1963 Studebaker Lark Project

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

Outer Banks NC

Hatteras Island Outer Banks NC

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.

removing the front end spring 2013

The first job of this massive upgrade was removing the front end in the Spring of  2013. This will enable me to pull the drivetrain and have access to the front end to install the Turner disc brake system

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.

Engine and A-frames removed

Engine and A-frames removed and the massive clean up of the frame started. It took plenty of time to clean the frame and paint it black. After removing the front cowl. I noticed that the front A-Arm bushing were shot. I phoned my friend Roly Lusted and asked if he had a spring compressor. He did and offered to come over on the weekend to make sure I would do it safely. Under his tutelage we had them removed in a couple of hours.

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.

After removing the front cowl I notice the A-Arm bushings were shot. I had a friend Roly Lusted come by for a tutorial on how to remove front spring safetly.

Mig welder out repairing the front floor pans

Passenger floor repaired

Passenger floor repaired

Drivers Side floors repaired.

Drivers Side floors repaired.

Back at Howie’s Shop starting the engine build.

Balancing the engine piston rods along with all the 289 pistons

Balancing the engine piston rods along with all the 289 pistons. Howie is back there grinding off a little material a rod. He had me weigh pistons and rods, organize them lightest to the heaviest. The engine at this point was being hot tanked and cleaned. Howie got busy doing work for his paying customers which gave me time to work on the Lark.

Disc Brake master brake and power brake booster

1 1/8″ bore Disc Brake master brake and power brake booster (from Myer’s Studebaker) to power the new Turner Disc Brake system

Big GM Calipers with Ford Rotors

It took me a few weeks to media blast and paint the A-Arms then I reinstalled the front end by renting a bushing installer and front spring from Parts Source. Check out those Big GM Calipers with Ford Rotors all from Jim Turner of Turner Brake. Take note of that stock KONI shock that I picked up in York Pennsylvania Studebaker Swap meet.

With the firewall all cleaned up I was able to install the 20:1 Steering Box for adding the power steering system. The car was stock with a 24:1 ratio for standard steering.

With the firewall all cleaned up I was able to install the 20:1 Steering Box for adding the power steering system. The car was stock with a 24:1 ratio for standard steering. I also rebuilt the front steering bellcrank by installing a new needle bearings and shaft. It also gave me the opportunity to install the power steering bellcrank and steering piston I found on the Studebaker Swap page a few years ago. All new brake lines were installed for front and rear brakes.

Now to look at where the Powershift shifter tower will be installed and cut out the floor.

Powershift Transmission Tower approximate location

Powershift Transmission Tower approximate location

When you start to build a performance Studebaker you have to install a ultra rare Redline Tachometer. This tachometer was in poor shape when I purchased it. I took it all apart media blasted the trim rings cleaned the dial face and paint the needles. The same was done to all the other gauges.

When you start to build a performance Studebaker you have to install a ultra rare Redline Tachometer. This tachometer was in poor shape when I purchased it. I took it all apart media blasted the trim rings cleaned the dial face and painted the needles. The same was done to all the other gauges too. Take note the column shift has been removed and a powershift/4speed collar has been installed.

Since Howie is still not done the machining on punching out the 259 yet, I kept the project moving forward by removing the weak Dana 24 single trac and replaced the sagging spring with new one's aquired at South Bend's spring Studebaker's swap meet. I purchase a Dana 44 posi trac a few years ago and went through it checking play. All was well so I cleaned it up installed a new front seal and filled it with gear lube and posi trac slip additive.

Since Howie is still not done the machining on punching out the 259 yet, I kept the project moving forward by removing the weak Dana 24 single trac and replaced the sagging springs with new one’s acquired at South Bend’s spring Studebaker’s swap meet. I purchased a Dana 44 posi trac a few years ago and went through it, checking play. All was well so I cleaned it up installed a new front seal and filled it with gear lube and posi trac slip additive.

The cleaned up Dana 44. This was a great opportunity to install all new rear brake shoes and rear wheel brake cylinders

The cleaned up Dana 44. This was a great opportunity to install all new rear brake shoes, bend up some new brake lines and rear wheel brake cylinders

Dana 44 being installed. This rear axle has tapered axle. Next year's project will be to install flanged axles and finned drums.

Dana 44 being installed. This rear axle has tapered axle. Next year’s project will be to install flanged axles and Avanti 11″ backing plates and finned drums.

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.

Studebaker Head on the flow bench. These heads flow as well as the High Performance R3 heads!

Studebaker Head on the flow bench. These heads flow as well as the High Performance R3 heads! Howie was really surprised to find these Studebaker head flow as well a GM Vortec head. All good news for the performance of Caroline’s little Lark.

