Buddy Romines'
1954 Studebaker Rebuild


This 1954 Studebaker Champion 2-door Sedan, (15G, F1) was purchased in November of 2003 from a family in Ohio.  It was purchased off eBay for $1831 after several years of trying to buy a '53 or '54 Starliner or Starlight coupe.  The price of the coupes are still going out of sight and we gave up and decided to get something other than a coupe that we would enjoy and use ourselves and to entertain others.

This Champion was purchased from the original family, the uncle bought it new and owned it till he died, the father owned it till he died, the son owned it till his mom said it was time to get it out of the workshop.  It had been in the workshop for many, many years and the varmint nests attest to it.  So far we have found 5 nests and one of which was a rats nest, one of the nests was in the bell housing, yes, the bell housing.  The others were in the seats.

The car has 43,000 or so original miles and the drive line was in fair condition with the exception of the engine and the brakes which were in poor condition.  The engine was removed and completely rebuilt, rebored .030 over, crankshaft grind down .010, new gaskets, pistons, rings, bearings, valves ground, then reassembled.  After a through cleanup it was painted Alpine Green, then made ready for a few test runs.  I will document the testing later and display more pictures.  The original exterior color was blue and was painted a darker blue some years later, the interior metal is gray and the seat covers were replace a number of years ago.  The rest of the interior is tan.  The F1 designation indicated that it is a custom (Least Expensive) model and has virtually no exterior trim.  Bumpers, grill and head light rims are chrome, all the rest is paint.  This may be a blessing for us in the future because there are very few holes to develop more rust.

Our intentions at this time are to do just enough to get it on the road and enjoy it this summer then decide how deep into a restoration we want to go.  This would be our second restoration, we started a '65 Chevrolet Impala SS Convertible in '95 and finished in '00.  We really enjoy the convertible but the restoration cost is now past $15,000 plus and there is no end in site.  Our original estimate for the Chevy was about $5,000.

We are now in the middle of the brake restoration on the Champion and will attempt to drive it when this is done, the only thing we see that may hold this up is the wiring, it is cloth and in very poor condition.  If a rebuild of the wiring system is needed I will do it myself after moving the car out of the workshop so we can use the shop for other projects.


Or you may e mail me at

This page shows the early stages of the rebuild.
Please drop back often to watch the progress.
The comments on these pictures was supplied by Buddy Romines

Please note: Since BuddyRomies submitted these early
restoration pictures in 2006 I have not heard anything from him
and can not answer any questions about what he did.

