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Projects 53 COOP (Studebaker) gets a major makeover

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by Irishjr, Oct 10, 2020.

  1. On 33 COOP, 40 COOP, and 26 COOP I have not done a build thread. Breaking with that tradition, I am starting this thread to share the building of a 1953 Hemi-powered Kustom Studebaker with the license 53 COOP (is there a pattern here?).

    First, some history:

    I bought the car from Ray Hinshaw, of Belvidere, TN. Ray acquired the car from the estate of a guy in Georgia, who had done an amateur restoration, including a somewhat original-looking cloth interior. The man had died in 1983. Ray drove the car until 1989, when he purchased an Avanti II from the late Senator/actor Fred Thompson (yep, that Fred Thompson, from Watergate hearing to Hunt for Red October). Ray parked the car in a carport in 1989 and it did not move until I bought it in 2010. I sent a deposit and flew to Knoxville, rented a car, drove to to see it and headed to Coker Tire in Chattanooga to buy 4 new whitewalls, so the car could be rolled onto a trailer to be brought to Maryland.

    Unfortunately, Ray had not prepped the car for storage. First thing I had to do was get that really stinky, varnished gas out of the tank. Long story short, I cut the tank it half near the seam, sandblasted it clean, gas welded it back together and sent it to a nearby radiator shop to be sealed along the seam and sealed inside with sloshing compound. I rewired it, changed to 12-volts with and alternator (had to get a 12V overdrive solenoid) and drive it!

    But then there was the driveshaft problem. If you have time, you might want to read this thread from the Studebaker Drivers Club Forum:


    That was back in 2010. 10 years later I’m ready to take it to a new level……

    I bought a 1954 331 Chrysler Hemi from a friend (locked up, but I got it cheap). It is now bored .030, Ross 9.5:1 pistons, Isky cam, balanced, and spruced up with a SBC long water pump, A/C compressor, alternator, and hooked to a recently rebuilt 700R4.

    In the interim, I switched the rear end to a Ford 8.8 with 3.73 gears. It was a drop-in swap other than the spring mounting and switching the back yoke on the driveshaft to the Ford unit with the round flange.

    So here’s a pic from Jalopyrama 13, in 2016

    I’ve caught up on other projects, put 40 COOP in the back garage, moved cars around…..

    The ‘Baker’s in the bay:

    Baker in Bay.jpg

    Plans are to swap in the Hemi, modify the front suspension (I’ll tell you about that later), do some minor customizing around the tail lights, and, since I’ve never done one with curved glass, CHOP THE TOP!

    Here’s a study I did on the computer with Paint:

    53 COOP Chop2.jpg

    53 COOP Chop1.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2020
  2. WildWilly68
    Joined: Feb 1, 2002
    Posts: 1,726


    Looking forward to this build, this is one of my favorite cars of all time.
    hidez57, loudbang and TrailerTrashToo like this.
  3. BamaMav
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 5,568

    from Berry, AL

    I love Lowey coupes, but would never chop the top on that car.
  4. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 3,591


    Getting more serious about Bonneville?
    loudbang likes this.

  5. scrap metal 48
    Joined: Sep 6, 2009
    Posts: 6,077

    scrap metal 48

    Very cool Stude.. I like the stock roof better...
  6. A chop can make or brake a car. I know of one with just a light adjustment of the Windshield A post and a correction of roof skin angle. If I remember correctly the B post became vertical to quarter panel line. I like it a lot because you really don't instantly look and say Chopped, more just Wow that looks good. I don't think the back glass got messed with at all. Good luck with yours.
  7. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 3,750


    They are cool cars. My Mum had one. Somehow she manage to knock the water spigot on the side of the house off with it?
    I'm with others here, I like the stock roof!
    loudbang and warhorseracing like this.
  8. It's called a Gentleman's Chop. I believe Sam Foose did one in 1-1/2 hours. I hate how it destroys the lines of the designer Bob Bourke, who was the actual designer of the Loewy Coupe.

    Chopping, cutting, modifying, etc. are all up to the customizer. I have also loved the '53 since a kid. I just want to change it (improve?) to my taste. ;)

    Besides, 26 COOP, 33 COOP, and 40 COOP are all chopped. How may chops are too many?.....Just one more!
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
    54delray, brEad, j hansen and 6 others like this.
  9. TrailerTrashToo
    Joined: Jun 20, 2018
    Posts: 1,153


    Dick Dean (RIP) was well known for the Gentleman's Chop. A quick google search yielded this link.


    Partial quote: "It is an article from Custom Rodder Magazine from Spring 1991, written by Jerry Weesner. The article follows famous customizer Dick Dean as he chops the top on a '53 Starliner. The method used by Dean is quite simple, the technique can also be applied to a Starlight, but is much more difficult because of the B pillar and door frames."

