Saturday, October 24, 2009

"The Mysterious Survivor" has new ownership

One of the first postings on this site were about a red/white '53 Studillac that some friends of mine found in a barn in Brunswick, GA. They got the car running, and interest went towards other projects. Wanting to find the car a new home, they ended up trading the car to my Uncle, Mitchell Pair, for a '56 Sky Hawk that he had 90% restored. He had always wanted a hot rod '53, but settled on the Hawk when it came up for sale a few years back. So now he has the car he's always wanted. 

The car hasn't changed at all since my first posting. Mitchell is trying to decide what cool, '60's style wheels and tires to run on the car. It's driveable as-is, but has plenty of little things to keep him busy for a while, as he sorts it all out. But, until then, it's certainly one very cool car. 

We are trying our best to verify the car as a Frick built Studillac. There's a million things that point it to be a real one, but nothing that actually says "Yea, Frick did this". So until then, the mystery continues as we search the world over for more clues.

I am preparing an article on the car for a future "Turning Wheels" story. As soon as it's published, I will also post the story on here. We have found out quite a bit on the car recently. It's worth the wait.

Update- long overdue.

Having been over two years since I last updated this site, there has been some new information come to light in the world of Studillacs. 

First, I'd like to thank Richard Quinn for sending me a photo of former Bob Bee's Studillac. This car was stripped down to the bare frame, and the chassis was restored and shown at Studebaker meets. I'd be interested in any photos of this car or chassis that anyone has. The current location of this car is unknown to me, unfortunately.

Notice in the picture, you can clearly see the "Studillac" emblem on the front fender. I have been trying to find one of those emblems to purchase or borrow in order to have replicas made. 

Sunday, July 01, 2007

You Can Build a Stormin' Studillac!

Fellow Studebaker owner and enthusiast Bob Feaganes was nice enough to pass on to me his copy of Custom Rodder Magazine, which featured an article on how to build a Studillac! Bob told me long ago that he had the magazine, and he found it shortly before the Studebaker meet in South Bend, and brought it all the way with him to the meet so he could give it to me.

Many, many thanks Bob! I appreciate you keeping me in mind, and someday you'll get that ride in my '59 pickup!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Another one comes to light...

Mr. Jim Wasik sent in the following story and pictures...

Hi, I saw your blog and was going to offer the MI article but you have it posted. I had a '53 with a Hydramatic which I repalced with a LaSalle side shift using Corvette linkage complete with floor plate and ashtray. I killed the Caddie racing a guy with a 37 plymouth powered by an Olds J-2. I replaced the Cad with a reworked 58 Chevy 348 tri-power. It was a very quick mover and I had many surprised street challengers. This was circa 1960. The Stude met an untimely death when I was T-Boned and the frame got bent. My buddies and I had a lot of great times with the car and I certainly wish I had it today. If I can find the files I'll send some pictures.

Best Wishes,
Jim Wasik

And the pictures...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

1:18 scale Studillac

Here's a small scale Studillac I made, starting with a '53 Stude model. It has a 331 Caddy motor with the two 6 volt batteries in the trunk and a floor shifter. Enjoy!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another Bill Frick Motors Ad.

This one sent in by Hank Meldrum. Thanks!

Click on ad for larger view.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bill Frick Special

Though not a Studillac, these cars are as closely related to Bill Frick as anything is.

Found here.

Frick, Bill (USA) Bill Frick acquired early a reputation for his sporty, Cadillac-powered creations on Ford and Studebaker bases (the so-called Fordillacs and Studillacs), as well as the Cadillac-Allard and the two Cadillacs entered at Le Mans in 1950. Bill Frick Motors of Rockville Center, Long Island, offered no catalogue creations; all cars were special order and ran a minimum of $8750. There was a 4-5 month wait (7 months for a more spectacular creation). The Frick special illustrated below is 17 feet long and 6 feet wide; it cost less than the 1956 Lincoln MKII Continental yet provided superior appointments and performance (0-60 mph in 7.2 secs.) In an article by staff writer Charles Ericson, published in Sports Cars Illustrated in May 1956, we are told that the wheel base was 114 inches; there was also a double air cleaner to lower the hood height; the interior is upholstered in unborn calf hide; hardware is German silver; the car has a wood-rimmed 18¼-inch diameter. steering wheel; the Stewart Warner instruments have faces by Vignale; they include a clock, speedometer, tachometer, oil temp. and pressure gauge, water temp. gauge, manifold vacuum and fuel gauge. Frick Specials weighed from 3600 to 3800 lbs. The article cited mentions another Bill Frick special 4-pass coupe with sliding roof, in the making in 1956, with an Eldorado motor coupled to a 4-speed, manual, Pont-a-Mousson gearbox and Hi-Tork rear end [see Dream Cars section for 1957]. (SCI, 5/56)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Road and Track tests the Studillac

Another great article submitted by Michael Bostedt.

