Prep work – there’ll be a lot of it!

Parts to be sandblasted.  I needed to keep sand out of the lifter valley cover.  Don’t want sand in the oil pump chewing away at the gears and pump body walls.

All sandblasted and ready for priming.

Starting the priming process.  Since I didn’t worry about getting absolutely all the rust out I’m using a rust friendly primer – Tremclad (oil based). I’ve had good luck with Tremclad products in the past.  Not sure if they are in the US, but I would guess it is US product and available most places.  I will be brush coating the parts.  Slow yes, but I don’t have a good warm spot that I can use to spray.  This way I can get the paint on in my shop with my cars close at hand and not have to worry about paint mist getting everywhere.  I will put on a coat of Tremclad satin black by hand as well.  Once the engine is all together and hopefully that will be in summer,  I’ll move out the cars and spray the engine with a final coat of gloss black.

Pan screws.  Sandblasted and cleaned.

5 minutes later and they are primed.  Why waste my time cleaning bolts and screws?  One reason is that this is a budget project.  Most of the screws are grade 5 and that will add up if I replace all the fasteners.  Another reason is that Studebaker used good steel it seems.  After years in the outdoors I’ve been able to remove rusted screws and bolts with little difficulty and without breaking them.  I have used stainless screws and bolts in other projects, but for this one I’ll keep the Studebaker fasteners where ever reasonable.

Time to check out the R1 oil pan.  Not too bad inside.

Sides and lip heavily pitted, but passable.

Bottom ditto, but there are some deeper dangerous pits.

A nasty bang and crimp in the front lower edge.  Might not stand being hammered out.

Cleaned up the inside looks better.  You can see the crimping at the front edge.

Cleaned up it looks somewhat better.  Not sure what to do with this.  I  hate to give up the R1 pan as it would make the project less of a clone. And I don’t happen to have another R1 pan handy!

Lots of bits and pieces

Here’s another item that is a must for the old car hobbiest’s shop.  Even this basic unit from Princess auto does a passable job.  It didn’t come with a dust collection system so I rigged up a small shop vac to the side and exhaust goes outside via a hose from the vacuum outlet.  Air comes in through an opening in the back of the cabinet. 
My air comes from this small 20 gallon Craftsman unit.  It is a simple oilless unit and not meant for high pressure/high volume.  I find it does do OK with #1 grit and 90 psi.  If I’m doing big pieces I have to stop for a bit to let it catch up.  right now I’m doing lots of small items and it’s fine.
For awhile I was getting a crick in my back from being hunched over the cabinet.  Especially when doing rims. I finally got smart and built up the unit with wood blocks.  Now I’m pretty straight.  When I get time I’ll add one more 3/4″ block and that should do the trick.
Some of the many small items that have been sand blasted, sanded and cleaned.  Ready for paint.  I was going to prime them, but the primer I picked up is water based.  I afraid that I’ll get flash rusting if I use it.  Fortunately I have some old Benjamin Moore Industrial paint that is alkyd based and acts as a primer or topcoat.  I’ll use that for a first coat to keep the parts from rusting until I get them on the engine.  In the end I’ll give the whole engine a final coat when it is all together.
It’s just amazing how many bolts and screws there are in an engine.  I’ve blasted all the heads and am now cleaning out the threads – a truly boring, but necessary task if everything is going to go together smoothly.  So say that doing this weakens the threads.  Maybe so, but I’ll install them all with blue thread locker and tighten to spec and if they threads give way on any, I’ll just replace those.

Boring clean-up work

A must have for any hobbyist doing engine work. Even this cheapy unit from Princess auto does the job.  Well it did until just recently when the pump pressure dropped.  I’ll have to check that out.

I don’t know what was used to glue the gasket to the timing cover ( you can see the remains two photos up), but it took some heat to get most of  it off with a razor blade scraper.  I’ll put it through the sand blaster and flat file it after.

In case you don’t recognize this, it’s the retaining plate for the crank timing cover seal.   You can see a small hole just to the left of the ‘X’.  Another tip I heard about and used on my six cylinder rebuilds was to drill a small hole in the bottom of this plate to allow excess oil to seep away from the felt seal.  It is supposed to help keep leaks from the front of the crank.  Seemed to work on the six cylinders.  The hole above seems to be factory made – too clean to have been drilled out.  This is from a ’63 engine so maybe Studebaker was doing it by that time.  I think I’ll just drill another hole to the left of the ‘X’ just to help keep a bit more oil in the engine.  No wonder Studebaker’s leaked with this technology!

