The Story Thus Far

My truck was built on June 9, 1960 and is what Studebaker called a “Standard Cab”, what that meant was it was a very basic truck, as far as I can tell the only options mine had was the heater and turn signals (yes in 1960 turn signals were optional – a delete option but an option nonetheless). Standard cab trucks were VERY basic, only one sun visor was provided, and the drivers side door does not have a key lock. It also has the optional “west coast” mirrors, which appear to be Studebaker mirrors but were added later.

Sometime during this trucks long history the little six was removed and a 1956 Studebaker 289 V8 installed.  And it was installed very badly, I’ve been making things right ever since buying the truck.
In May of the year 2000, way back in the 20th Century a gentleman by the name of John Polous was thumbing through one of  freebie “penny saver” publications and came across an advertisement for a “Studebaker truck and a bunch of parts”.   John is a flashy Studebaker guy and was really interested in tcabjust the parts, but it was a package deal so he bought the truck too.  Not being interested in it he let the old Studebaker newsgroup know that he had this 60 or 61 V8 Champ.  All he knew about the engine was that it didn’t run but wasn’t stuck.  A previous owner had planned on turning the truck into a street rod and had removed the radiator, gas tank, gutted the interior and cut one of the hood
hinges before losing interest.
I’d always liked these trucks, and think the short narrow bed is the best looking versions so I went for it.

A couple of weeks later noted Studebaker mechanic and restoration artist Ray Fichthorn and I went up to Maryland to pickup the truck.  John being the sort of character he is couldn’t resit tinkering with it and got it running.  Turns out the previous owner was going to scrap a very healthy Studebaker V8 because of a bad $1.50 distributor rotor button!
rayjeffWe drove the trunk onto the trailer and headed for Ray’s shop in Winston-Salem.  One funny incident happened on the way home.  We stopped for dinner at a Ponderosa Steak House just north of Richmond and as we were pulling out a guy in a little Toyota pickup started waving frantically at us.  Thinking the trailer was on fire or something Ray rolled down his window and heard the guy yell “You want to sell it?”.  “We just bought it!” Ray yells back.  The guy slammed his fists on his steering wheel and roared off, right across the median.
Over the next few weeks at Rays the truck got a new set of tires, we went thorough the brakes, put in a radiator, gas tank and seat.  The original plan was for this truck to become my daily driver but for other reasons that wasn’t going to work out so once it was roadworthy I took off for home.  The overdrive didn’t work at first (a sign of things to come), but after about ten miles it started working and the rest of the trip home was uneventful.

A few months later the annual Tri-State Meet was held outside of Asheville and I drove the truck.  That weekend it went over 1000 mmtn-champiles with no problem at all and got over 20 MPG, not bad for a 40 year old truck with a V8 and a four barrel carburator.  The picture on the right was taken that weekend on US 276 west of Ashville near the Blue Ridge Parkway (and the real Cold Mountain).

Over the next few years I did a lot of work on the truck, including a new dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers and a new paint job… my first attempt at painting a vehicle. One of the many things I learned in that project was the true meaning of orange peel, and that cheap paint will fade quickly but it sure looked good for about six months.countrychamp

It wasn’t to last. In the summer of 2004 I took off for Boone for a camping and whitewater rafting weekend. Shortly after topping off the gas tank and checking the oil I was headed west on I-40 when the hood blew open! After getting the truck safely stopped and managing to get it something like shut I went back home, removed the hood and basically beat and stomped it flat enough so it would shut and latch. It was then that I learned about one of the other things Standard Cab trucks don’t have… safety catches on the hoods!

So I was off again. On Saturday afternoon I went for a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway. After driving along the parkway for about 10 miles or so I got off and was heading down into a little valley when there was a large “BANG” from under the truck, and I felt the rear wheels lock for a second. I got the truck stopped and looked under it, fully expecting to see pieces hanging down or oil dripping but everything seemed normal. With much trepidation I put in in gear and slowly took off… and everything seemed just fine and perfectly normal, until I realized it wasn’t freewheeling. The “BANG” had been the overdrive unit seizing up. But the transmission still worked as a straight 3 speed so I headed back to the campground.

Just outside the enterance to the campground there was ANOTHER “BANG“, and this time I could see part of the hood bulge up and the engine started shaking like mad. I pulled over, checked the gauges (180 deg water, 45 lbs oil), and everything was fine but the engine was shaking like it was coming apart. So I shut it off, opened the hood and tried to figure out what was going on.

Everything seemed normal, nothing leaking, no holes in the side of the block, no steam, nothing. Then I noticed where the hood was damaged, right over the front of the engine, and there was a tear in the steel, a tear at a bit of an angle. I looked down at the fan and realized there was a blade missing. The fan had flung a blade!

So I slowly drove up the hill to my campsite took the fan off, and wedging the fan blade opposite the missing one in the gap between two boards in a picnic table I worked the fan back and forth until the bland snapped off. Of course I took a good hard look at the fan and noticed cracks around the rivets holding the other blades, but it’s not like you can buy Studebaker fans at your normal parts stores.

If you click on the picture below you can see some of the damage done to the hood by it blowing open and by the loose fan blade.

Installing the now two bladed fan and starting the engine it ran smoothly again with no shaking. The next morning it was chilly and raining when I took off for home, fortunately it made the 200 mile trip home without further incident.


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