As of July, 1999
The truck on the day I got it (June, 1998)
It didn't look that bad, you know, from a distance. After all, someone had already stripped the paint and primered it. How bad could it be? It all has to be done again! I thought I could rebuild the truck in a year. I'll be lucky to do it in two years, but some progress is being made. I certainly discovered that a full, body-off-the-frame restoration is a huge undertaking. It's even worse when a lot of the parts are really rusty. And it's even worse than that when you have never done it before, don't have the tools, and are short on space. In fact, space was the first issue: where could I take the truck apart and keep it out of the weather. Fortunately, there was an old greenhouse frame out back of my house, courtesy of the previous owner. Of course, I had to disassemble it, move it a re-erect it, which took a month or so. I put a new cover over it, one of those blue plastic tarps, and now I have a space 12 by 25 feet to work. The blue tarp lets enough light through while still blocking the heat. Can you imagine a garage where the floor needs mowing every month or so? I spent a lot of evenings and weekends for 3 months completely disassembling the body, major mechanical components, and all of the running gear. When I was done, most things were in plastic bags (marked!), and much of the stuff was carried up to the loft of my garage. Nobody told me I'd have to carry a whole truck up the stairs!
Every nut and bolt were rusted solid, so I had to break most of them to get them apart. The rest took lots of penetrating oil and heat, plus a lot of cussing. As a kid, my next-door neighbor always worked on boat parts and things out in his garage and he could cuss a blue streak. He was the dean of an engineering department at a well-known university, and was in his 70's then. He told me that no broken mechanical contrivance would ever work right until you cussed it out good. Boy, what an education I got! So that's how I got the truck apart.
|A bunch of rusty, broken, *%#$@(!!! bolts.|
I pulled every single bolt and screw off the frame until it was only a steel ladder. When the cab came off, I found a 1946 dime underneath the rubber pad that the body sat on. Someone on the production line must have put it there. The bolts holding the cab down had rusted down to almost nothing where they passed through the crossmembers. There were lots of things like that which reinforced the idea that body-off was the way to go. The body mounts had just about pounded their way through the crossmember, so I had to cut out the top plate, fabricate a new one, and weld it in. The frame eventually got loaded into the back of another pickup and sent out for sandblasting and painting.
|The cab support crossmember after disassembly of the truck.||The cab support crossmember after replacement of top plate and painting.|
The frame after sandblasting, fixing the crossmember, welding in patches, and painting.
The cab, fenders, and other sheet metal were in need of some spot patching, but otherwise not too bad. The bed, however, was a total loss. It had been beaten to death and was rusted through in every piece of metal. The only things worth saving were the four stake pockets - you can't buy or make reproductions of those. In my job, I work with a lot of stamped metal parts, so I figured I'd just make some drawings and have someone bend up a new bed. Mack Products, in Moberly, MO, makes reproduction front panels and tailgates for the M-5 and other Stude trucks. Mack Hils can fold up the sides for a new box, but he can't make the floors. Several companies offer wood floor kits, if you want to go that way. I finally figured out that for all the work involved, I might as well do as many things as possible the authentic way. Budd Corporation actually made the beds for Studebaker, as well as for Dodge and Plymouth from 1937 through 1947. Most of the pieces are identical. But, like the M-5, there were not a lot of them, and they all rusted. I am still trying to locate someone who can make replacement floors or a complete bed. I do have a full set of drawings now to manufacture a bed which looks exactly like the original bed, but uses a little heavier gauge metal in the frame and is simpler to weld together. You just need four old pockets from a Stude or Dodge bed. Stay tuned, because I may have located someone who can at least make bed floors.
|Old bed showing where the floors weren't and other ills.||The "new" bed, shipped from Kansas but carrying a Nebraska plate from 1976. Was it yours?|
In the meantime, I put "plan B" into operation: I located a good, used bed in Kansas and had it shipped by truck to Massachusetts. I was pleasantly surprised that the bed is in very good condition, considering it is from a 50 year old farm truck. The floor has a few dents in it, but it will be easy to restore.
With the help of my daughters, one son-in-law, and another young lad, we picked up the engine and put it in the back of my Wagonaire for a trip to the engine rebuilder. It's been there a long time. The block needed to be boiled and rodded quite a bit. At least one of the previous owners must have filled it with radiator sealer, many times. The radiator got a brand new core. One of the head bolts had been snapped off in the block during some previous engine work, so that had to be drilled out. The cylinders got bored .030 over, and the crank main and rod journals turned .010 under. The pistons are in the block now, the new cam bearings are in and a new cam has been installed. Bill Cathcart modified the front cover to accept a modern rubber seal for the nose of the crankshaft. Soon the engine will all go together and get painted.
The interior is making some progress, too. I bought some vinyl, burlap, cotton padding, one of those sewing awls, hog rings and pliers, and set to work on the seats. The process will make another page for this site, but the finished job turned out pretty well. And this job I did all by myself! However, the next time I buy upholstery material, I won't go to the local, standard supplier. If you want really good auto vinyl and trim, try the folks at LeBaron-Bonney in Amesbury, MA. They specialize in Model T and A stuff, but boy have they got good quality upholstery! Anyway, here is my finished seat.
I went to the swap meets in Reedsville and York, PA last year, as well as the May, 1999 swap meet in South Bend. Between those trips and calls to various Studebaker parts dealers all over the country, I have managed to accumulate a mountain of new and good used parts for reassembly of the truck. I have pulled a complete set of more modern brakes from a 1960's vintage Stude truck, though disks would really be the way to go. Along the way, I managed to get a set of NOS fog lights and brackets and a complete radio and dash board grille pieces. I picked up a new set of door panels and headliner at N&A, though these were made by Ernie Loga. Recent issues of Turning Wheels and the Antique Studebaker Club Review have helped with lots of data and good pictures of Buzz Beckwith's green M-5. Buzz also sent me some pictures of various details of his finished truck. As always, Richard Quinn (see Antique Studebaker Club) provides good advice on trucks and other issues about old Studebakers. Well, there is still lots of work to be done!
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