Vintage vehicle restoration – not just about the metal

Staring down into the restoration shop, a young boy admires the vintage, sporty two-door sedan being put back together.

  • Mar. 30, 2016 9:00 a.m.
Jean McWhinnie and her brother bought the 1951 Studebaker Champion Deluxe brand new. The car stayed in the family until it was donated to the museum in 2006.

Jean McWhinnie and her brother bought the 1951 Studebaker Champion Deluxe brand new. The car stayed in the family until it was donated to the museum in 2006.

Submitted by Nicole Mueller

Reynolds-Alberta Museum

 

Staring down into the restoration shop, a young boy admires the vintage, sporty two-door sedan being put back together.

“Wow, I bet that car was a lot of fun to drive,” he says to his Dad.

Jean McWhinnie leans over and says, “It was.”

What the boy doesn’t know is that Jean, as a young woman in the 1950s, had driven that very Studebaker Champion Deluxe.

The Reynolds-Alberta Museum’s Champion Deluxe was purchased by Jean and her brother back in 1951.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I think it was her first car,” explains David McWhinnie, Jean’s son. “Her and her brother had bought the car brand new. After she was married, my uncle kept the car for another five to six years and then the car ended up back in our yard and sat there for 25 years, then it went into storage,” he adds.

While the Studebaker sat in their back yard, David says it was used as a children’s playhouse.

David explains that his father had always intended to restore the car, but never found the time. “He had rebuilt the motor but then it went back into storage for 20 years,” he says. “Then it went to the museum (in 2006).”

This Champion Deluxe is now part of the museum’s vast transportation collection.

The museum-quality, full body-off-frame restorations, such as the one done on this Studebaker, follow a certain process. Every component of the vehicle is disassembled, cleaned, repaired or replaced. Since the museum first opened in 1992, the museum’s restoration shop has completed more than 28 full body-off-frame restorations of cars, tractors, and stationary engines.

“Conservation is always our first choice, says Darren Wiberg, Head, Restoration Services. “We always want to conserve first. The expenses are considerably less and you have more historical materials left.”

Several areas required sheet metal replacement, including the driver and passenger floor pan, and the trunk pan. “These are typical areas of deterioration with classic vehicles,” explains Justin Cuffe, the museum’s Curator, Transportation Collections.

Following dent and rust repairs to the body panels, the car was reassembled to check for fit and alignment issues.

“Once we were happy with the fit, the body was sprayed with protective epoxy and high-build primer,” explains Cuffe. “This was followed by hours of painstaking sanding and final fitting until the body was ready for its final spray of alkyd enamel “Shenandoah Green.”

During the restoration process, David would bring his mother to the museum so she could see for herself the work being done on her old Studebaker.

“From time-to-time, I’d bundle her up and come down to the museum so she could see the process (through the window into the restoration shop).”

Once the restoration of the car had been completed, Cuffe contacted David.

David says his mom was “over the moon” with how the restoration had turned out. For the first time in a long time, Jean saw her old Studebaker as it had looked when she first bought it brand new back in the 1950s. “She was very happy.”

The Champion Deluxe

The Champion was first produced in 1939 and was one of Studebaker’s best-selling models because of its low price, durable engine, and styling. In 1941, the bodies were given a more streamlined look.

In 1947, Studebaker completely redesigned the Champion and the Commander, making them the first new cars produced after the Second World War. That same year, Champion made up more than 65 per cent of the total sales for Studebaker.

The 2.8 L (169.9 cu. In.), 6-cylinder engine produced 80 HP in 1947. In 1950, output was increased to 85 HP.

One of the new styling features on these cars was the wrap-around rear window, available on the two-door cars from 1947 to 1951.

Popularly known as the “bullet-nose,” the Studebaker Champion was a radical departure from the traditional pre-war styling. The automotive industry adopted a new look following the Second World War. Studebaker represents one of the most distinctive automotive designs from the fifties.

The 1951 Champions were available in the Custom, Deluxe, or Regal trim level. Painted headlights and tail light rings were used only on Customs; Deluxe models had chrome headlight and tail light rings like the Regal, but not the chrome rocker panel mouldings of the Regal.

This 1951 Studebaker Champion Deluxe is a two-door, six-passenger sedan. The car has a 6-cylinder, inline, L-head, water-cooled engine. The original cost of the car was C$2,396.

 

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Most Read