MI Tests the Studillac

Quite an interesting article by Mechanics Illustrated. Sent in by Michael Bostedt.

Click any pic for larger view.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Studillac Pics

Here's a nice little picture of a '54 Studillac from a 1961 car show brochure, the show was put on by the Asphalt Angels in Richmond, VA. I know nothing more about the car.
Provided by Leonard Shephard.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Studillac 'Factory' Photos

Found these on the web here. Very cool indeed. Yes, I know the main focus is the Mercedes, but note Bill Frick's shop in the background, and of course the Studillac. I suppose you might call these 'Studillac factory Photos'.

Here's a close up of the Studillac. Note the wire wheels.

A Mysterious Survivor

This is an extremely cool "Barn Car" 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner that belongs to a guy in my SDC Chapter. The car is pretty much original and unrestored, but has a nice little surprise sitting between it's fenders. You guessed it, a Cadillac V8, of 1953 vintage, making it the famous 331. It has the LaSalle top-loader 3 speed trans. This car looks stock, pretty much sounds stock, but can blow the doors of any stock '53 Stude. (Don't get me wrong, the '53 Studes are fantastic cars)
Many pics here by Jeff Rice, and a few here by me.

This car is in great condition, considering it's spent the last 20 years under a lean-to on the coast of Georgia. This one runs great, and I got to put the first mile on it in the twenty+ years it's been off the road. I drove it around and around in the parking lot of a Stude show. The minute I parked it back into its space, the lower radiator hose CLAMP was so rusty that it actually broke; yet the hose was still OK.

The owners are going to fix this one up and drive it. Power to them! The black '62 Stude GT Hawk in the middle picture belongs to them as well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

James Bond and the Studillac

Found on the Net.

In the novel Fleming introduced us to one of my favourite, and certainly one of the least known, cars of the 1950's. On a drive to Saratoga, Bond gets his first look at the new car of his best friend, Felix Leiter. The car appears to be a black Studebaker convertible. When Felix talks up the car's performance Bond thinks he's spouting nonsense, until Felix stomps the fuel pedal and reveals to Bond the car's hidden abilities. Leiter's car is a special custom job, a Studebaker with a powerful Cadillac engine under the hood. Cadillacs in the 1950s were real performance cars. When the horsepower of the Caddy engine was put into the aerodynamic, light weight,Loewy designed Studabaker body it yielded a potent, high velocity, weapon! Special rear axle, brakes and transmission had to be added to handle the extra power. This car is not the product of Fleming's fertile imagination. Such a car was actually produced by a specialty shop in New York. It was dubbed with the singularly un-mellifluous sobriquet, "Studillac". But that aside, this car is a real honey! I know of no source today for the Studillac, but the Raymond Loewy designed Studebaker sports coupes of the mid 1950's are beautiful and special enough on their own to warrant admiration. Studebaker got their start way back in 1852 making Conestoga wagons. To celebrate their 100 year anniversary in 1952 the firm hired the famous French designer, Raymond Loewy to design their new line of cars for the 1953 model year. The result was what has been called one of "America's prettiest car of the 50s". They had a decidedly European look to them. I expect this is why Fleming chose the car for Felix, and why Fleming allowed Bond to admire it.

What Felix Leiter's Studillac might have looked liked. A custom Studebaker convertible body with a Caddy 331 engine.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Bill Frick - Studillac Connection

Here's a little article by Richard Quinn about the infamous Studillacs made by Bill Frick Motors of Long Island, NY. Enjoy!!

