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1953 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

First Look - In Situ Project

In this article we taking our first look at the restoration project of the 1953 Studebaker Sedan. This will be the first in-situ restore documented on this site. The video contains most of the visual information, the text of this article adds additional information and recap.

The first step of any project, but particularly in-situ restorations is getting a really good close look at the car to figure out the extent of things that need to be repaired or restored as well as the proper order to do the work in to ensure you maintain driveability of the car.

In-situ restorations can be hard at times, because the most visible items that require restoration are generally the last ones that you will work on. So, as much as you may want to start working on body, paint, and interior you need to restrain yourself. There's no point in looking pretty as your brakes fail and you fly into the car in front of you!

Now, when I opted to get the old girl out of storage I knew her old battery would be shot. It'd been in there for 5 years, and not having been charged in a while, well, it was toast. After stopping by my local parts store I managed to pick up a new 6-volt battery for her. (Note, when you need to find a 6-volt car battery, call ahead, not everyone stocks them anymore.) So, I popped back over to storage and dropped in the 6-volt battery. Now, this old Studebaker has a mechanical fuel pump and hadn't been driven in a long time. It took a while of cranking to get her to turn over. But that being said she turned over and ran for a few minutes. Now, I wasn't really suprised as old Annabelle has never given me a lick of undeserved grief. So I let her run for a bit to knock out the cobwebs and opted to come back the next day to pick her up. While I sitting in the car I pumped the brakes a bit to see how good the brake pressure was. The pressure came up fairly well after a couple pumps. This is indicative of the master cylinder having gone mostly bad. It works temporarily, but loses system pressure quickly.

The next day when I was back over at storage I went to get her started so that I could drive her home. As we were shifting the car around a gallon of fuel dumped from the rear of the car. After a quick check it was obvious what had happened. There's a a piece of rubber hose that connects the fuel fill tube to the fuel tank. After 50+ years it had rotted away to nothing. With that being gone there was no possibilty of the car running. Now this is a simple fix, but not something we could do without having the car back in the garage.

So, I already knew that the Healey required towing, I went ahead and had them tow old Annabelle home as well. Now that she's in the driveway it's possible to take a good look and assess the car. The paint's shot, there's a couple broken windows, the window rubber gaskets need replacing, the interior fabric needs a complete replacement, The steering wheel is a bit broken up, the dash needs minor work, the body's mostly straight, the chrome is in need of replating, the fuel system is broken, the brakes are shot, and there's blow-by from the engine. This may sound like a horrifically long list of things to fix, but it's really not that bad. We don't have any obvious rust to deal with, there's no major body work to be done, and she's actually a "complete" car.

So, based on the initial findings, here's the first set of "to-dos" on the vehicle. Remember that the focus is on the vehicle's ability to run, not how pretty she looks.

Clean and Protect the vehicle
Well, ok, yes I did say we weren't going to focus on how retty she is. But that being said it's easier to look at, work on, and assess a clean car rather than a dirty one.
Fuel System
We already know that she won't run because of the fuel system. So based on that we'll go through the fuel delivery system in detail to ensure that everything's working correctly. This includes checking out the fuel tank, fuel lines, carburetor, fuel pump, sender, etc.
As mentioned previously the brakes are really spongy. Once we have her running we need to make sure she'll stop. This includes the master cylinder, brake lines, wheel cylinders, and brake hoses. This is also a good opportunity to check out the suspension.
Vibration Dampener
While I had her running I noticed a bit of a squeal coming from the front end. If I remember correctly I'd purchased a vibration dampener (which goes behind the fan pulley) to remediate that before I put her into storage.
Considering I recently needed major repairs on the knees & ankles I can only imagine the state of her suspension. So a fresh set of bushings all the way around will be in order.
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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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