Our 1963 Convertible Lark is a really nice rust free car purchased out of Tennessee with 259ci V8 with automatic column shift and bench seat. The car has not been driven since this trip down the Eastern Seaboard. This picture was taken days before we got evacuated from Hatteras Island because of Hurricane Earl in 2010
Overall this was a disastrous road trip down the eastern seaboard where I had little idea how badly this car performed since Caroline drove the car most of the time. We decided to take the convertible on this vacation.What a mistake, the car under performed through the mountains of Pennsylvania to the point where I felt it was dangerous for Caroline to continue to drive the car without upgrading it. My plan was to increase the horsepower by converting the stock 259 engine to a 289 longer stroke and larger piston, change out the transmission to a powershift Avanti transmission, add a disc brake system and a Dana 44 posi trac rear axle. The car remained in the garage for 3 years until I found all the parts for the upgrade. My fiance is a patient woman who will be pleasantly surprized on this cars transformation.
FIrst job was to remove the engine and transmission. I had my freind Howie Cunningham come by to pick up the 259 ci engine in the back of his Volvo, to his shop after I tore it all down. Howie’s shop is R&B Automotive who builds race engines. I do lots of electrical work for Howie, seems I am his go to guy everytime he needs some electrical work done. We decided after I parked the car in 2010 to swap labour hour for hour,… 3 years later I collected on his machining.
After I pulled the interior of the car, I started to probe around the floors. Looks like I better drag out my Mig welder and patch up the floors. The car had a leaky windshield when were first bought the car which was replaced in the first year because of the stone bullseye right in the drivers view. It turns out the car rusted from the inside out.
Back at Howie’s Shop starting the engine build.
Now to look at where the Powershift shifter tower will be installed and cut out the floor.
Howie is all done the machining so I was time to start putting this new power plant back together. Howie built the heads for this engine and ported them for me. Howie is a pro and understands aerodynamics and how air flows in a head. He spent about 40 hours on these heads porting them, then passed the batton to me for the polishing. I spend about 10 more hours polishing his work.
Now to move on to my next big problem on the Lark. I can’t put the front clip on the Lark until I deal with the rusted-out battery tray on the inner fender skirt. The front end is back in my shop from being stored in our back yard for about 4 months.
Now to figure out how to paint the fender skirts. I am thinking about a small paint booth built once again out of 6 mil Plastic vapour barrier. It cold and snowing right now both cars are broken, my Hawk is down for the count ever since the Pure Stocks in September, where I took out the front transmission pump seal and she spewed transmission oil when I got her home. I have little room so this booth is going to be really small. I will be using an approved respirator while painting his little job in a really small spray booth. I have to build a booth because of the overspray with both cars and equipment in the shop.
It seems when build a new drivetrain there is always some issue that pops up that you have to deal with, I installed a NEW battery that I bought last July and it is no good, dead as a door nail. I took it back into Parts Source, they tested it and it had half the cranking amps in it with full voltage. I brought home a new one, put it in and the Lark still would not start, with the 3 year old stock 289 four barrel carburetor. The carburetor’s small passages are probably gummed up which caused no atomization of the fuel so gas was just dumping into the manifold. This lead to the AFB re-building tutorial on another page. Pictured below is a before and after of a 3506S Stock R1 carburetor.
To my surprise the Lark refuses to start, even with the a re-built 3506A carburetor and new battery. I popped the distributor cap to check the points, cranked the engine over by hotwiring the starter soleniod and noticed the rototion of the the distributor rotor. I thougth it rotated clockwise when I wired the firing order on the engine spark plugs. Studebaker’s rotate couner-clockwise putting the firing order totally opposite of the way a Chevrolet fires. I rewired the spark plugs correcting the firing order all while thinking “what a move???”. The results were this:
With the engine now running it is time to think about a test drive, but I still have to bleed the rear brakes. Nothing comes easy when building a car, especially when your upgrading it. It turns out I was getting no brake fuild in the rear circuit, this dumbfounded me over an evening and even tormented my sleep. Why no brake fluid??? Was the rear piping plugged? Was the front piston in the master frozen? Turns out it was neither. There is an adjustable rod in the booster that was actually pushing the master piston past the priming point for the rear circuit in the master cylinder. My solution was to cut a new bolt, remove the adjustable tip to get the master cylinder piston to actuate both front and rear brake circuits. Problem solved in a short afternoon out in the shop.
So my Lark now moves forward and backwards under it own power! Brake pedal feels great and stops the car no problem. Even did a little brake stand while still in the shop. Time to back the Lark down the driveway and on to the street for a quick tour around the block to test the engine and brakes. Brakes work great but I notice the steering was binding while making a turn. I need a small adjustment in the steering box that re-built last fall. It’s a easy fix that will take minute to do. Next stop, picking up my pinkslip and changing the licence plate to the Lark’s new handle…. 1963LARK.
It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve picked up my new licence plate sticker, had the Lark insured and test driven my driveline project with a few glitches one only relates to when virtually rebuilding the entire drive train on a 50 year old car. The major glitch was the front disc brakes would engage intermittently. For the life of me I had a hard time understanding how the front brakes would not release after driving the car a few miles with no problems. I had no more adjustment in the master cylinder pushrod from the brake booster after removing and replacing the pushrod with a rounded over, cut off bolt. I noticed the master cylinder piston slightly moving after looking down into the master cylinder reservoir, as I tightened the four fastening nuts from the booster. To relieve the movement of the piston, I installed three 1/16″ gaskets that I made placing them between the booster and master cylinder. It was hard to believe that my braking problem was relieved with moving the master cylinder 3/16″ forward. I also had some charging issues that I resolved by confirming amperage output from the alternator, leaving the voltage regulator as the culprit for leaving me stranded at a gas station with a dead battery and my cell phone still playing music in my shop miles away at home. Urrg! Then a broken front drivers seat where the hinge pin broke off. It’s nice to have a mig welder in the shop! I worked diligently until late on Saturday night to resolve the few last issues with the Lark’s start up and transfer the car back to Caroline for her use on Mother’s Day.
It was all worth collecting parts for 3 years and the work that I started last summer to get this car back on the road for the summer of 2014. Here’s short summary of the work done’
Swap out the steering box 24:1 to 20:1 ratio re-built steering box to be able to convert the car to power steering. Add bucket seats, floor console and floor Powershift shifter from column shift. Convert the stock 259 V8 to 289 R1 V8. Add some dynomite reworked ported heads with R3 intake valves. Rebuilt engine bored to 299ci, Flat top pistons and nice loppy R3 camshaft. Convert stock front drum brakes to Turner Disc Brakes, Rebuild A-arms with new bushings, rebuild centre steering pinion, Add a positrac Dana 44 3.31 differential with new rear brakes.
I’m really happy with the car, it really pulls out from a standing stop, shifts perfectly and now stops on the dime. Caroline’s car is now back on the road after four years, now that is is hard to believe……but she’s pretty happy about it having a new muscle car and is getting used to driving it.
Here’s a few pictures from a road trip to the Eastern Shore’s of Delaware and New Jersey
We were really lucky to take a few laps on Dover’s Monster Mile NASCAR track. That was something else to take the Lark up, down and around those 6 storey curves! Thanks to the Studebaker Drivers Club making these memorable experience. Only the people in the background were photoshop in.
Cape May in New Jersey