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54 stude coupe design and modifications

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by negativeMatt, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. as some of you may know, i'm building a 54 stude for my father.(see thread:my father and his studebakers)

    there are several updates that i am doing to this car, and although some are probably more of a street rod type thing, its what my dad wants, so thats what he gets. it will be a mix/mash of new and old, but hopefully it wont be confused as alot of "custom" cars can get.

    the body will have subtle mods, but i'm having trouble in one area. it's always bugged me about these cars, and i'd like to change it. when introduced in 53, there definately wasn't anything out there similar in the domestic market. hamber rixrex quoted" the 53-4 stude coupes make everything else available at the time look like a loaf of bread!", and i have to agree....slippery, smooth flowing lines....except for one thing....the headlights. standing there, upright,defiant, in the face of all those beautiful angles of that front end. i'm not sure of the drag coefficient, but as far as a design standpoint, they definately detract from it to me.they could have used the headlights from 38-40's fords, or even early vw's as they would've blended well into the design.

    ...and that leads me to my dilemma.
    i'd like to change the headlights to reflect the angles of the front end, but do it tastefully and in a way that works with the design. understandably, i will run into the naysayers and the "traditionalists", but i know there are some truly great designers on this board, and some really good "eyes". (i have a arts degree myself)

    i've found a few examples of cars done over the years that i like and wanted to put them here for your opinions and judgement. i like each one for different reasons, but just wanted to see what others think. ultimately, i'll have to decide which one i like, but for an excersize in design, i just wanted to see what the H.A.M.B. had to say.

    john martin was the first guy i saw put the mercedes headlights on a coupe, but i couldn't find a good enough pic to post. the first car is terp christensen's coupe with minicooper headlights. i like the flow and the chrome trim of this install, but it definately gives the car a more modern feel.

    next is just a typical "french" install. clean and simple, but still detracts from the flowing lines, but cleaner than the factory.i dont know whose car it is, but i like it.

    the third is a different take that i've never seen before, but after searching for hours on flickr, i came across it and really like the treatment. "one off customs" built the car, and i think they did a great job.

    i'd love to see more examples if you have em, as i have quite a few more monts till i leave afganistan and get home to get to work on the car, and eventually make up my mind. please lemme know what you guys think, and give me a "why" to go along with your opinion.
  2. Ole don
    Joined: Dec 16, 2005
    Posts: 2,914

    Ole don

    OK, you asked, I'll respond. Some of us are old enough to have seen these cars since they were new. They were radical then, they still look great today. I had a 54 hardtop, lowered, with the body all stock. Even the headlights. IMHO they look best with stock headlight rings. Chrome or painted, they need to be stock to look right.
    Nice car to start with, cool as hell your doing it for your dad.
  3. How about just replacing the peaked headlamp rings with smooth Lucas type ones, as per the Mini?


    Although, I´d probably just leave them alone.
  4. dubcee
    Joined: Jan 24, 2008
    Posts: 484


    I have to say I love the lines of the minni cooper headlights on 53Lowboys (Turp Christianson) bad ass coupe but it is not too traditional, more street rod look, imo.
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  5. Phillips
    Joined: Oct 26, 2010
    Posts: 1,158


    Great designs have an element of contrast. The difference between the smooth, low grille area and the forward position of the headlights give the design some 'movement'. While they are all very nice cars, none of the modified cars pictured improve on the original design IMO. Perhaps something like 55 Olds lights would take away some of the pointed effect you don't like, but still fit in with the original design.

    This is a great thing you are doing for your dad, and thank you for your service to our country!
  6. tommy
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 14,763

    Member Emeritus

    I agree but. When I had mine, I planed to just dechrome the original rings and paint them body color. I just can't get into the modern headlights. I believe that painted...they will just flow into the fender.


    I had an artist paint this for me as I was working on it. I forgot to tell him about the HL door modification that I planed. It would look so much better if they were painted. IMHO
  7. Don't change the headlights!!!

    I had a 54 Stude, all I did was put a 53 Sude grill on it (smooth off the lettering and re-chrome it), take the bumper guards off, shave the "V" off the nose, shave the trunk, lower it and it will be PERFECT.

    You'll %uck up a beautiful car if you change it radically. It's already cool, it only needs a shave.
  8. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 38,751


    Exactly correct. They were a slippery SOB when they were new and still are.

    If I was going to do something different with the head lights I would be looking for a pair from an old E Type jag. They are the correct shape to enhance the lines.

    That said my '53 is pretty much staying in the stock configuration, I will probably end up with a scoop to cover the tops of my carbs but that is an entirely different subject.
  9. The headlight treatrment on some of these cars are as bad as the stopping distance you get with the oversize wheel and tire combinations. I like the classic bonneville look on vintage Studes!!
  10. nofin
    Joined: Jan 7, 2010
    Posts: 321

    from australia

    For a slightly swept back smooth chrome bezel how about 50's MB ponton? They are similar to the lucas rims JamesD showed but a little larger and they lean back a little. I think the more modern MB or Mini lights lean back too far to match the lines on the rest of the car.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  11. OldsRanch
    Joined: Feb 18, 2004
    Posts: 185


    The red car looks like a mercedes benz. but it follows the angular line of the car fairly well.

    I left mine alone, I didnt want to mess with a good thing.

    Plus, if it ever ends up in a fender bender, the closer it is to stock, the more quickly you'll get back to driving it again. Granted, you dont want to think about that, but its a reality.

    Its a preference thing, do what makes you happy - its your car.