Zip-lock bags – my way to keep parts that should be together stay together and to identify what they are clearly.  These have been washer cleaned and now need to visit the sand blasting cabinet.

Next – more boring stuff!

Working on bits and pieces

I’ve had the oil filter housing in the parts washer for awhile so it was time to get it out and finish the cleaning.  All looks fine and I checked the bypass valves to make sure they are working. I depressed each one and put compressed air through them to blast out any crud remaining.  I’ll tape off the openings and then bead blast the body ready for final paint.  I’ll go with semi-gloss or gloss black for the block.

Now for the oil pump.  Not good. Rust and a lot of wear on the gears as well as on the body.  Almost like sand got into it as some point. The top plate also shows a lot of wear.

I dug out another used oil pump and fortunately the body was in a lot better shape as was the gears, but the top plate has a lot of wear but not as deep as with the original pump.  So I’ll go with new gears and the second pump body and top plate.

I read about re-finishing top plates somewhere in my Studebaker materials so I thought I should do this here.  The old NOS TRW gear kit I have doesn’t include a new top plate which the new kits include.  How hard can it be to clean off maybe .003 eh!

A lot harder than I would have thought.  First I dug out an old piece of regular window glass and cleaned any lumps off the piece of 1/4″ steel plate I have on my bench.  The original article calls for thick glass.  I don’t have any and rather than find a piece I figure that the thin glass on the steel should do fine as a perfectly flat surface to grind the pump plate.

I started out with 600 grit. After much sanding and different grades of paper I  ended up using 80 grit to get enough metal off to clean out the wear marks. Still more to go as you can see the end of the wear marks still on the plate

It took at least 2-3 hours of sanding over a couple of days.


Finally cleaned up and a shiny finish after 600, 1000, 2000 and crocus cloth.  Not a mirror finish, but it should work fine.

Never again!  I’ll take the plate to a machine shop next time and have them take off enough to clear out the wear patterns.  I’ll then only have to bring it back to a mirror finish.  Some things are just not worth the effort even in a budget project.

Another tip I read about for oil pumps was to drill a 1/8″ hole in a valley of the idler gear.  The gear in the kit I have from  TRW already had the hole drilled.

Another suggestion I read about was to fill the oil pump with Vaseline to help the pump quickly pickup the oil on the first start of the engine.  I did this on my sixes and it seemed to work well.  I was going to do it on this V8, but I decided not to as I’m going to use a drill and an old distributor shaft to prime the pump and then engine right before I start it.

Since the rod journals are OK I can torque down the main bearings.  Unfortunately at this point I am stalled on the build until I get my replacement rings from Total Seal.

In the meantime I have lots of parts to wash, sandblast, prime and paint.

Rod Piston Assembly

Pretty straightforward fitting each rod to a piston and since these pistons don’t have a vertical slot the rod can go either way.  I added a bit of blue threadlocker and torqued the nuts using the old shakefree washers which seemed to be in good condition – and likely better than the ‘made in China’ units I would have replaced them with.

When doing the assembly it does matter which side the slot faces when you put the pistons in the bore.  The manual says the rod clamping nut should be on the same side as the slot so I put a line on the piston to represent the slot.  During reassembly you need to have all the piston slots facing the left side.  That sounded odd to me.  I would have thought that the slots should face outward or inward.  But after thinking a bit I believe the slots all face one way so the oil holes in the rod bottoms all face the same way.  This is likely needed because the rotation of the engine will cause all the spurting oil to go upwards towards the pistons.

A little trick I picked up somewhere in my past.  Bits of hose over the threads to keep from accidentally scoring one of those carefully polished journals!

I put two rods in place at a time so that when I torqued them down they would hold against each other rather than trying to twist the bearing material.

I did have to lock the crank once again so that there would be no movement while I tightened the rod caps against the plastigage. Any movement at all destroys the results.

Here is the plastigage results from one of the rod journals.  It is between .0015 and .002 which is in range using .001 rod bearings.

Eight little pistons all in a row.  All I need now is a replacement ring for the top ring I broke earlier and I can finish the piston install.

Good news from Total Seal High Performance Piston Rings in Phoenix, AZ.  They have Studebaker 289 top rings on the shelf.  So I have ordered three – one to replace the broken one, one in case I break another and one for the shelf.

Next I’ll have a look at the oil filter housing and the oil pump.

More Piston work


All this piston work would not be necessary normally.  If you buy a nice new set of pistons then the only thing you might want to do is balance them some.  But, I have these pistons and I’d like to go with them.

