And please, if you would, tell the good readers of this blog whether or not I pass muster as a competent automobile troubleshooter. At least where starters are concerned.
The brand name of Jeep did pretty well under its own military steam, and not too shabby when taken over by Rambler. When Rambler morphed into American Motors, that was kinda the beginning of the end of Jeep as a practical, maintainable vehicle. AM really got worse when Romney ran it, and then it was passed off to Renault, which did it no favors either.
And it amazes me no end when "historians" think they tell all there is to say about automotive history when they stick to the over-worn deeply-rutted roads of Henry Ford.
In terms of vehicular history, nobody's older than Studebaker because that was a company that made horsed wagons before it started making them horseless, and with the Salty Dog, ran rings around the competition on the race track. Silver Hawk and Golden Hawk were the best in that category, while everybody remembers the Champion, not so much as a classic Studebaker but as The Muppetmobile.
Remember the big deal that the press made about the last VW Bug rolling off the factory line in Mexico? That's where the last Studebaker Lark rolled off, too. Volkswagon got it from Studebaker.
|I see a red Packard in the back, off in the distance. That's what you'll see at the historic Studebaker factory in South Bend, IN, too. It's where the Avanti gets made by hand and you can watch.|
Technical UPDATE: Here's where I talk more about Nellie Belle specifically, in detail about how I found it literally in scrapping process when I rescued the machine. I knew the owner and attempted to buy it from the owner when I was informed that he'd lost the keys. I was waiting on word for when he found them, but apparently he never did and sent the car to the junkyard, where I've been known to frequent when I was shopping for other parts. I didn't find out that it was in the junkyard until it was almost completely stripped of its guts. I paid $60 for the hulk, towed it home, and proceeded to rebuild. I found that the engine's head was cracked and in need of replacement, too.
It took a trip to KY to get a replacement head and I had that reconditioned and properly milled at a local machine shop, so yeah--I even rebuilt the engine in it.
Thank goodness for Warshawski's/ J. C. Whitney mail order. That's where I found stuff like teflon valve seals, chrome cylinder rings and other whatnots that would fit a Studebaker overhead 6 engine. Yeah--the type of Studebaker engine that typically suffered from cracked heads when the tappets got out of adjustment, and they did that fairly frequently. The Lark was an attempt by Studebaker corporation to cut costs in response to consolidated motor enterprises like what became General Motors, the latter of which also enjoyed government contracts denied to other automakers. Ford enjoyed such partiality too, and that's pretty much why the multitude of individual automakers either joined or merged with The Big Two or died. Chrysler and Rambler survived by snapping up other popular but individual model makers but still were barely treading water because of the level of government favoritism toward the Big Two.
Nash merged with Rambler early in American Motors history, and that's the firm that first came up with "unibody construction" with a minimal chassis: Nash-Rambler. Chrysler got Pontiac, and so forth. Studebaker remained defiant, as did Kaiser and so many others that eventually went belly up before American Motors did, and before Chrysler suffered its first bankruptcy crisis. So yeah--I'm just as fond of Hank Ford as I am of Tom Edison. Meh and a half.
Anyhoo, back to Nellie Belle. Yeah, I named my Stude after the vehicle driven by the sidekick on the Roy Rogers - Dale Evens show--and that was a Jeep--mainly because ole Nellie was just as temperamental as that particular Jeep was. But my Nellie was as non-stock as you could get, more suitably represented by Johnny Cash's song, "One Piece At A Time".
Yeah, when I got the ole girl home, I had to find more parts. I found an Impala radiator that fit nice until you got to the bottom of it. Bolt holes didn't match down there, but they did up at the top, so I just drilled me some new ones and in it went.
From that point on, ole Nellie would cease to have value as an original stock vehicle--but she was MY Nellie. Anybody stealing that gal for collectability would get a very rude awakening. Nellie was mine and nobody else's and I was the only one on the planet that would know how she worked. When she got temperamental, I'd be the only one who could get 'er running again.
She got all new brake lines, and the brake cylinder got rebuilt, as did the wheel cylinders. Knowing what models of auto that used the same equipment as Nellie came in handy in rebuilding the wheel cylinders, to which I also took a cylinder hone. I did the same thing with the inside of the engine cylinders, too, by the way, and made a point of getting oversized rings from Warshawski's in that regard. Also got some updated stem seals for the cylinder valves because if there's one thing Studebaker was notorious for, it was for leaving an oil slick on the ground where ever it was parked. Those stem seals pretty much took care of that.