The Flat head 6 being test run
 The Front Brakes
This picture is of the driver\rquote s side wheel before the brake was disassembled.  Notice the wheel has a little yellow and black paint on them.  All four wheels had a bit of yellow and black, but it must have been sprayed on when the wheels were very dirty, because it washed off easily.  This car had only about 42,000 miles so I expected the brakes to be at the worst serviceable, Boy, was I surprised.  They could not have been is worse shape.  The brake cylinder was caked with goop and all the rest was coated with a good layer of grease or rust.
This is a picture of the components that make up the driver’s side front brake.   The flex hose is completely clogged with old moist brake fluid.   It is just past being a hard solid and brakes into a powder when the hose is flexed.   The brake cylinder is in the same condition, which means it will be unusable even to rebuild.  The condition of the drum is fantastic, just a little expected ware and no damage from the rust.   The shoes are worn about 20 percent and will need to be replaced.   The hardware (springs & clips) are in very good condition and will be painted and reused.   The adjusting hardware still had some of the original grease intact.   So far it looks like the rebuild will be about as expensive as I thought, most everything will need to be replaced.
This is a picture of the support system for the driver’s side wheel.  All the brake apparatus has been removed to be restored and this will be cleaned up.  Note that the upper support system is an “A” frame style and the lower support system is a “Tubular” style.  The 1954 front end also has a very large “Sway Bar”.    It was many years before the competition installed these in standard production cars.  Also note the axel and the back plate support is in excellent condition.
This picture is a well focused close-up of the bearings of a 51 year old car that has just 41,000 miles or so. I doubt that the front brake assemblies have ever been apart and the condition of the nuts and the two flat washers show their lack of abuse. The two springs go into the bearing caps and the carbide button will rub on the end of the axel when the wheel is spinning, the purpose of the spring is to remove static electric from the rotating assembly so it won’t interfere with the radio.These springs are in near pristine condition.  The only item replaced in this area was the grease seals which were purchased over the internet.
This is a good picture of one of the front brake drums.  It has very little ware, which will be just great on the pocket book. 
It was completely coated with rust, which was removed later with glass beads and liquid rust remover.  Because the drivers side drum have studs with left hand threads, I thought I would replace them with standard right hand thread studs.  After seeing their condition and how they had been crimped in place from the factory, I decided to leave them alone.  The condition of the drums will go a long way toward saving some serious money.
This is a picture of the drum after it has been through the rust removal process, bead blasting, primered and painted.  Note the condition of the bearing races, near perfect.  The condition of the inside of the drum overall was much better than I expected.  The primer was Rustoleum as was the black finish paint.  After painting and a short drying period, the drums were put into the oven at 170 degrees for about 30 minutes.  This seems to make the paint good and hard and with a number of drives into town the paint seems to be holding up well.
This picture will give you an idea of the condition, the only thing that was salvageable was the hardware because it was the only thing I was not able to purchase locally.
The Rear Brakes
This is a picture of the passenger’s side rear brake.  The drum is unlike most other manufactures in that the drum slides onto the axel and is held in place with a square key and a large castle bolt and cotter pin.  The axel has a slight taper and the nut is torqued in place.  To remove the drum is a challenge none of us want to face on a car that has been sitting up for years. 
I understand now that a slight bit of lubricant is used at the factory and I would guess it has turned to glue after 51 years.  The process I will use it to try a number of methods to remove this brake drum and the following pictures will display my attempts.   Keep in mind this car has about 41,000 miles and the condition of the components inside the drum should hopefully, be in fair condition, but if it’s anything like the front brakes it may be a mess
This is my first coarse of action in the drum removal process for the passenger side rear brake drum.  I have purchased a Wheel Puller/Drum Remover from my local Harbor Freight and will attempt to remove the drum with the attachment of three studs to the puller and the pulling force is generated by turning the screw in the middle.  My first attempts to turn the puller resulted in the drum assembly turning also.  As you can see I used a 2 X 4 and some rope to secure the drum and started winding down on the screw to remove the drum.  A lot easier said than done.  I used a hammer, a touch, air wrench and a long pipe to no avail.  The only thing I was doing was damaging the end of Axel.  The drum is just “NOT” going to come off.