Flow Bench Test results

Flow Bench Test results. I posted these results on the Studebaker Forum and received many messages on obtaining pictures of the porting done by Howie. The head flow numbers are amazing! I expect to get about .400 lift with flows of around 200cfm

R1 Engine in Howie shop

Original 259 Stock engine converted to a R1 Engine in Howie shop with most of the performance parts on the engine, 289 Flat top pistons,R3 Camshaft,  R Series Oil Pan, R-Series Breather tube, harmonic balancer, R1 Carter Fuel pump, Avantil timing cover R3 stainless steel valves, and R-Series Valve springs. Just a few more things to add and a few more hours then I will be hauling the engine back to my shop for the install.

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The Studebaker R1 engine is back in my shop, all dressed upafter a few days work over at R&B Automotive, with all the Avanti goodies, fan, R1 fuel pump, dual point distributor, breather tube and chrome valve covers, getting ready to be mounted up the heavy duty 2200 RPM stall torque converter and bellhousing. Next step is to put the engine and powershift transmission into the Lark.

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The R1 engine installed in the Lark, with a few problems. When I plumbed the brake lines is did not account for the positioning of the oil cap which made me re-evaluate the routing of the front brake circuit. Not too big of a deal, I had to shorten the 90 degree bend and redo the double flare.

After reconfiguring the brake lines, I had the opportunity to install the rebuilt powersteering pump and setting the two sets of points in the distributor

After reconfiguring the brake lines, I had the opportunity to install the rebuilt powersteering pump, install the alternator, and setting thepoints in the high performace dual point R1 distributor. What’s left to do? Install the fans belts, starter and exhaust head pipes and of course the front end.

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.

We have a rust problem on the battery tray that is built into the inner fender skirt, time for some body work.

We have a rust problem on the battery tray that is built into the inner fender skirt, time for some body work. I had a buddy send up a inner fender skirt battery tray from the States. Let’s weld it in place.

Here's a tray in much better condition

Here’s a tray in much better condition. It just need a little fitting.

Welded into place and welds ground down ready to put a light coat of bondo.

Welded into place and welds ground down ready to put a light coat of bondo.

Filled and sanded smooth

Filled and sanded smooth

Repair completed and primed.

Repair completed and primed.

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.

I desided it best to build a 6mil plastic spray booth in the shop to protect the cars and equipment from overspray. I used my respirator and applied primer to the entire front end taping off the outer fenders. My main concern on this project was to make a bad situation look better than what was originally there. Future plans for this car is to take it all apart and spray the entire car, but right now it's all about the powertrain and having the car presentable to have it back on the road, afterall it has been approaching 4 years! After the primer it shot 2 coats of Red to be abole to put the front end back on the Lark to fire it up and listen to the new 289 R1 purr.

I desided it best to build a 6mil plastic spray booth in the shop to protect the cars and equipment from overspray. I used my respirator and applied primer to the entire front end taping off the outer fenders. My main concern on this project was to make a bad situation look better than what was originally there. Future plans for this car is to take it all apart and spray the entire car, but right now it’s all about the powertrain and having the car presentable to have it back on the road, afterall it has been approaching 4 years! After the primer it shot 2 coats of Red to be abole to put the front end back on the Lark to fire it up and listen to the new 289 R1 purr.

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The modified centre console cut back at an angle and covered in felt padding.

I purchased this centre console off Ebay several years ago. Unfortunately it was not the right one. It was for a 4 speed car.  I had to cut the front angle into the console to fit the powershift tower. Also had to lift the bottom of the console to match the original and staple it back together.  The fiberglass console then had to glassed back together. The modified centre console is now covered in felt padding and is ready to be covered in red vinyl to match the new set covers.

It took well over a year to get these reproduction bucket seats by Rene Harger from Tennesse

It took well over a year to get these reproduction bucket seats by Rene Harger from Tennessee. I took delivery of the buckets during one of the Studebaker Swap meets in 2012. Centre console fits perfectly up to the Powershift shifter tower.

Rene installed the seat covers on the fronts. I took delivery of the rear seat covers and later installed them.

Rene installed the seat covers on the fronts. I took delivery of the rear seat covers and later installed them.

I had to wait until all the boys were home from University to be able to install the front clip. It  only took minutes to lift it into place but took a while to bolt it into place with the proper gap spacing to the doors. WIth the clip finally in place it was time to start to wire the engine install the alternator and radiator. This picture was taken just prior to firing up the new engine.

I had to wait until all the boys were home from University during the Christmas break to be able to install the front clip. It only took minutes to lift it into place with Caroline and Nicole but took a while to bolt it into place with the proper gap spacing to the doors. I was never happy with the original rubber shims so I had some new ones that I picked up i South Bend swap meet. WIth the clip finally in place it was time to start to wire the engine install the alternator and radiator. This picture was taken just prior to firing up the new engine.

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.

Before top view

Before top view

The finished 3506S R1 Carburetor. I installed the original metering spring and 16-99 metering rod.

The finished and re-built 3506S R1 Carburetor. It took me the better part of two days to complete it. This carburetor was dirty both inside and out.  Now to install it!

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

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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.

 

 

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Cape May in New Jersey

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