Leonard Knight 1953 Studebaker

Leonard Knight 1953 Studebaker

I’ve known Vince at J.V. Enterprises for about 10-12 years now. I met him by accident after buying a 1939 ford that I wanted to make a resto rod out of. I had rented a storage space and one day on my way over I noticed his shop. I stopped in to talk to him and ended up having him do all the work. In the subsequent years he has modified that 1939 3 times. He built a 1932 ford roadster with a viper motor which competed in the Grand National Roadster show, a 1934 ford coupe, and various other modifications to other cars.

Being a horsepower and speed nut I had always gone for straight line performance. However, after getting into amateur road racing with the Viper Club I found it was more fun to turn corners. I had alwayslikede the 1953 Studebakers. I especially like the hardtop models. I talked to Vince about some ideas I had and he told me his. We ended up going in the direction of a touring-type car but with lots of horsepower.

We decided on a direction and the search started for the car. I looked at a number of cars and finally came across my 1953 in Oakland California. I made the deal over the phone and drove up with my trailer to pick it up. The car was being stored on the docks in Oakland under a tarp but it actually ran. It looked quite good so I loaded it up and drove home.

Vince then started the disassembly, media blasting, etc and we found the car had been repaired with a lot of sheet metal screws, Uncle Henry’s roofing sealer, and patch pieces.

For the next 26 months, Vince worked his magic on the car, chopping 5 ½” out of the top, tilting back the windshield, widening the rear fenders, reshaping the doors, rockers, etc. In order to make the car right, every panel had to be modified. He was able to take the chop from under the front window so that we could maintain a full size front and rear windshield. No small feat.

We wanted the car to be very fast but also very driveable. I normally like big cubic inch motors with big injection systems or big blower systems but after talking with Turnkey Engines they advised that I could get 1000hp out of a motor that drove in the city like a stock 350 chevy. This was the only way to go since I wanted to go around corners as well as in a straight line.

Turnkey went to work building me an engine. Vince then determined that there was no way the stock or even reinforced stock frame would do what we wanted so he constructed a new very strong custom frame.

After putting the car together, and getting the paint on it which is both eyecatching and subtle we corner weighed the car. It came out with nearly a 50/50 weight balance.

I plan to autocross the car once I finish showing the car. I believe in driving them. I have about 800 miles on the car now even though my schedule has not allowed much time for driving. The car is solid, handles like a dream, and is as dependable as any new car.

It will be hard to top this one for me.