This tool is called a sliding hammer.  We rented it from our local Auto zone for no charge if we return it.  What this does is attach to the three pronged tool we bought from Harbor Freight and will apply pressure to the drum in an outwardly direction when the hammer, shown in my right hand it slid to the end of the handle.  The hammer, or slide, weighs about 2 pounds and we were surprised at the amount of energy we could muster by sliding it about 2 feet and banging it into the end of the slide.  We would have thought this was going to be the easy solution to getting the drum off but we were thwarted again.  The drum did not come off.
After getting in touch with one of the officials in the North Georgia SDC, we came away with the process that solved the problem.  We located a 3 inch fine thread ½ in bolt of very good quality and placed it in the 3 pronged tool.  We put two small pieces of metal stock between the bolt and the axel and tightened it down good with our air wrench.  At this point we used a 10 pound sleg hammer and started to bang on the bolt head.  The first 5 or 6 blows were of the medium variety, then my friend said if we were to get this off we needed to get serious.  We started swinging the hammer from about three feet away and hit it 5 times.  No luck, we looked at each other and kind of wondered, “What is it going to take?”    I said swing hard, “I am” he said.  “As hard as you can”, I said.  He took a giant swing and you would have thought the car was moving sideways.  No luck…
We inspected the bolt and it still looked good, we hit it again, no luck, again, no luck.  This can’t be real, we said.  So…!  To hell with the bolt and tool, one last swing with all he had.  It worked..!  It popped off like the top off a bottle.  It took at least 14 swings with the hammer.  It is hard to imagine people have been doing this for 50 years or more.
Now that the drum is loose there is the problem of it not sliding off the axel because the end of the axel was mushroomed by the screw of the removal tool.  The damaged area takes up about 1/3 of the threads and must be removed before the drum will come off.  I have mounted my grinder in my Black & Decker workmate and positioned it so it will grind the axel in an even method.  After turning on the grinder I would turn the drum and the damaged axel threads were being removed a little at a time.  About 20 minutes of careful grinding had cleaned up the damage and several attempts to get the castle nut started were successful.  At this point the drum slid off.  Wa-La…
After all the work to get the drum off this is what I have.  Plenty of rust, but very little grease/oil.  The seals were still working well because I filled up the differential before I left Ohio and towed the car back on a two wheel dolly.   As you can see by the picture there a quite a bit of shoe left after 41,000 miles or so.  I will replace the wheel cylinder the shoes and clean/paint the hardware.  The emergency brake system will also be removed, cleaned & painted.
This is the device I used to make the brake system lines for my Champion.  The replacement cost of the brake line set was cost prohibitive so I made the lines myself.  The brake system was made up of a master cylinder that resides under the driver side floorboard, three rubber (flex) hoses, 4 wheel cylinders, two junction blocks and the six stainless steel lines.  The only components that were in the brakes system that were salvageable were the junction boxes, all else was replaced.  The cost for the material for the lines was about $32, which included the flex hoses.  The only brakes system component not mentioned above was the “Brake Light Switch”,  this is a unit that makes a set of contacts when the fluid pressure reaches a certain level, this in turn energizes the brake lights.  This is the first car I’ve owned that used a hydraulic switch for the brake lights.
This is one of the finished brake line flares.  All the lines got single flares instead of double flares because I have had very little success with double flare systems.  All the line components were purchased at my local auto parts store and most will have the items in stock.
This is a picture of the emergency brake system components, I put some white paper behind it to get a better view with the camera.  All the components were removed from the car except the handle and line from inside the car, it was cleaned up with cleaning fluid and lubed to be operational when the remaining parts were finished.  The adjustment screw was the worst of the parts, after it was cleaned I used a thread cleaner on it to get the nuts to operate smoother.  During the reassembly, two pieces of rubber hose and grease were used to cover the exposed threads to prevent their further deterioration.  The operation of the emergency brake on a car this old is important because with an O/D transmission the car is not held still when put in gear with the engine not running.
This is the finished product.  All the components have been replaced, cleaned or cleaned and painted.  The emergency brake system is installed and was tested when the drum was installed.  The adjustment of the brake system is very simple and must be done manually.  No automatic adjusters here…!  The bottom device in the picture is the adjuster and there is access through an elongated hole in the brake backing plate.  The adjustment is simply to adjust the shoes out till the wheel is difficult to spin then back the adjustment off 4 clicks.  Wa – La…!

