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Brothers in life, brothers in scale scratchbuilding: How a Studebaker diorama came to be

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Photos courtesy Cliff and Larry Read, except where noted.

Our previous look at the scratchbuilt model work of Cliff and Larry Read, courtesy Gene Herman, might have made it seem as though only one of the two brothers has a skill for modifying old diecast vehicles, which is certainly not the case, as we see from the above diorama of a Studebaker ramp truck and Studebaker gasser, the result of a collaboration between Cliff and Larry.

We’ll let Larry tell the story of the ramp truck first:

This model was a unique experience for me as it combined my passion for models of stock vehicles (often classic trucks) with my brother’s passion for models of traditional hot rods and ’60s era drag race vehicles. His completed model of a 1962 era class legal Studebaker C/GAS coupe prompted me to move my concept for a 1948 Studebaker M16-52 truck to the top of my priority list and equip it with a ‘60s era-typical sloping deck race car hauler body.


Photo courtesy Gene Herman.

The starting point was a 1/25th scale diecast Ertl 1947 Studebaker pickup that does not have an opening engine hood. The doors have incredibly long dog-leg style hinges. Using plenty of reference material, the first step was to modify the cab appropriately and proportionally by separating the engine hood, raising its front profile and adjusting the lower hood gap angle, widening the fenders and enlarging their radiussed opening, creating correct door hinges (exposed at the bottom but hidden at the top) and more.


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My experience with soldered brass construction and its inherent durability was applied to the front axle and working steering, the bumper, upper hood latch, complete ramp frame and body structure, door mirrors, directional lights, tail lights and other details.

The interior is detailed with inner front kick panels, shift and brake levers, door panels with separate window cranks and handles, deletion of the dash radio but addition of all dash knobs and a cowl vent lever. A heater box with appropriate ducting was also fabricated.

The chassis structure is entirely scratch built as are brake drums, booster brake assembly, master cylinder, safety brake, gas tank, power takeoff to the winch, all three drive shafts, exhaust/muffler assembly, body to chassis attachments, battery, and many other components.

The Commander 226 cubic inch flathead six (also scratch built) has all its hoses, lines, wiring, manifolding and a correct oil bath air filter. The hood opens with real spring scissor action and the hood “stay” rod swings down from its central under hood position. The vent windows open and close using that unique front pivoting action present on many Studebakers.


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Using basecoat/clearcoat and my brother’s well equipped paint booth, the truck was painted in Studebaker commercial Iroquois Blue with the black fenders that were standard on virtually all heavier Studebaker trucks of that era.

Though the project became a month and a half long relatively full time obsession, it was very satisfying and certainly seemed like time well spent for this committed, long time model builder.


As for Cliff’s work on the gasser:

Damaged diecast models can make great starting material for projects where the subject isn’t available as a kit, or simply where the derelict diecast inspires you to do the obvious. This abused ’51 Studebaker model was bought for “next to nothing” at a local toy show and, since it had many broken and missing parts (the most obvious being bumpers, vent windows, and all suspension), my brother and I immediately figured it would make a different and interesting early ’60s gas class drag racer.

Gassers began in the ’50s as predominantly modified street cars. The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) rules at that time mandated that all street equipment remain on the car. As a matter of fact, they originally even stated that the car had to be street licenced. By the time the early ’60s rolled around, the NHRA had realized that the gassers were becoming real race cars and gradually began relaxing the “strictly street” rules for both safety and competitiveness reasons.

I chose to do the model taking full advantage of the early ’60s rules because, at that time, many interesting “odd-ball” cars were still very competitive in the various gas classes. A few years later, these vehicles would be completely superseded by the lighter and smaller Anglias, Willys coupes and Austins.

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Although I already had a fair idea of the gasser rules of the day, research uncovered a few that changed some of the planned visual attitude my little Stude. By 1962 for instance, in the interest of safety, NHRA had decreed that the maximum ground clearance of gassers would have the rocker panel no higher than the center of the rear wheel and the body had to sit relatively level. Also, the maximum engine mounting height was limited to 24″ from the ground to the center of the crank-shaft pulley.

Lightweight automotive type front axles/suspensions were allowed and the engine could be set back 10 percent of the wheelbase (measured from the center of the front spindle to the first spark plug). Fibreglass hoods and fenders (including flip front ends) were legal but they still required inner fender wells that could be trimmed for header clearance. Automobile grilles were also required and bumpers were optional but, in lieu of a back bumper, a durable push-bar had to be present. These usually became ideal places to add ballast. Batteries could be mounted in the trunk to increase rear weight bias but the maximum battery weight had to be less than 150 pounds. Headers with a six inch collector had long been allowed but by late 1962 street exhaust systems no longer also had to be mounted on the car. Mine still has the vestige of a street-legal exhaust because my rules research had conflicting info about the necessity of street exhaust at that time.


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Windows could be replaced with plexiglass and interiors could be lightened with aluminum but full upholstery was still required and, as you can imagine, most racers used the lightest and most basic upholstery that met the letter of the rules. Seats could be replaced with upholstered lightweight buckets and, because of the allowed engine setback, could be located up to four inches back from the stock location. Floor coverings (carpets or mats) were optional. For safety reasons, door handles had to be used both inside and out.

My Stude uses a Hilborn injected small-block Chevy for power, probably a 283 bored 1/8″ over to become a 301 fitting into C/Gas class at that time given the weight of the somewhat lightened Studebaker. Transmission is a Hydramatic. which was very popular on gassers at that time. The rear axle is an Oldsmobile, a more durable unit than the original Studebaker.

I used tubing and thin sheet aluminum to fabricate the front suspension, engine detail and interior parts. The main body paint is custom mixed automotive clearcoat candy blue over an automotive pearl basecoat. Details were picked out using Humbrol, Tamiya and Testors model paints. The graphics are a combination of old Letraset and hand lettering.

Excellent work, guys!