One of the tests that collectors of old cars make is the Magnet Test--if a magnet don't stick to the body, then the body isn't pristine. Nellie ended up about 1/8 Bondo and/or fiberglas and would have failed the Magnet Test miserably. Look at the pic of the Lark again, and notice where the headlights look like they've got eyebrows. That's the first part of a Stude Lark that rusts out badly, and Nellie was no exception. But I think I did a damn good Bondo job on those areas that it would take a magnet test to detect that the metal was all gone. No, I did NOT break my arm patting myself on the back for that, either. :P
I put all new lines on the braking system, rebuilt the brake cylinders on the wheels, rebuilt the master cylinder, and all that. Rebuilt the engine with new! improved! non-stock parts via mail order. I fired 'er up, put 'er in gear, and discovered that gear shifting was a rough proposition, so I took the tranny out to see what the problem was. Yup--it was old age. It was a plain vanilla Borg-Warner 3-speed stick-on-the-wheel kind of arrangement, and as it happened, I could take an identical Borg-Warner 3-speed tranny out of any other vehicle and make it fit perfectly, which I did. Tranny came out of a Rambler.
Long story short, I had 'er roadworthy and passing inspection at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles of Illinois 30-ish days later and thought that attending the ANARC Convention in Montreal would make for a great shake-down cruise. It's what shook out that made that trip a real adventure, part of which was spent in Beautiful Downtown Burbank Ohio because a rear drum froze up. But hey--I lived to tell about it, didn't I.
Note to the shortwave radio demographic of this blog's audience: Lawrence Magne (you got that right--THE Passport to World Band Radio Lawrence Magne) has a pic of me and Nellie after just getting back from that epic Montreal trip, after which he gave me a lift to the NUvention in Indianapolis...which provided fodder for one of my vintage Clara Listensprechen Reports. I got the invite from Serge Newman, as it happens, and Larry really thought my Nellie was amazing. After that trip to Montreal & back, so did I.
For you old NASWA old-timers who remember the "Clandestine Corner" that Larry wrote for FRENDX, you should also remember the masthead artwork I did for Larry's column. It morphed into "Clandestine Cranny", but here's ya a piece of NASWA history for ya. Yup, I'm the same person who doodled up David Walcutt's column's Log Report masthead, too. We used to be neighbors in Carbondale, and that's how I wound up buying his Barlow-Wadley XCR-30 machine.
So yeah--I'm an electronics person and I'm a mechanic, which turned out to be the big surprise at Motorola when some of the guys who didn't believe a woman belonged in their shop assigned me to work in the mechanics shop out of the electronics technician shop. Much to their consternation, I mastered that, too, ha. I'm just as much a heavy-machine mechanic as I am an electronics technician, but they had no idea about that. I haven't stopped gloating over it, either. I was now a silicon ingot saw meister. All of this snit was noticed by the engineering department in QA, and so they adopted me as their favorite technician, and so I stayed on, and in the process picked up skills with robotics.
Yeah, I actually worked on, repaired, calibrated and programmed actual industrial robots. For real. And an assortment of automated production and test equipment. For a living--got paid to do that, actually in actual fact, believe it or don't. A former co-worker on Facebook (Dennis Gatten) can verify what I claim here in the industrial area.
Okay, I got a question about availability of Studebaker parts & where did I get 'em. Well, as you can see, I used parts designed for other vehicles but I was able to get factory-genuine parts from the old Studebaker plant in South Bend via the on-site vendor, Newman & Altman, who was still making both glass and plastic versions of, say, tail light lenses and such. Recent of vintage but made with the Studebaker manufacturing equipment. I also relied heavily on mail-order for stuff, too, mainly J.C. Whitney. Plus I did a lot of shopping at junk yards.
I think I forgot to mention what types of robots I worked on/with, and I have to draw a line somewhere between robots and automated manufacturing equipment although the line between the two is rather blurry. I worked on U. S. Robotics and PUMA "peanut picker" arms, in the main, but the list of automated manufacturing equipment is a very long one, I'm afraid. It should be noted that it's via the automated robotic-like equipment that I became fluent in "speaking" hexadecimal. You could say that I "speak robot" and be quite correct about that.
Okay, you skeptical programming geeks out there, check out this Boolean hexadecimal joke:
2B OR NOT 2B = FF
HAH! I hear you laughing from 'way over here. :P :D