Studebaker Car Club Of New South Wales



1935 Studebaker Commander Eight Boat Tail Roadster Restoration

by John Grant.


I purchased the car in 1971, as I had a young family and a house to renovate the restoration had to fit in with any spare time I had, as you can see in the photo below I had my work cut out, the car was in poor condition and had many non original parts, as well as finding time to restore the car, much time was spent sourcing parts, as a result the project took 14 years to complete.

This is the car in the yard at the Auction of the Endeavour Motor Museum at Lakemba NSW May 1971


The body skin was remove from the timber frame, this needed the bottom six inches replaced all the way around from scuttle to the scuttle including the doors, and  re-skin the dickey seat lid and golf compartment door. At this point we threw away the Yale household night latch on the golf door and replaced it with the correct lock.

 The firewall was replace with a new hand made one, as the wood scuttle frame was broken at the joints, the movement of the unsupported firewall had caused large splits to develop. Heavy non original steel brackets had been made to support it, these were discarded.

 Much of the timber frame was in poor condition,  the scuttle was replaced, as were some of the rails, one door frame and the dickey seat lid frame.


Above and below. This is the car once I got it home and place the loose pieces on it for the photo.


The dash panel before and after.


The steel skin removed to replace the rotted wood and to repair the steel panels


The body was put back on the chassis. As the front of the car was damaged, I acquired from Needhams Motors a new front mudguard and a good secondhand front mudguard,  I was lucky enough to get a pair of brand new old stock running boards, I also was able to get a good secondhand radiator shell with side grilles, a new centre grille and new die cast surround. I assembled all these parts plus the repaired valances on the car to ensure the correct fit. the body then came off the chassis, I had spent many hours  cleaning it by hand with degreaser, scrapers and hammer and chisel. At this stage I realised that I was wasting my time, So I removed all the mechanical parts from the chassis and sent it off to be sandblasted.  The chassis was in remarkably good condition, obviously protected by the build up of oil and grease. Once back from the sandblasters I coated it with generous amounts of primer and gloss enamel

 I spent many hours stripping the paint from the panels with paint remover and removing the rust with rust remover and a wire brush.Next I primed all the panels filled all the imperfections with spray putty, more primer and gave it several coats of a 1930s cream  acrylic lacquer.The dash panel had had many of the holes enlarged and extra non original holes added  these all had to be filled and the original holes put back in the original location. The drivers side glove box lid had to be remade and the passenger side had a large rectangular no original hole which was also filled up.

All the wheel rims were damaged, I was able to acquire modern safety rims that fitted the centres and had them fitted, They were painted in two pack enamel in maroon to match the dash panel and fitted with 670x16 Dunlop road speed tyres, which I painted white  walls on, these were later changed for 700x16 Firestone wide white wall tyres, (the original tyre size is 650x16 with 700x16 optional equipment).

 It was now time for the body to go back on the chassis this time to stay.


The chassis was sand blasted and given  generous coatings of enamel.


Above and below. Studebakers independent Planar suspension received a new spring and pins and bushes.


Above and below .The steel skin repaired and replaced over the timber frame.



Above and below, The body painted awaiting cutting back and polishing.






The hood irons and bows. The problem was I didn't have any! The frame that came with the car was in  poor condition and incomplete and obviously off another car. The answer was to make a new frame from scratch, I spent many hours making new hood irons starting with a cardboard pattern and then graduating to a working hardboard pattern and eventually the final steel irons. I had them chrome plated, I assembled the irons with stainless steel rivets. I had the bows made, I then varnished  and assembled them to the irons and then onto the body.

I fitted the reconditioned rear axle assembly to the car, (the rear semi elliptic springs were later removed and reset with new main leaves). I fitted the newly chromed plated windscreen and stanchions.

 The body mounted on the chassis was towed to the trimmers where it received new maroon vinyl upholstery, maroon carpet and a white vinyl hood and tonneau cover in the material usually used on boats, but in the 1980s that was all that was available. In 2007 the hood was getting a little tatty as was the paint on the car, many adjustments and minor repairs were made, the hood material was replaced with an off white canvas  and the vinyl maroon upholstery was replaced with maroon leather.



On the way to the motor trimmers to be upholstered.


Above and below. Back from the motor trimmers.





Above and below. The fully reconditioned engine fitted in the car


Whilst the car was at the motor trimmers to the engine was sent out, to be machined, this included boring to 60 thou oversize, (I believe this to be it’s second rebore), crankshaft grind, new pistons, gudgeon pins, rings, big end, main and cam shaft bearings, new valves. All moving parts were balanced including the flywheel. As it turned out the original Studebaker parts did not need attention as they were already balanced, courtesy of the Studebaker factory at South bend Indiana in 1935. The oil pump water pump,12V generator and the starter motor were reconditioned.  Eighty hours was spent assembling the engine cleaning the oil galleries plasti gauging the bearings, matching the manifolds and ports and another forty hours preparing and painting the engine with a heat resistant primer and gloss green enamel.

 The body came back from the trimmers and I started on the steering and front suspension. I was surprise of the quality of the steering and independent front suspension. The Ross steering box is the same as used on the J model Duisenberg! It is the worm and pin type the pin running on a double row Timken bearing. with tie rods to each wheel, The front suspension is Studebaker’s Planer type, which consist of a massive transverse spring, which (I acquire a brand new spring from Needham’s) and upper and lower control arms, The upper outer knuckle supports are in needle roller bearings, the inner upper pivots are very large rubber bushes, the lower inner pivots are rubber bushes and the lower outer pivots are a threaded pin, I was able to buy all these parts new. The rear suspension bushes are the split rubber type  the same as used on a modern leaf spring vehicle

 The instruments were checked and repaired where necessary and fitted  to the car.

 The engine was lifted  into the chassis, fitted new engine mountings, and fitted the accessories, starter generator, water pump etc, fitted and connected the new 2 inch exhaust, with tandem mufflers. fitted the radiator grilles  and radiator to the shell and fitted the whole assembly to the car and connected the radiator hoses to the engine.

 By now I was getting anxious to start the engine, I ran a temporary fuel line from a bottle and connected a battery. A few quick turns of the starter and the engine burst into life for the first time in eight years.



Above and below. The final assembly, as panel by panel is fitted.



I made a new wiring harness with Australian made electrical cable, including  provision for flasher lights, fog, and driving lights.


The  mudguards were fitted, the bonnet top and then the bonnet sides.


Then the headlights and tail lights were fitted and connected.


The reconditioned clutch, gearbox,  reconditioned diff centre and axles including all new bearings, tail shaft,  new universal joints were fitted


The next six months were spent fitting the bumper bars, making and connecting linkages  and all those five and ten minute jobs that I can assure you take a lot longer.


The brakes were totally overhauled, this included machining the 121/8” composite steel and cast iron brake drums, lining the brakes with MZ5 woven linings, lining  the master and wheel cylinders with stainless steel sleeves, making all new rigid brake lines and fitting new flexible hoses and filling the system with silicon brake fluid.


At last the car was ready to register.

The restoration  took fourteen years, funny how things take so much longer than you imagine!






The car now almost complete.


This is the car in 2011.

In 2007, after 22 years on the road and traveling all over NSW as far as the Queensland border, it

receive a new hood (top) new leather upholstery, new paint, new 700x16 Firestone wide white wall tyres.


If you would like to contact the owner of this vehicle, please email to address shown on our Contact Us page, and include this vehicle reference 35com-jg01 in your message.


> SCCNSW Home <


* *