    The more I scroll up and look at the pics you posted, the more I see that stylistically - the hardtop cars (like mine and the red one) have a "thinner" look to them than the two door sedan like yours and the other two. The orange car tried to minimize that by blacking out the body colored area around the door/window frames.

    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  12. Bullet Nose
    Joined: Nov 20, 2001
    Posts: 1,873

    Bullet Nose

    A friend used Olds headlight rims on his 54 .....

  13. oldcarfart
    Joined: Apr 12, 2005
    Posts: 1,439


    some cars are hard to make look better, and in my not-so-humble opinion the C/K stude is one, just paint the headlight rings body color and use 3 bar Lucas style lamps, the sloped headlights look like sh*t.
  14. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 8,349

    from Quincy, IL

    I have a '56 Hardtop and have had a few other '53/'54 coupes over the years and love these cars. I am with the others who advise against any significant modification. Not because I am against mods in principle, I most certainly am not, but because it is very difficult to improve on the car's original lines. I do agree that painted H/L bezels would be an unobtrusive change at worst and maybe an improvement at best. I have considered that for mine. If you look at the GT Hawk headlight 'doors', they recess the lamp, but are not hooded, and while painted mostly, there is a thin chrome ring at the very leading edge that, in my opinion, complements the delicate grille surround trim.

  15. Rudebaker
    Joined: Sep 14, 2007
    Posts: 1,582

    from Illinois

    I have a '55, the "ugly" younger sibling. I do NOT like any of the headlight mods that alter the profile of the car. Bob Bourke got it right ( Raymond Loewy did NOT design these cars! He just took the credit. ) leave the headlights alone.

    I do however like this mod.........

    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  16. partsdawg
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,710

    from Minnesota

    Not a fan of the Mercedes look.Disrupts the flow more than enhances it.
  17. flamedabone
    Joined: Aug 3, 2001
    Posts: 4,009


    You are right, the headlights are a bit funky, but they are hard to fix with out making the car look goofy. Your mind knows what those headlights are suposed to look like, and if they are diffrent, your brain has a hard time getting over the feeling that something is wrong.

    I body colored mine and quit worring about em.


    Good luck, -Abone.
  18. I remember those cars when they were new - and still on the road. Raymond Loewy may have taken the credit but whoever dreamed it up made the perfect design. If it were my car I'd leave the headlights alone. Maybe paint them the body color but that's it....
    And WOW look at that Stude from flamedabone in post #17! That's way my favorite....
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2011
  19. stude54
    Joined: Jan 9, 2008
    Posts: 47

    from michigan

    I totally agree that Bourke got it right. I also painted mine to match. The only thing I like better is to graft a similar rim to the fender and french the headlights.

    The newer lights just don't look right to my eye.

  20. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,188


    exactly what he said !!!
  21. Willys 77
    Joined: Mar 1, 2010
    Posts: 32

    Willys 77
    from up north

    Some things CAN NOT be improved upon!!! For example: The 1933 ~ 34 WILLYS 77; the 1939 DeLuxe and 1940 Standard FORDS; 1940 WILLYS and the 1953 ~ 54 STUDEBAKER! Just my Two Cents worth.
  22. Dragon Wagons
    Joined: Oct 4, 2009
    Posts: 115

    Dragon Wagons
    from SLC, Utah

    I'll go against the board here... I love the Cooper lights in it, it's probably the only car I like them in.

    I wonder what a 37 Ford light would look like, could you get it leaned back far enough? Or what about some '56 Olds lights flipped upside down.
  23. RDR
    Joined: May 30, 2009
    Posts: 1,179


    Love customs!....BUT you cannot improve on the Lowey 53-54 coupes!!!.... like's been said before; nosed, decked, lowered,and a 53 grille....perfect
  24. RichFox
    Joined: Dec 3, 2006
    Posts: 8,521


    I dissagre with all these guys. I like that red car at the begining. Reminds me of the SanCheze stude when it had the rounded off fender tops. Sort of like Burklands Stude comp coup. But he shortend his and that is funny looking. Buy my Stude and do what ever you want to it. Please.
  25. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 838

    from Minn. uSA

    Trying to remember, but... IIRC, ~'48 Cad headlight trim rings fit nice, have no eyebrow, & smooth off the headlight nicely. Look good.

    As mentioned, either real close to stock, or E-jag/ferrari250TestaRosa type may work. Only other possibility (&probably the best) is a virtual copy of Sanchez fenders.

  26. Iron Crank
    Joined: Jun 23, 2010
    Posts: 63

    Iron Crank

    Yes, edweird, spot on, on all counts.
  27. How about Porsche 911 headlights? These are not the same as VW Bug lights BTW, the lenses and chrome rings are different. They are probably more the streamlined shape you want, but without being anywhere near as bulky as the MINI lights, so they´ll actually fit the fenders.

    Shown here on a Karmann Ghia (best pic I could find)...


  28. i was thinkin maybe 40 ford??? dont know what it'd look like. maybe need to see a photchop? i do like the look of those cars stock tho
  29. mart3406
    Joined: May 31, 2009
    Posts: 3,055

    from Canada

    Another possibility too - how about some
    Mercedes headlights - from a 1996 through
    2002 CLK-class, or a 1995 through 2002
    E-class, maybe? The sloped-back angle
    of these lights might suit the general 'slope'
    of the Stude body lines better than the
    Mini-Cooper headlights and to my mind
    not having the large chrome 'surround
    rings', they look cleaner and also
    less 'busy' than the Mini-Cooper lights .


    Attached Files:

  30. Not too bad. These Porsche lights first appeared in 63, before anyone shouts "non-traditional".


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