And now on to the Engine

This is a view of the driver’s side of the engine after removal from the car.   This side has the starter, oil filter, Generator, oil filler tube, distributor and coil.  The air cleaner will be on this side also but will feed air to the Carburetor on the other side.  One interesting thing about the oil filter, the pressurized oil is drawn from the oil channel on the other side and is feed via rubber hose into the top of the oil filter canister.  The oil will then go through the filter out the bottom of the canister to the oil filler tube.  Only a small portion of the oil is filtered at any time unlike today’s filtering systems that filter all the oil that leaves the oil pump.
This is a view of the passenger’s side of the engine.  This side will have the carburetor, oil pump, fuel pump, exhaust and intake manifolds, crankcase breather tube and the outlet of the water pump.   Note the rubber hose coming over the top of the water pump on the right side, along side the fuel pump and into the side of the engine, this is the pressure feed for the oil filter.  The square thing by the exhaust pipe is the oil pump, it pressurizes the raised channel that you see about the middle of the block.  This pressurized channel is used to lubricate the cam and crank bearings.  The oil going through the crank will lubricate the connecting rod bearings.
This is a view of the flywheel with the bell housing, clutch and pressure place removed.  The teeth on the flywheel are in very good condition for a 51 year old car.  There is a small amount of rust but nothing that I would not be able to remove with a little sandpaper.  Please note that just to the left of the flywheel the is a bolt sticking through the backing plate, also note there is one on the other side as well.  I am unable to remove these just by pulling on them. 
My best guess is the tight fit is an alignment thing that Studebaker used instead of two large pins that Chevy used. 
The head has just been removed and there is a bit of flaky stuff in each of the cylinders, note that cylinders 1, 3, & 4 look like they were running richer than the others.  Cylinder # 4 still has what is left of the spark plug, all of the plugs were in very poor condition, # 4 crumbled when I tried to remove it and the machinist said he could get the rest of it out.  This head is a very long piece of molded cast iron and will need to be machined to make it flat again after 50 years of use.
This is a good view of the top of the engine with the head removed.  Note the lighter color of 6 of the valves, these are the exhaust valves, they are always hotter than the intake because no cold air goes across them during operation.  The intake valves have cooler air around them when they are open.
This is a view of the front of the engine with the water pump and generator pulley removed.  The water pump is located at the top of the engine and sucks water from the bottom of the radiator.  It must do it well because there must be several million of these engines out there in car land.  The cover behind the damper pulley has the gear for the cam and the gear for the crank.
This is a view of the components that make up the damper pulley.  The purpose of the damper pulley is to assist in removing vibration from the engine as it is running.  The pulley on the left is bolted directly to the crank and the heavy steel plate on the right helps smooth out the engine as its running.  It is mounted on the crank pulley via the rubber bushing on the bottom.  One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the steel plate has the engine timing marks on the edge, so is can only go on the crank pulley one way.  It’s hard to see, but if you look at the rubber bushing closely, you will see the hole are spaced unevenly, hence it will only go on one way.
This is the front of the engine with the timing gear cover removed.  The cam gear is the larger of the two and it will have twice the number of teeth the crank gear will have.  Note that the gears have an angle to the teeth.  I suspect this is designed to assist in keeping the cam pushed to the rear of the engine.  Note the cam is above the crank and on the side of the block.  The bolts that hold the gears in place have already been removed and a gear puller will be used to remove the timing gears.  The cam gear is made of fiber, not metal, not sure why they did that, I suspect noise, just a guess.
These are the timing gears; they will look better after cleaning up.  The half moon shaped item at the top is use at the bottom of the gear cover and I suspect it is there to help prevent damage to the gear cover. Damage from the bolt heads would increase the likelihood of oil leaks.  Note that four of the screws have nuts, these 4 did not go into the block, but went through the backing plate to help hold the gear cover in place.  The bolts were ¼ X 24, fine thread.  I’m not sure why they felt they needed to use a fine thread bolt for this application.  Many fine thread fasteners are used on these engines.
The only thing left is the backing plate.  I’ll take another picture when I assemble the engine and it will give a better view of how the plate is attached.  The only thing left holding the cam in the engine is a small plate with two ¼ inch fine thread bolts.  It’s hard to see hear but there is a key attached to the crank and behind the key is a disk about three inches across.  This disk will play an important part in the reassembly of the engine, I’ll point it out when I get to it.
Everything has now been removed from the front of the block except the cam retention plate.  After the block has been degreased and painted you will be able to see the two block off caps that will be removed to boil out the block.  These caps will enable the machinist to have access to the two oil channels used to lubricate the engine.  The lower channel will have small channels to lube the cam bearings and crank bearings.  The upper channel will lube the cam lifters.  Note the “U” shaped device below the end of the crank, its purpose is to be the securing device for the 4 lowest screws of the timing gear cover and as a surface for the oil pan gasket.  The surface you see in the hole left by the water pump is the outside of the first cylinder.
