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Mention the name Studebaker to anyone under the age of 50 and you are likely to be met with a blank expression. Yet, even among those who are familiar with the brand, most have never seen or heard of a Studebaker business coupe. That is what fascinated Gary Wolcott, of Tampa, who purchased his 1951 Studebaker business coupe 2½ years ago, from a seller in Wisconsin.
“They only made 2,500 of them,” Wolcott says. “I have never seen one in any of the car shows I have been to, but I like the odd stuff, the stuff that nobody else has.”
The business coupe is a far cry from what rolled off the Studebaker assembly line in 1951. The no-frills vehicle was designed and built as an economical way for business people to travel and transport their wares. Powered by a six-cylinder, flat-head engine with a three-speed manual transmission, the business coupe had a single bench seat and a large trunk that stretched from the rear of the car all the way to the seat.
When Wolcott purchased his 1951 Studebaker business coupe, it had some dents and dings but very little rust. Rather than restore the car to its original tame showroom state, he transformed the vehicle into something magnificent.
“I took the body off of the frame and installed a new front clip from Fat Man Fabrication, with power rack and pinion suspension and disc brakes,” Wolcott says. “The rear end is from a later model Explorer and has 373 gears and TractionLok. I put in a triangulated four link suspension with air bags in the rear and adjustable coilovers in front.
Under the hood, Wolcott installed a new high-performance Ford Coyote 5.0-liter engine with a Ford racing harness and computer. He paired the 420 horsepower motor with a transmission from Performance Automatic.
“The transmission has a stand-alone computer that is tunable, so I can dial in the shift points, shift pressures and torque converter lock up,” Wolcott adds.
As for the interior, which was fairly Spartan, Wolcott made new door panels, added a center console, new carpet and headliner. He replaced the bench seat with Hyundai bucket seats and put in a smaller steering wheel. Then there was the unimpressive dashboard.
“I did not like the Studebaker dashboard. It was flat and there was not enough room to put an air conditioner behind it,” Wolcott explains. “I like the dashboards in the old Fords, so I cut seven inches from a 1950 Ford dashboard and put that in. I put in a divider between the seat and trunk because I did not want to be air conditioning the trunk. I made upholstered panels for the trunk and put in carpeting.”
Aside from the upholstery work, which was done by BJs Custom Auto Upholstery, in Tampa, Wolcott did all of the work himself, including the body work and painting.
“The only body modification I did was to put louvers in the hood to make sure I could move air through the engine compartment to cool that big motor down,” Wolcott says. “The original color was dark green, but I painted it a metallic green like you see on new Camaros.”
Wolcott says the car is fun to drive, and at only 2,500 pounds, it moves down the road quite nicely and attracts a lot of attention. “I have a lot of people who come up to me because they have no idea what kind of car it is,” he says. “A lot of people did not like Studebakers when they were new because they were so far ahead of their time. The one I have, with the bullet nose, was really out of the ordinary back then.”

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