailer so now I gotta find 'em to post. Right now the car is in my garage with my '66 Dodge Dart GT hardtop. Needless to say, I like certain cars of many makes. It's the memories from childhood and high school that make me want to have about 50 different cool cars.

              OK, gotta get back to the garage. I have a patient needing my attention.

              Thanks again to each of you. I'll have more questions as the car develops them.

              Jerry in Denver

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              • #8
                Even more important that the shop manual, are the chassis parts manual and body parts manual. Those two will show you every part of the car, along with part numbers and the names that Studebaker called the parts.

                The steering column you have is essentially the same from 53-56. They are different from coupes to sedans.
                Last edited by RadioRoy; 04-30-2016, 10:11 AM.
                RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

                17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
                10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
                10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
                4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
                5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
                56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
                60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

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