1917 Studebaker Tourer

A Saturday Journey… “We are going to Hong Cong and then to the zoo.”
A ride in an old friend! Ken Cota’s ‘17 Studebaker is still in service at 102 years old!

1917 studebaker cota

This 1917 Studebaker Touring was the feature car in the March 2013 Wheel Tracks. Gene Towne of Milton had purchased the car from Dave Maunsell in Greensboro that January. You can still find the Wheel Tracks issue on our website if you would like to re-read the article. Dave, Gene, Wendell Noble, Gael Boardman and Gary Fiske were involved in getting the Studebaker to it’s new home that day.

You can see why this visit with the old car was a bit of a reunion. We have lost two of the folks who shared that day. Gene died in 2013 and we lost Gael just a few weeks ago.

1917 studebaker touring interior

The Studebaker, however, is still going strong….and isn’t that exactly the way it should be? We all worry about what will happen to our old cars as time passes, maybe this old car is telling us NOT TO WORRY, just enjoy them today and they will take care of the future.

Another VAEer by the name of Pevy Peake and Dave had traveled to Michigan in 1995 to see the Studebaker and ended up bringing it home to Vermont. Gael and Dave did some engine work on the car and it traveled much of the Northeast Kingdom the next eighteen years. Gene was able to enjoy the car for just a short time, when he sold it to Ken, where it got a new cone clutch, a new windshield and a tune-up with some shiny new spark plugs. It is now, happily, traveling the Champlain Islands.

This 3000 pound Studebaker is one of only 39,686 cars the company made that year, according to the U.S. Automobile Production Figures manual. Commercial production had decreased drastically because of the war, the U.S. government had, by that time, taken over more than 85% of the South Bend factory. By Fall of 1918, all commercial production had seized, and 100% of the factory production was for the war effort. Ken Cota’s Studebaker is a survivor of only a few from 1917. There were only about 18,000 cars produced in the next, making 1918 Studebakers even more difficult to find.

1917 studebaker touring

Studebaker’s main business before 1908 was farm wagons and other related horse drawn equipment. Then a car company by the name of EMF began production in ’09 and Studebaker bought stock. Within four years they owned the EMF automobile company. For many years, the company continued their business in horse drawn equipment while building automobile the same time. In fact, in 1914, they accepted an order that was said to be the largest ever placed. WW1 had begun and Briton contracted Studebaker to deliver 3000 wagons, 20,000 sets of harnesses and 60,000 saddles. The order was completed and shipped out four weeks early. While this order was being filled, Studebaker also built and shipped 475 automobiles to Russia for the war effort.

If only Ken Cota’s Studebaker could tell us about it history……..

What’s On My Mind (the part I have left)

DUES ARE DUE
Are you an active member;
The kind that would be missed;
Or are you just contented
That your name is on the list?
Do you attend the meetings
And mingle with the flock;
Or do you stay at home
And criticize and knock?
Do you take an active part
To help the work along;
Or are you satisfied to be
The kind that just belong?
There’s quite a program scheduled
Which I’m sure you’ve heard about,
And we’ll appreciate it if you, too,
Will come and help us out.
So, come to the meetings often,
And help with hand and heart.
Don’t be just a member
But take an active part.
Think this one over, Brother;
You know right from wrong.
Are you an active member
Or do YOU just belong?

Reprinted from ‘SPLASH PAN’ winter issue 1961-62. Published by Profile Automobile League-P.A.L., The New Hampshire counterpart to the VAE.

I was under the impression that clubs, churches, actually any group relying on volunteers were having problems getting their member’s help with the projects, or starting new programs, was a fairly new problem. As you can see from the poem above, it was also a problem in 1960.

Of course, it was renewed in my mind before and after this last Waterbury event. I had no idea what needed to be done (which I have no excuse for except having a blind eye) because it always got done (and done extremely well, I might add) with little or no thanks to me.