    That 1953-1954 Stude is an unfilled bucket list item for me.

    Short story: About 28 years ago, I was exiled to Pasadena, CA for a year long training session (I was not a rocket scientist, but had lunch in the same cafeteria...). One Saturday morning, armed with an old Custom Rodder list of customizers, I set off to find Dick Dean's shop in Riverside, CA. CLOSED!, obviously empty for quite a while. I called the phone number on the old list. Dick was quite gracious to this desert rat from Arizona. He explained that he was building TV and Movie cars because it paid better. Had a nice chat.
    Hamtown Al, 54delray, brEad and 6 others like this.
  10. Mea Culpa. Dick Dean, not Sam Foose. I still think it messes with the lines. To me the '53 Stewed looked like some entrant's submittal for the Fisher Body Craftsmans Guild Model contest....So futuristic compared to other 1953 issues.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  11. This should be really interesting. Looking forward to seeing how it comes out!
    loudbang likes this.
  12. aircap
    Joined: Mar 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,646


    It's very tough to make a chop look right on a Loewy coupe - if you flatten the roofline in any way, or change that curve on the top very far - no bueno. Good luck.
    tiredford, loudbang, swade41 and 2 others like this.
  13. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,647

    from Minn. uSA

    Actually, I think the Gentlemans' Chop improves the lines of the car, esp from the side, & 3/4 views. I'd guess the aero is somewhat improved due to the lowered front. The GC allows the roofs' upper window line to lay parallel w/the top door edge, resulting in a more harmonious look. The OEM design of that area always looked "off". Although iirc, Dick didn't show how to do the final finishing work, esp on the vent windows.
    It'd be interesting to do a GC on a coupe, & maybe slant the pillar forward a bit. Maybe fodder for the photo-chop thread?
    Interestingly, the same complaint, at least by me... :D , is made on T buckets & roadsters, comparing the flow of the lines of the lower edge of the top vs the top of the body side roll. Yup, I hate chops that look angled. Proportions... Different strokes for different folks.
  14. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 28,802

    Jalopy Joker

  15. WOW! I think I disturbed a hornets nest. To chop or on not is a matter if taste. On 26 COOP, I showed the unfinished car at Jalopyrama Reunion, in 2015. On the trunk, I taped a form that asked "should I chop it". I got 60 responses: 36 said not to chop, including two HELL NOs. Eventually, I chopped it 1", just to say it was chopped and provide more room for the rear quarter power window motor. :rolleyes:

    profile.jpg DSC01907.JPG

    So anyway, Chopping is in the eye of the beholder.

    I guess I gotta get going on the car and do the other stuff first. The chop is a long way off.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
    mgtstumpy, abe lugo, catdad49 and 9 others like this.
  16. What does that "COOP" thing mean?
    loudbang likes this.
  17. All my cars are COUPES. The vanity plates can only have 7 spaces. thus " 53 COOP". A coop is also a small building where chickens are kept. Thus the old phrase used by roadster hot rod owners: "Coupes (coops) are for chickens"
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  18. Thanks! Your Studebaker is great.
    loudbang likes this.
  19. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,647

    from Minn. uSA

    JJ, that looks good.
    loudbang likes this.
  20. 296moon
    Joined: Oct 24, 2007
    Posts: 663

    from england

  21. Good looking car, Studebaker's look fast sitting still. HRP
    Hamtown Al and loudbang like this.
  22. v8flat44
    Joined: Nov 13, 2017
    Posts: 1,010


    I gotta say it again; STUDES RULE. A Ford guy who loves Studebakers, i am i am....
    If i had a place 4 one...........
    loudbang likes this.
  23. OK. Now down to brass tacks:

    I've been planning this front end and drivetrain stuff for a long time. First order of the day was to help make sure the Hemi fits. So I built this pattern to be able to mimic the curvature of the hood without reinstalling the hood:


    It registers on the fenders and the cowl. I added bolts to allow it to be held in place by the welding magnets. With the hood removed I can see what has to clear:


    Studebaker did a lot of stuff to make sure it cleared. The carb has a side intake for the air cleaner. The fan shroud clears by about 1/2". Unfortunately, they also had steering linkage with the tie rod bellcrank under the crankshaft pulley, so the front of the engine sticks up at a ridiculous 7-1/2 degrees.


    Out she comes:


    Here's the bellcrank:


    The good side is the engine bay is long. I probably will modify the fan shroud to work with a fan on the water pump pulley on the Hemi. The shroud is a well-engineered piece of sheet metal and the length allows it to function better than most aftermarket shrouds.