Bill Frick was a “gearhead” several decades before the word even existed. He had started engine-swapping career in 1934 at the age of 18 by putting a 1924 Dodge 4 cylinder plant in a Model A Ford. By the late 40’s he was heavily involved in souping up old cars for amateur drivers and had developed a solid reputation in this field. In 1949 he had a go at NASCAR racing. Eventually he set up shop at 1000 Sunrise Hwy in Rockville Centre, New York.In 1949 Cadillac introduced its new V-8 engine. This was the first short-stroke, overhead valve, high compression V8 built. With 331 cubic inches and a 7.5 to 1 compression ratio it churned out 160 horsepower in its original form. Bill Frick was quick in recognizing its potential for creating a real super hot street machine (sans the heavy Cadillac body) and set about to build one for himself using the new 1949 Fords as a base. He intended that this creation would be used for only the purpose of towing his race cars to various racing venues in the eastern U.S. The car, however received such universal praise among speed enthusiasts that soon he and his partner the legendary race driver, and WWII hero, Phil Walters (alias Ted Tappet), went into the building of Fordillacs on a full time basis. The combination of the (relatively) lightweight Ford body and the performance offered by the new Cadillac power plant was irresistible to many young rodders. Over 200 people gladly parted with the $1000 fee ($1375 with the Hydramatic) in order to have the hottest car on the block. One of the first Fordillac buyers was Briggs Cunningham the wealthy Connecticut sportsman. Cunningham would eventually buy out Frick-Tappet Motors and move the business (along with Phil Walters) to Florida where they would spend the next five years, and a small fortune, in a vain attempt to win LeMans with an American-built car. Meanwhile Frick stayed in New York to plan his new project and that project was to be called the Studillac. Of course the new “Loewy” coupes and hardtops set the car world on its ear with their dramatic styling (by Robert Bourke) in 1953. Studebaker had introduced its new V8 in their 1951 cars but the 120 horsepower seemed pretty anemic when compared to the 210 available in the ‘53 Cadillac power plant. Bill did some measuring and found that the engines were almost identical in exterior dimensions and the 50 extra lbs. of the Cadillac V8 would pose no problems with the Studebaker suspension. By repositioning the steering box slightly, moving the floorboard tunnel and replacing the Studebakers transmission cross member with one from a ’37 Chevy the job was almost done. Frick replaced the 11” front and 9” rear brakes with ’53 Mercury 11” Bendix brakes (a $250 option but apparently performed on most all the cars he built). The two-piece drive shaft was replaced with a one-piece job. A six volt electrical system was standard but a 12-volt system (an extra $200) was optional and quite practical. This was accomplished by placing two six-volt batteries in the trunk with all the lights, accessories etc. working off one battery and the starter generator off the other. Bill eschewed major body modifications and outwardly the cars that left his shop looked nearly identical to the way entered. The only exception was the Studillac script that was placed on the front fenders slightly above and forward of the vent opening. It is uncertain how many of the cars carried this script but the late Robert Bee’s car had one. I am sure this identification label may have been omitted at the customer’s request though most customers apparently chose to have it for the prestige it would provide.It should be noted that the cars Bill reworked could be brought in and dropped off by the customer or Bill would secure them form his local dealer at discount and pass the savings along to the customer. Evidence suggests the dealer from whom most of the cars were purchased was Balport Motors located at 425 West Sunrise Highway in Freeport, New York.Of course Frick ended up with lots of perfectly good low mileage Commander V8’s that he sometimes sold back to the dealers or often to private individuals. Some of them were used for transplants into European cars that were adaptable to the conversion (Siatas etc.).The conversions required about three days to complete and the process also included attention to the cars “fit and finish.” In Tom McCahill’s drive report (Mechanix Illustrated Nov. 1953.) he takes Studebaker to task for its poorly hung doors and a variety of other body imperfections saying among things that, “The chrome stripping along the windows and body look like they were put on by reform school delinquents.” When ask how many conversions were made between 1953 and ‘55 Bill claimed he was too busy building them to count them! Bob Bee talked to Bill several times before his death in 2000 at age 84. According to Bob’s estimates 80-100 cars were built in the 1953 model year and approx. 180 of the ‘54’s. Bill recalled doing two ’54 Conestoga wagons and one 1955 Speedster. By 1955 Studebaker had bumped up the displacement to 259 c.i. and the horsepower to 185 and this made the conversion to the 210 h.p. less dramatic and as a result only a few ‘55’s were completed. (Incidentally Bob Bee owner of one of the few known Studillac survivors was a physicist and engineer. He died tragically in an accident on August 6, 2004. He was 67.) The price for the complete conversion was $1500 or $1995 if you wanted the optional Hydramatic transmission used in place of the 3-speed manual column shift. If purchased as a complete unit (meaning you did not already have the car) the cost was $3750. This included a radio, heater, directional signals, and a Cadillac manual transmission. Bill also offered quite a list of special options to go with the conversions. These included the floor shift with manual trans $250, special leather top $450, pleated leather dashboard $135, wire wheels (bolt on) $318, Borrani wire wheels $630, 12 volt electrical system $200, tachometer $70, Special 11” diameter brakes $250, Special 3.31 to 1 rear end ratio $250, Marcal headlamps $21.60. Frick claimed a top speed of 125 M.P.H. and 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds. Tom McCahill said, “It will even run away from an XK 120 Jaguar as if it were a highway sign.” The fact is during its day it would out run and out accelerate anything sold on this side of the Atlantic.

Bill Frick de New York, sieur de Studillac