It is a concern for those of us not getting any younger. I can think of several things we enjoyed over the years, that no longer are going on, because of lack of help. One was the summer baked bean suppers in Brownsville, Vermont. Every Saturday night in July and August we would go and wait in line for a wonderful meal of baked beans (3 kinds), potato salad, coleslaw, homemade rolls and pickles. All served family style with a choice of pie at the end. I was introduced to this when I met Gary in 1970. We looked forward to this for several years. Gary’s grandmother worked the suppers and most of that age group did a good share of the work. When these dear ladies and gentlemen could no longer do this, the suppers were cut back to just the month of July and now, I think, they have it just one Saturday in July. The point here is that the love of the suppers didn’t disappear – the workers did!

So, I would ask the VAE membership to be thinking of what you can do, to help make this organization, the kind of club that we are proud to hand down to our children and grandchildren and try to instill in them, a reason to ‘pick up the torch’ and carry it well into the future. Remember: MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK! And by the way, P.A.L. apparently had ‘ disappearing workers’, because it’s just a shadow of its former self – if it exists at all.

Hot Spark Plugs Vs Cold Spark Plugs

In modern, computer-controlled cars, ignitions are reliable to the point where you rarely consider that they might fail. You have coil-on plugs, also called stick coils, snapped onto the tops of spark plugs, with not even a plug wire between them. The stick coils and plugs are typically hidden inside the engine under a plastic cover that looks like the top of a Shop-Vac. There’s no distributor, because the functions of advancing the spark with increasing engine rpm and distributing it to each cylinder are performed electronically, with everything controlled by the car’s electronic control unit, or ECU.

This is not the case in classic, antique and brass era cars, unless they have been changed-over to electronic ignitions. If, however, you do have the original ignition, a lot can be learned about the running of your engine.

A hotter plug does what is says, it runs hotter. This will not give any more power and neither will a too cold plug. Because the spark plug resides in the combustion chamber, it’s influenced by what happens there. It serves a dual purpose; not only is it responsible for initiating the combustion event, but it gladly tells the tale of how the chemical to mechanical energy exchange process took place. If all is well, the plug is clean, but if something is not correct, it will leave its mark for the trained eye to diagnose. In many ways, the spark plug could be looked at as one of the first forensic investigators. You can work out whether you need a hotter or colder plug by looking at the current ones. If the current plug is too hot then the tip may be melted or deformed. If the plug is too cold then you may have excessive build up (which can also be caused by burning oil or a rich air-fuel mixture).

If you can be “tuned in” to your plugs, you will be able to read problems in your old car before it leaves you by the road. Cleaning with steel wool is better than nothing. Using a spark plug sand blaster gives the best cleaning although you can damage the porcelain insulation and cause the spark to “go to ground” somewhere besides the end electrode, it’s proper destination.

Encrusted black carbon is a sign of problems. The causes of this condition may be a cold type of plug, which is proper if you are using the car for long road trips. If all you are doing is driving the car off and on a trailer or around the block and back, change to a hot plug.

Excessive oil reaching the combustion chamber, especially at slow or idling speeds, is also a frequent contributor. A hot plug temporarily may solve the problem, but excessive oil is a sign of other problems, as in bad rings or pistons.

If some of the plugs are clean and others have dry sooty lamp black deposits, the sooty plugs are getting too much gasoline, and can be corrected with carburetor adjustments. If a leaner mix is used, and the engine runs irregularly or misfires, go back to original setting and consider a hotter plug.

Incorrect gaps also contribute to fouling, and is attributed to too narrow a gap. Check the gap and published specs on your car and re-gap all plugs.
The spark plug tip temperature must remain between 930°F to 1560°F , regardless of the type of engine the plug is fitted in.

If the tip temperature is lower than 930°F, the insulator area surrounding the center electrode will not be hot enough to burn off carbon and combustion chamber deposits. These accumulated deposits can result in spark plug fouling, leading to misfire.

If the tip temperature is higher than 1560°F, the spark plug will overheat which may cause the ceramic around the center electrode to blister and the electrodes to melt. This may lead to pre-ignition/detonation and expensive engine damage.

In identical spark plug types, the difference from one heat range to the next is the ability to remove or add approximately 150°F to 200°F in the combustion chamber.