I don't want to bore y'all with a lot of editorial and no pics but bear with me. Hope its worth the read!
Like a lot of Studebaker folks, it's just in my blood. My grandfather bought a new 1950 half ton pickup
because the Chevy dealer had sold out, and well here I am! When I was a kid back in the mid 70s I
remember helping (more like watching) my dad as he built a 327 Chevy engine to put in that same
truck that his dad had bought back in 1950. I drove it to school some, eventually wrecking, sub-framing,
and eventually parking in a field. That poor old truck would have been better off if dad had not let me
drive it. I loved it and the facts that it was pretty quick and drew a lot of attention had me hooked on
Studebakers, Chevys, and hot-rodding. I learned a lot while swapping parts and adding the Trans-Am
front clip. I went to college and had other obligations so the truck got parked. Today it remains parked
in a shed in the back yard awaiting another chance to be on the road. Someday?
Dad has always been on the lookout for Studebakers and has been a member of the Studebaker Driver's
Club for as long as I remember. I got to see a lot of Studebaker cars in the pages of Turning Wheels,
their monthly magazine. Currently dad has four nice drivable Studebakers, 1950 and 1952 pickups, a
1950 1.5 ton truck and a 1965 Cruiser. The 1950 pickup is red and all original with a Champion six and
overdrive. The 1952 is black and has a 259 Studebaker V8 with a T5 transmission and air conditioning.
The 1950 big truck has a 289 Studebaker V8 with a truck 5 speed and a big custom flatbed. His Cruiser
originally came with a 283 Chevy engine and has been upgraded to a 300 horsepower 327 Chevy engine
with the original automatic trans. There have been many cars over the years that I have wanted, but a
53 or 54 hardtop was always high on the list. When I saw Jack Chisenhall?s Cool 200 car in Hot Rod
magazine, I knew that was the car I wanted. I actually called him and talked for a while and even got an autographed poster in the mail from him with best wished on my project! Mom had it framed for me and
it's been on the wall ever since.
I worked my way through school and finally graduated from Mississippi State University in 1999 with a
BS degree in Mechanical Engineering. While still in school, I began looking for a decent car, under-
standing that I should probably not cut up a nice original. I found a 1956 Skyhawk on eBay in Arizona
and bought it. The car had sat a long time in an impound yard with the windows broken out. I was
hoping the arid climate would provide me some rust free floors. They were in decent shape, but the
car would need several patch panels. Over the next couple of years I bought a 1954 Champion Starlight
coupe for the front cap and another 1954 Starliner shell from Houston, TX. At that point I had a yard
full of cheap, junked Studebakers. But when I got out of school and had a good paycheck I wanted
instant gratification! I realize this is a flaw of my generation. I found a 1953 Champion Starliner that
had already been hot rodded listed on eBay in Houston, TX. It looked amazingly like the Vintage Air
car I had been dreaming about. The car had a 500 Cadillac, TH400, 9" Ford drivetrain, which was not
exactly what I wanted, but being different was interesting. Four wheel disc brakes, Vintage Air AC,
leather interior, digital dash, smoothed firewall and slick as glass black paint all added to the smile on
my face. Twice I was the high bidder, but both times the auction did not meet the man's reserve.
Finally we agreed offline to a price and I headed westward with a trailer. I had asked the man if I could
fly out and drive the car home. He assured me that I could, but hesitated declaring that it had never even
been wet since it was painted four years earlier! The car was very clean and amazingly rust free and was
only showing 460 miles on the digital odometer! The floors were as rust free as I had ever seen on a
Studebaker! Remember that he said that it would have made the 500 plus mile trip. I drove the car around
the block and all seemed well, but the alternator wasn't charging. No problem as I had a trailer with me
so we loaded her up and I wrote him a check. And coincidentally he had the same Cool 200 poster on his
shop wall! Finally on July 3rd, 2004, I had my Studebaker hardtop!