    I'll post more pic of the empty engine bay once I get the steering column and box out.

    Now for the plans for the front suspension. Studebaker used a trunnion and kingpin system, much like other manufacturers of the late '40s. Unfortunately, they could not afford to change to ball joints and kept the old system right up to the end.

    I remember an article in R&C a few years back where they modified the front suspension and steering on a 1950 Oldsmobile (same type of suspension). They left the lower control arms and springs in place, cut the outer end of the lower control armsoff and welded on cups to mount screw-in ball joints. Then they used GM dropped spindles from a Camaro or Chevelle, and finally used Camaro or Chevelle upper control arms. Of course, they needed to mount brackets for the inner shafts and shims for the upper control arms. For a steering box, they used a 1990 Grand Am power rack and pinion. That unit moves the center back and forth rather than having the tie rod ends coming out the ends of the rack. The center has two drilled and tapped holes to mount an adaptor to connect the tie rod ends at the right position to avoid bump steer. I used one of these units on a friend's '41 Chevy and it worked great.

    Why not just put in a MII suspension and crossmember, you say? I'm stubborn!

    By the way, two things:

    1. Anybody want a Studebaker 232 V8 and O.D. tranny? Message me and you can have it. You just have to come to Kent Island in Maryland and pick it up. I don't want to haul it off to an auto salvage.
    2. If anybody out there has a copy of that R&C, let me know. I wish I had saved my copy.
    I'll close for now. I'll be posting regularly with updates.
  24. goldmountain
    Joined: Jun 12, 2016
    Posts: 3,591


    I can't help with that issue of R &C but I remember a similar article on a suspension upgrade on a early 40's Chrysler in Rod Action, but of course I can't locate it now. I think it was a in special one- issue magazine called "Fat Fendered Rods" but the old memory doesn't work that good. They used the old control arms and converted to ball joints in that one too.
    loudbang likes this.
  25. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,647

    from Minn. uSA

    Hey, Irishjr;
    The only thing better than a stude in a stude, is a hemi in a stude. Ya, I like me some hemis, too. Hemi should fit well in the stude, iirc, the block is fairly narrow, & the exhaust ports aren't bad for header routing & clearance, even though the heads are wide, there's room. There was at least one article in the old HotRod Yearbooks(#11 or 13)?/Swapping Engines(#2 or 3?) books that covered hemi -> stude. It's been awhile since I've seen it, but I think they said it wasn't too bad a job. I have the article, but like most of my books n magazine, they're boxed away & I won't be at them for awhile. Good luck.
    Will be a fun ride.
    loudbang likes this.
  26. 296moon
    Joined: Oct 24, 2007
    Posts: 663

    from england

    This photochop is neat......... [​IMG]
    catdad49, tomkelly88, Hnstray and 2 others like this.
  27. So that's how you get the turning radius on a Studebaker shortened!
    loudbang, Hnstray, alanp561 and 2 others like this.
  28. Well, after getting some chores done, I spent time making noise and using the hot wrench. The steering box and column is out. The tie rod bellcrank is gone. The motor mount support brackets are removed. It's a pretty good size space to fit a Hemi. Especially, look at the large hole in the firewall for the steering column. It is covered by a big rubber boot. I'll be closing it off with sheet metal, but it will be a pretty easy fit-up.


    When I removed the bellcrank, I ended up with two flopping wheel assemblies with long tie rods attached. I was going to clamp the two tie rods together to be able to at least move the car around a bit. Instead, I think I willl install the R&P unit without yet changing to the ball joint suspension. Temporarily, I can use it without hydraulic power, perhaps with just putting some filter cloth over the oil fitting connections.

    It's too bad the engine has to be lowered about 4". Otherwise the Chassis Engineering motor mounts, which use Flathead donuts for vibration absorption, would have been easily adaptable.

    Tomorrow I will work on sitting the engine in place and see if I have to do any notching of the crossmember. This is the start of the fun of building!
  29. Engine bay does look big with everything removed and cleaned up

    Sent from dumb operator on a smart phone
    loudbang likes this.
  30. The engine's in the engine bay of the 'Baker in the bay:


    I put the hood template across the front fenders near the A/C compressor and it fits.

    Right now the crank pulley is sitting on the crossmember and the engine appears to be at the height I want it, so I will notch the crossmember to clear enough to slip a belt in place.


    I had to cut the inner fender panel a little bit. I will be moving the engine back about 1" and start building the motor mounts. Headers clear. I may replace the spin-on oil filter which sticks out to the side with one that hangs straight down. Transmission clears the tranny tunnel. :):):)

    Hamtown Al, brEad, mgtstumpy and 22 others like this.

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