This is the oil pan just before it was removed, as you can see it has had a tuff life, large dent in the front, large dent in the bottom.  It also has a repair toward the front, looks like a green blob.  The oil was drained when the block was on the lift; I let it drain until the globs stopped dropping out.  After the pan was removed at least a cup of goop was removed from the bottom of the oil pan.  Yuk-o….!
This is a view of the bottom of the engine with the oil pan and crank removed.  The cylinders and piston are in good enough shape that the pistons move up and down with ease.  The square block at the bottom is the oil pump; note the gear inside the block that is driven by the cam.  The piston on the left is #1, look closely where the rod connects to the piston and you’ll see a nut on the side of the rod.  You’ll also see this on number 3 & 5.  The piston pin is secured to the connecting rod by a threaded wedge locked in place by the nut.   Pistons # 2, 4 & 6 also have the same wedge but it is secured on the passenger’s side of the rods.
This is what the crank looks like after removal.  It has 4 main bearings and each set of pistons, 1 & 6, 2 & 5 and 3 & 4 are spaced 120 degrees apart.  So, at anytime there are 3 sets of pistons that are in the same vertical position in a cylinder, but in different modes of fire.  As and example, if numbers 1 & 6 were going up, one of the pistons would be in its compression stroke while the other would be in its exhaust stroke. 
This is a view of the oil pump with the top removed; it’s hard to visualize it because of all the grunge.  The pump consist of two gears that work against each other driven by a shaft that goes into one of the gears and is driven by the center cam gear.  To get the oil pump off the driving gear must be removed.  If I had the proper tool, J-2959, it would be a cinch.  What I had to do was use a carriage bolt, grind half the top and one side off, place it between the driving gear and the driven gear shaft and pull it up with a nut and bar as you can see.  When the gear touched the bar, I rotated the nuts on their side, then when the gear again touched the bar I used to small 3/8 sockets.  The pump then lifted 
This is the cam after removal;   The solid lifters are just above it and the # 1 cylinder valves would be the first two on the left.  This cam seems to be in very good condition and will be reused along with the lifters.   These lifter are termed “Solid” because they have no oil on the inside like most of today’s engines, this requires a periodic valve lifter adjustment with a .016 gap.
Buddy has started work of the carburetor and air cleaner
The following are a series of before and 
after shot of this work
This is a picture of the distributor disassembled,  there are not as many parts as one might think.  One important item is the flexible wire that is used to transfer the signal from the points to the connector the goes through the hole in the casing to the coil.  If this wire is old and tired it should be replaced, if it brakes the engine will not run.  Another important part is the clip that I have labeled as number “2”.  This clip is used to hold several pieces of the unit together, if it goes “Ping” like some things go it is almost impossible to fine.  A clip can be made from a small paperclip if you are in a bind, in other words, be careful with this clip.
The distributor is now assembled with new points and condenser.  The process of setting the dwell with the unit out of the engine is so easy that I have laid out the units required to do it.  Use the 6V battery from the car, a dwell meter, ½ inch drill (or 3/8 drill with a ½ inch chuck), a coil and jumper wires.  With the connections set as follows.  Negative side of battery to negative side of coil, jumper the positive side of the coil to the points connection on the distributor.  Ground the coil to the positive side of the battery.  Connect the positive lead of the dwell meter to the distributor caseing, the negative lead of the dwell meter to the positive side of the coil.  Using a drill with a ½ inch chuck, spin the distributor shaft and watch the dwell meter.  Adjusting the points cam screw will bring the dwell into the 39 degrees mark.  Tighten the points hold down screw and check the dwell again, if it is off slightly loosen the hold down screw a little and adjust the cam a little more.  When this is finished the distributor can be return and installed in the engine quickly.
The cam is in very good condition, so I will be reusing it and the lifters.  Remember, the lifters are solid, so there is no reason to replace them if the top and bottom are in good condition.  The sides of the lifters are always under pressurized oil, so there will be very little wear.  The cam gear is not metal and may need to be removed some year down the road and the picture shows what I do to clean up the end of the cam so the gear will slide on smoothly.  The sand paper is 1000 grit, so it will do no damage to the end or the bearing surfaces.
This view shows some of the surfaces after they are cleaned up to get ready for assembly.   The channel for the lifters and the valve stems have to be cleaned of the spray the machinist put on the block as rust preventer.  The valve stem holes were cleaned with a gun cleaning brush and the lifter holes were cleaned with a rag and lacquer Thinner.   Once these are cleaned out the lifter and valves will move freely.  This will be important when the engine starts up for the first time.