A note on the balancing. I got all the pistons down to about 657g.  I happen to have a set of R1 .040 pistons on hand so I thought I do a weight check.  It turns out they are a full 60g lighter! Not too surprising when you look at how short the skirt is, but note how massive the pin supports are.  The heavier pistons will likely mean slower revving and harder on the engine at high revs.  Those R1 pistons remind me of the very short 427 Chev high performance units. Studebaker was thinking right when they kept the weight down.

R1 piston verses the domed pistons I’m planning on using below.

On with my piston work.  I used the broken ring to clean out the ring groves being careful not to gouge the lips.


Another bad shot, but here’s what some of the crud looks like.

Cleaned off pretty well and with a good wire brushing with a bronze brush (a heftier one that the one in the shot above) they look just fine.

Here’s another little tool I picked up from Ebay when I would looking for something to remove piston pins.  This is meant to fit various applications including Studebaker pins.

I’ll use a heat gun, the pin removal tool and a small crescent to remove the pins. I use the crescent to give the arm of the pin remover 1/4 extra turn to snug it up well.  It’s aluminum so I don’t put too much pressure on it.

The piston supplier recommends warming the pistons in hot water or oil to loosen the pistons!  I’ve used an oven on low heat, but I’ve also used a heat gun.  I move the heat gun around the piston to heat it evenly maybe 6 or 7 times and then try to wiggle the pin.  Usually that’s all it takes.  Sometimes the pins come out without any heat at all.

And out they come.

Some staining and a little damage to some of the pins.  A quick lapping with 2500 grit and then crocus and most of the discolouration goes away.  Again, these will far outlast the probable mileage then engine will be driven.

Near the end of it all I noticed that one end of the piston pin had the  remains of green dye.

I also noticed that there was a green mark on one of the pin supports in each piston.  The instructions with the pistons said that the pins were matched to the pistons.  So I went back and put the pins in their correct position.

All cleaned up and ready for the next step.

Next with be fitting the rods and then checking the rod bearing clearances before the pistons are fitted with rings.

Grinding pistons

Eight pistons and a postal scale.  First weigh in and wouldn’t you know it, one light one and the rest pretty close, but all heavier.


Sorry for the blurry photos.  they look OK on the screen but…

All the pistons have some aluminum oxidation from many years of poor storage.  I wet sanded each piston with 600 grit only to the point of removing any thickness.  I didn’t worry about  the stains left in the metal.


Here’s the tool I used to remove metal from each of the heavier pistons.  Adjustable speed so I could set it to remove metal slowly.

I removed casting metal from the thick flanges at the bottom of the piston.  I tried to take roughly the same amount from  each side.

The one on the right was a heavier piston and this is how much I had to remove to get 4 grams off the weight.  Looks like maybe a quarter to a third of the thickness.

Now back to the parts washer to remove all the filings.  Then I’ll gently heat the each piston and get the stuck pins out for cleaning and oiling.

My backyard balancing act.

Like Jim Pepper says “little changes to an engine all add up”.  I’ve done a couple of sixes and in each case I balanced the rods and pistons.  Nothing scientific and certainly not ‘blueprint balance’.  Flathead sixes run smoothly anyway, but I can’t help thinking that the little balancing I did did help.  Especially when I recall dropping one of them out of overdrive and keeping it there until it hit 80 mph – and it seemed as if I could have gone further.

So here I am with my postal scale and a batch of rods. The weight showing on the scale isn’t as important as all rods having the same number.  It would be too much for me to try to balance each end of the rod separately so I’ll just go with a total weight.  Of the eight rods #5 & #8 were the low ones at 632g.  The high was #2 at 638g with the others somewhere in between.



For the most part I tried to grind an equal amount from the top and bottom ‘lumps’ The heaviest one I smoothed out the casting ridges on the arm – you can just see it in the background.  I was very careful here to just remove the excess metal and I didn’t leave any sharp edges.  I ground a gram off each side.


After all that grinding I wanted to be sure that all the filings were removed.  I thoroughly scrubbed each part in the parts washer and then blew out all the openings – especially the oil hole in the upper shoulders.

Final step, I assembled each one with new .001 bearings, then coated them in Fluid Film and put them away until it is time to install the pistons.

Next the piston balance – an even more boring job as I have to use an small electric grinder to remove metal slowly.

Crank install

Crank installed.  Not much to this part except for coating everything in assembly lube and carefully installing all the bearing caps.  I should have taken a couple of shot of the rear main seal install.  I basically followed the directions with the seals including using a thin coat of high temperature silicone sealant on the two butting surfaces.  I also put some around the two rubber extensions. Studebakers like to leak so the more precautions taken the better.

