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Thread: Input on doing a full frame/body swap

  1. #1
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    Input on doing a full frame/body swap

    Please members, weigh in with wisdom beyond my knowledge on this one.
    Here's the situation.
    I am looking to assemble the best version of a 1953 Starliner commander as I reasonably can.
    I have had the 53 for about a year now and although it runs and drives the tiny brakes are more exciting than I'd like and lil 232 are less exciting than I'd like.
    The car is in good/fair driver condition but I am upgrading the car for sure.
    Plan is for a nice 289 and bigger brakes. Keeping it Studebaker!
    Now.
    I have just picked up a 1963 GT hawk "parts car" 289 and 4 speed ( sitting for 28 years outside her in the northeast so the body is rough ) that I figured I swap motor and trans between the two cars.
    Truthfully the parts car although neglected it is not molested to bad. The frames between the two cars are in about the same condition.
    I know people who complain about the 1953 frames but the guys I've actually talked to started off with 6cyl champions.
    Questions: Are the 1953 V8 frames sturdier than the 6cyl frames?
    Are the 1963 V8 frames sturdier than the 1953 V8 frames?
    Is it worth swapping bodies/frames here in regards to potential improvements from 53 to 63?

    What would you all do in this situation?

  2. #2
    Golden Hawk Member
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    What I have done with 1953 Commander Starliners, that is fairly easy and effective, is to install a later engine (I prefer a 259 cid) and bolt on later Studebaker V8 drum brake assemblies. This makes the 1953s much nicer to drive.
    I haven't and wouldn't go through a frame swap unless you are going to very high performance and then I would recommend a new, purpose built frame.
    Gary L.
    Wappinger, NY

    SDC member since 1968
    Studebaker enthusiast much longer

  3. #3
    Speedster Member
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    If you do some very careful measuring it might work out. Some drawings, if you could find them, with dimensions would be a big help in comparing the frames. I, personally, would retain the original rails and just update the brakes and steering. Probably a lot less headaches.
    Just my .02 worth.
    Last edited by thom; 06-16-2019 at 09:54 PM.
    thom

  4. #4
    President Member bensherb's Avatar
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    Unless you're planing on a frame off restoration anyway, it's probably not worth the effort since the frames are in the same condition. The later frame is made of slightly thicker material about .035", but some body mounts are wrong for the early body though they could be changed. You will want to use the "wing" crossmember from the '63 regardless of which frame you go with, it bolts in.

  5. #5
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    This is at the heart of issue here. What BENSHERB said. " The later frame is made of slightly thicker material about .035" "
    Are the 1963 frames truly thicker or stronger or is that just hear say?

    PS. The 1953 will be used in a spirited way and the 289 is planned to run under pressure. Not a drag car but a good performer.

  6. #6
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    Max, Take a pair of calipers or mike and measure the thickness of the frames. The easiest spot is at the front of the frame where the bumpers mount to. The 53 should be .074" and the 63 should be .113". That is for the hat section, the bottom plate is .074" for 53 and 63. There are a few small trouble spots, but if you decide to go the frame swap, a little common sense and a few questions here will get you through it. Stude went by U.S. Standard Gage for sheet & plate iron and steel. Steel manufacturers are playing around with thickness now. The old 18 gage was .050" that Stude used to make oil pans. Now all the 18 gage I can find is .0475"
    Last edited by Alan; 06-17-2019 at 10:54 AM. Reason: to add

  7. #7
    Silver Hawk Member
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    And yes, if it's a performance build and if a sound late GT frame can be found, the swap is definitely worth the effort.

    While you're in there, do the homework on past posts here describing welding up the front crossmember, heavy duty front and rear anti-roll bars, stronger rear shock mount crossmember, Koni shocks, GM front springs and even fiberglass rear leaf springs.


    You're on a slippery slope, but go for it!

    jack vines
    PackardV8

  8. #8
    President Member thunderations's Avatar
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    If you have the 63 frame and don't use it, you will probably always wished you had. Might not be a lot of difference, but how will you know? By stripping the 63 frame down and rebuilding everything, you will have the best that Studebaker had to offer in suspension and steering. The rear brakes are very good, but I would upgrade the fronts to discs.
    I'm in the process of rebuilding a 64 Daytona 4 Dr V8 frame to go under my 1950 Champion convertible. Yes, body mounts are different, but it's simple fabrication to either move the mounts or build new ones. I'm replacing the 11" front drum brakes with a Turner disc kit. I know that the 11" drums are good, but I believe that the disc brakes are better. All of the suspension bushings will be upgraded.
    It may take a few test fits to get everything correct, but I will never have to question myself for not doing it.
    1966 Daytona (The First One)
    1950 Champion Convertible
    1950 Champion 4Dr
    1955 President 2 Dr Hardtop
    1957 Thunderbird

  9. #9
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    Disc's are sitting on the work bench awaiting a car to go on to.
    Ill have to crawl under tonight and take a few measurements to compare the gauge/thickness between the two.
    The driveshafts are a world apart too. A skinny 2 piece and a huge ( guesstamate 3.50" ) 1 piece.
    And the steering boxes are not the same as far as I can tell.

  10. #10
    Silver Hawk Member
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    I've had a 54 Champion with a 289 4 speed for many decades of spirited driving. I've never had reason to worry about the frame thickness. I have a 1-1/4" sway bar up front, cut springs to lower the stance, Ford wheels and radial tires, 12" disc brakes up front, drums in rear. Just my opinion, but a frame swap would be a waste of time.
    That being said... if for some reason your frame fails in any way under the "stress" of harsh driving, then all the add-ons and upgrades will then swap over to the newer frame anyway. You'd be ahead of the game in either case.
    sals54

  11. #11
    President Member bensherb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxeffort View Post
    Disc's are sitting on the work bench awaiting a car to go on to.
    Ill have to crawl under tonight and take a few measurements to compare the gauge/thickness between the two.
    The driveshafts are a world apart too. A skinny 2 piece and a huge ( guesstamate 3.50" ) 1 piece.
    And the steering boxes are not the same as far as I can tell.
    The GT drive shaft is 2 3/4" diameter, and it's steering box is a way bigger Ross SL54. with a bit tighter ratio.

  12. #12
    Golden Hawk Member DEEPNHOCK's Avatar
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    I am looking to assemble the best version of a 1953 Starliner commander as I reasonably can.
    The words 'best' and 'reasonable' are like vinegar and oil.

    You want the 'best'?
    Go get an Art Morrison Frame. Specifically built for the Stude body.
    Then spend at least as much as the frame to hang the other 'best' stuff on it.

    You want 'reasonable'?
    Go buy a decent '63 or '64 GT Hawk.
    Refurbish the suspension and frame (thicker steel than a '53), rebuild the Stude V8.
    Do up the other stuff, drop your body on, and go have fun!

    Two paths.. Two levels of investment... No single answer.

    Plan your work... Work your plan.

    (Just an opinion)

    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...)

  13. #13
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    Here you go 20171025_141938.jpg

  14. #14
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    The actual diameter of the drive shaft is a measured 3.531"

  15. #15
    President Member bensherb's Avatar
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    Interesting, I wonder if it was replaced. The original shaft in my GT was 2 3/4".

  16. #16
    Golden Hawk Member mbstude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bensherb View Post
    Interesting, I wonder if it was replaced. The original shaft in my GT was 2 3/4".
    The 4 speed Hawks used the larger diameter.

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