This is a view of the plate that is behind the cam gear.   There are several bolts that need to be in place before the cam is installed because the cam gear will have them covered.  The bolts by the red circles will have to be installed before the cam and gear are installed.  The bolts beside the blue circles need (my choice) to be stainless steel bolts because they go through the block into the water jacket, the bolts that I pulled out were a mess.  The two caps with green circles are removable so the machinist can clean the oils channels, these new caps were install by the machinist.  The four bolt holes attached to the red lines will have bolts that will be going into a fiberglass like unit that the oil pan will cover.  The cam is now ready to install.
During the disassembly of the engine I stated that the round disk next the crank shaft would be an important part of the assembly.  The disk is used to set the crank shaft end play of the engine.  I started out with two .010 shims and with the crank and the first bearing cap in place I pressed the crank forward and measured.  The end play was .009, so to get it into specks I wanted to reduce it to .003 - .007.  To remove .004 or .005 from the gap I decided to us .008 a .004 and a .003, this would total .015.  Pictured are the shims and the disk so you’ll know what they look like.
The crank is now in place with the bearing caps torqued down to the correct amount.  This crank is the original with .010 removed from the main and rod bearings.  Looking closely at the crank you will see that the rod bearings for cylinders 1 & 6 are at the same angle.  Also notice that the rod bearings for Cylinders 2 & 5 are at the same angle.  Same for 3 & 4.  This is designed this way so that when # 1 is at TDC on it compression stroke, #6 is at TDC of  the exhaust stroke, this is the same for 2 – 5 & 3 – 4.  This will produce a power stroke from the six cylinders every 120 degrees of crank rotation.
The crank and cam gears are now in place, notice that the cam gear is not metal, not sure why this is, if it was a modern engine I would say it was for noise, this may or may not be the case.  This portion of the engine will be covered up soon with the timing cover.
The machinist that did the work cleaned out the two piston compression grooves and the oil ring grove.  There is another groove at the top of the piston that has no ring and was full of carbon.  I put all the pistons in an inch of lacquer thinner to loosen up the carbon and then cleaned the groove with an old fashion groove cleaner.  The groove in the piston was smaller than the smallest tool I had with the set, but a moment with a grinder made the tool a perfect size.  You can almost see the carbon in the groove.
The pistons and rods are installed and the final torque is completed on the rod bolts.  All of the original rod bolts were used except one which was purchased through one of the Studebaker parts vendors.
These are the safety nuts that are used to secure the rod bolts/nuts during engine operation.  They are called “PAL” nuts and there is not a local vendor in the world that even knows what a “PAL” nut is, much less have some in stock.  Anyway, the size is 11/32 – 24 thread, very unusual size to say the least.  With these nuts secured with just a little torque the engine should operate safely for years to come.  The were purchased from a Studebaker vendor also.
These are the parts that make up the oil pump, very basic and dependable.  The shaft turns the gears in one direction and the oil is compressed into the engine oil channels with about 30 – 40 pounds of pressure, the higher the engine speed the higher the pressure.  I’m sure there have been instances in the past where these units have failed, but with so much oil running through it the unit should last better than a lifetime.
The timing gear cover and the oil pump are now installed; the cloth looking stuff seen around the crank shaft is the cover oil seal.  The top left four bolts (Gold) are fine thread, which is what Studebaker used so I used the same, the four bolts on the bottom go into the curved addition for the oil pan and the remaining bolts are stainless steel because several of them go into the water jacket.  A good bit of sealer was used on the gasket for this cover because they are all misshapen because of years of use and are a prime place for oil leaks.
The timing gear cover and oil pan have enough sealer to prevent and oil leaks, I hope.  I applied extra to the bottom of the cover and the corners of the oil pan where the cork casket touches the block. 
The valve adjust windows are about to be covered up. The red plate inside the valve area was in there from the factory, no idea what they do, maybe direct oil flow or something. 
The valve plates are in place, the left unit has a larger hole for the addition of the crank case breathing tube which can be seen in a later picture.  Each of the screws has a crush washer made of copper this may be for oil leaks. When the valves need to be adjusted, these plates must be removed, I been told if the intake/exhaust is removed the chore is easier.
The Engine is now primered with dark engine primer.  There are a number of item that will attach to the engine when the cover coat is dry.
This is the intake/exhaust manifold in the oven after it has baked for 90 minutes at 550 degrees.  The instructions on the can said to set the temp to 650 but I can’t imagine a household oven going to 600 and above.  The paint is labeled as high temp and the Studebaker forum just had an item about high temp paint.  The last high temp paint I used was very thick and was spread with a foam brush, it look good but let rust through in less than a thousand miles.  I am in hopes this will last for years to come.
Engine is painted with “Alpine Green Engine Paint”.  The engine is now finished for all practical proposes.  The remaining work will be attaching the intake and other components and then getting it ready to start for testing.


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