The main bearing cap bolts on #4 are different.  This is an R1 engine so there is a windage tray (I think that’s what it’s called) inside the oil pan to keep the oil from flying around too much at high rev’s – not likely to happen too much with this engine. The cap bolts have threaded ends on them to accept the tray.

Now the hard part starts.  I need to correctly combine crank shims to give a .003 to .006 clearance for the crank to move back and forth without binding.  The shim is first to go on the crank snout, then the key has to go in place, then the crank thrust spacer and finally the crank gear.  If you have the correct Studebaker tool you can determine the correct clearance without having to install the key, plate and gear each time you change shims.  Unfortunately I don’t have the tool

Of course the cam gear is a tight fit and needs to be installed with another special tool.  No tool so I cut a short piece of pipe to fit over the crank snout and using a hardwood block and small maul I carefully tapped the gear in place snugly.

You shouldn’t be bashing the crank back without some sort of setup to hold the crank from hitting the bearing flanges.  Here I used a wooden wedge.  This didn’t work.

You really need one of these tools to do this job right.  I picked it up some years ago to work on my 6 cyl builds.  I got used it off Ebay for a real reasonable price.


Here is another necessary tool.  It actually is a Lisle steering wheel puller.  It is hefty enough to handle this job.  Each time I tried a combination of shims (.003,.005, .007) I had to use this to pull the gear off prior to trying another combination.

Here is the gauge set up per the service manual.  I tried a number of combinations of shims but the clearances were going all over the place. Up when they should go down and the other way too.


Finally I guessed that I wasn’t setting the gear firmly back enough.  To do this I had to use a couple of big chisels to firmly hold the crank forward so that I could give the crank gear a final rap to seat the gear and thrust plate against the shim(s).


The clearance numbers then started to make sense.  When I added shims the clearance went up and visa versa. The manual says that a big screwdriver is the tool to use to move the crank back and forth.  I thought I’d use a pry bar instead, but in the end I pulled out my big screwdriver and it worked best.  With a .007 and a .005 shim the reading was about .0035.  Good enough for me!

Crank completion – finally!

I finished up the rod journals.  They only needed two goes with 600 grit before polishing.  So I’m hoping all will be good with .001 undersize rod bearings. But before that I cleaned out the crank oil passages.  Using my .22 gun cleaning kit and some small white patches, it worked well.  The first few back and forthings gave me a dirty patch.

Just a couple more goes and the patches came out pretty clean.  I then oiled up a new patch and ran it back and forth a few times.  Finally I gave each passage a blast of air to be sure no fibers from the patches remain.

The crank polishing is complete including the front snout and the rear main seal contact area.  The crank looked so nice I couldn’t leave the rusty rear flange even though it would not have affected anything and it isn’t in view.  But, like using brass recessed plugs it is nice to go the extra bit to clean up the rust.  I taped off the rear main seal contact area, sanded the majority of the rust off and put on a coat of satin black rust paint.  One more coat should do it fine. No paint on the back face where the flex plate will be mounted.

  Before I start installing the crank I decided to install the camshaft.  It is easier to ease it into place without the crank in the way.  All that holds it in place is the cam plate with a spacer sitting inside.  The spacer will keep the cam gear away from the cam plate.  The clearance is the difference between the thickness of the cam spacer and the cam plate.

I cleaned up both parts with 800 grit sandpaper before taking the measurements.  The clearance is supposed to be between .003 and .006.  Using my dial caliper I found it to be about .005.  Good enough to install.

Time to get out the engine assembly lube.  This stuff is about as thick as STP and maybe even more sticky.  I will put it on all the bearing, gear and other surfaces that are lubricated by engine oil.  It will save the engine until the oil starts to flow.

A shot of the cam in place with its coating of assembly lube.  I also coated the cam bearings and cam bearing surfaces.

The cam is in place.  I used shake free washers as they are about as thick as the original lock washers.  Not sure why such a small lock washer was used, but I’m not going to take the chance that the bolt heads stick out too far.  The threads were coated with Permatex thread sealant and torqued to spec – this likely over torques the bolts slightly as the torque numbers usually refer to clean and dry threads.  Oily threads should be torqued 10% less to account for the slippery threads.

The cam spacer is recessed in this shot.  The installation of the cam gear will pull the cam and spacer forward until the cam buts up against the back of the cam plate.  The spacer then provides the necessary clearance for the cam to move freely back and forth without binding.

Next is the crank installation.  Looking at the photo above reminds me to install the oil gallery plugs too!