Johnny Cash would have liked it. He sang about building a Cadillac – “One piece at a time,” but this car is a Studebaker – an orphan – meaning the parent company is no longer around and parts are hard to find. The short story here is that Krash Vegas (yes, that’s his real name) of Dallas, Texas, has been working on this particular vehicle for two years as of April, 2017, and is doing the same thing as the song says: one piece at a time!
Honestly, would you have started on the car shown above? Face the fact, orphan cars are rare. Orphan cars, done correctly, can be really kool among plenty of Fords and Chevys at a rod run. Krash had that in mind when he purchased this orphan.
This ’39 Studebaker Commander coupe originally came from Austin, Texas, when Krash attended the 2015 Lone Start Round-up swap meet. He walked into the swap meet area and it was the first thing he saw. It stopped him dead in his tracks, his wife smiled and he dug into his wallet for cash.
It literally took less than 5 minutes to make the deal, and he didn’t even know what kind of car it was until the 500 bucks to hold the car was in the owner’s hands. He had no plans of buying anything over 100 bucks that day but the car had called to him. During the day, and just to know he made the correct decision, Krash reported he could have sold the car five or six times during the course of the LSRU weekend.
He even negotiated a delivery deal from Austin to Dallas in the price of the car and he couldn’t wait to get started the day it arrived at his shop. Krash didn’t know if he wanted the car to be a gasser or a mild kustom. On the way to figuring that out, he started collecting parts and let the car tell him what it was destined to be.
An S-10 4×4 rearend with disc brakes was the first thing that came up in his one-piece-at-a-time build. A Mustang II front end with tubular A-arms and a manual rack & pinion steering came up next so after it was installed, the front of the car came down about 10 inches total.
The axle centerlines moved so he had to readjust the wheelbase to keep the lowered stance looking correct. Once the Mustang II suspension and 4 link rear were tacked in place, his Dad, Pappa Vegas, had an extra Desoto Hemi engine in the garage and offered it up. It’s now backed by a 700 R-4 via a HotHeads adapter. Krash considers them the best there is for old Hemi parts and support.
The body was then removed, and the frame fully boxed, including the big X member in the center. A fresh coat of POR 15 was applied to the frame as well as the entire bottom side of the floor of the car. With that done, it was time to fit the Hemi between the very narrow Studebaker frame rails. It’s a little tight in all the wrong places but he’s pleased with the way it sits now.
Brakes turned out to be the easiest thing so far. A three-bolt to two-bolt master cylinder adapter mounted the 7/8” bore Wilwood master cylinder onto the original bracket and he shortened the original brake push rod and used the original brake pedal.
The Hemi now has 2-½ inch mandrel bent exhaust running inside the frame perimeter so nothing at all hangs below the frame rails, as he wasn’t sure at that point if it would get the full air ride treatment. As of now it will not. Only the rear has air ride but the air ride for the front can be added easily.
The steering is a home built column that allowed him to use an original 1937 Studebaker Banjo steering wheel – one more piece to the puzzle. Those steering wheels are really cool but they have a 7/8-inch tapered and keyed shaft that’s not very common. It needed to be machined but it’s exactly what the car needed. The seat is a ‘42-‘48 Ford split bench found at a local swap meet. Just so we’re clear, it’s a ’37, ’38, ’39, ‘40 Studebaker.
The plan is to get it on the road by summer of 2017 as is, leaving the original patina and swap meet seat upholstery. This car has a 1940 Studey dash and Krash has restored the original gauges, and the dash and steering column will get a nice coat of light Grey paint.
As the outside gets finished by removing rusty areas in the trunk, lower doors, and lower quarter panels, he will eventually move away from the patina to a full bare steel with clear coat look. Finally, after that, the plan is it will get a coat of maroon paint very close to the original that he’s found in a few spots on the cowl and in the door jambs.
Even tho Cash’s one piece at a time song was about a Cadillac, that sentiment still works for Krash and his Studebaker. Watch for it around Dallas some time this summer.