Lee Talbot and Sam Chakries' 1953 Studebaker
1953 Studebaker owned and restyled by Lee Talbot and Sam Chakries of Livermore, California. The car, also known as the "Kart Hauler", left the factory as a Studebaker Starlight Sport Coupe. Lee, who had a young family at the time couldn't justify a second car unless it was practical. The minute he saw the coupe with the caved-in trunk sitting alongside his 1955 Studebaker wagon it was a done deal as he had daydreamed about making a pickup out of his wagon. The build was started in 1958, and Sam and Lee shortened the roof and fabricated a pickup bed for the car. The stock rear window was kept, but flipped up-side-down. The tailgate and rear body panels from a station wagon were grafted on to the coupe complete with hinges and latches. All framing were angle iron and 3/4 inch steel tubing. Two sets of stock Studebaker rear springs with 50-50 shocks and 4.33 gears and 8.20x15 tires was installed on the car. The drivetrain was upgraded as funds allowed, and the Kart Hauler was powered by a Paxton blown 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk 289 engine coupled to an overdrive transmission. Once the bodywork was done, the car was painted Thunderbird Pink by Rogers Body Shop in Livermore, and fit with 1955 Plymouth wheel covers. The build was completed late in 1958, and it made its big debut at the 1959 Oakland Roadster Show. Later on the Stude got finned brakes from a late model Hawk.
November 2007 Dick Steinkamp of Bellingham, Washington found the car through a Craig's List ad. It had been in storage in Concord, California since 1964, and it was in a fairly good condition without rust. It was advertised as a 1959 Oakland Roadster Show attendee built by George Barris. Being a sucker for an outing to see a "different" Studebaker, Dick went to check out the old custom. It had an ugly stance and sat on a set of non-attractive aluminum wheels. The seller wanted $9,000 for the car complete with a worn out Chevy V8 and a 6 speed he had intended to install. After considering the deal for a couple of days, Dick told the current owner that he wasn't interested in the engine and transmission, and offered far less than his initial asking. The seller agreed at last, and a deal was struck. December 1st, 2007, Dick went over and picked up the old custom. The current owner had bought the car about 3 years earlier at a Pleasanton, California swap meet, and the story he had been told when he bought it was that the car had been tore down in 1964 as the current owner wanted to change the color. The owner died, and the car sat in the garage in Concorde until it was dragged out and sold at the Pleasanton swap meet.
Trying to find out more about the history of the car, Dick asked George Barris if he had anything to do with the car. As Dick suspected, George told him that he hadn't done the car. A few weeks after Dick bought the car, the first issue of Hot Rod Deluxe was published. A member of the Studebaker's Drivers Club spotted Dick'e car in the magazine, in a photo from the 1959 National Roadster Show. Dick got hold of a copy of the souvenir program from the show from his friend Gary Minor. The program had the answer to most of Dick's questions, and he could now confirm that his car had been entered as car number 706 by Lee Talbot and Sam Chakries. Dick realized that the 2009 show would be the 50th anniversary of the cars appearance at the National Roadster Show, so he emailed the producer of the show and told him about the car and its history. He received a return mail where they informed Dick that since it was the 60th anniversary of the Grand National Roadster Show and the 50th anniversary of the 1959 show they were planning on emulating the 1959 show in building number 9, and that his car would fit perfect into this concept. It would also be the 50th anniversary for the cars first public appearance, an event Dick wouldn't miss in the world. A thoroughly restoration of the car was started in 2008, and Dick wrote a letter to the guys at Hot Rod Deluxe telling them about his findings. They published the letter in Hot Rod Deluxe May 2008. A months later, a fellow named Chris Talbot left a voice mail on Dick's phone. Chris explained that his dad, Lee Talbot, had seen Dick's letter in Hot Rod Deluxe, and that he was stoked that his old custom had surfaced. Lee was 80 years old at the time, and lived in Astoria, Oregon. During the restoration Dick became good friend with the Lee, and Lee gave Dick permission to do whatever he wanted to the car. Not wanting to disturb the original creation, Dick changed the color to 1953 Studebaker Chippewa Green along with a few other details. By mid August 2008, the bodywork was done, the car had been primered gray, and it was ready for several rounds of blocking and sanding. By then, Dick had also settled on a proper stance for the car, and it sat 2" lower in front. Coker G78 15 inch tires with 2 3/4 white walls had been installed along with 5" Studebaker wheels in front and 6" with 1/2" less backspacing MoPar wheels in the back. The hubcaps were 1955 Plymouth, just what Lee and Sam had on the car in 1959. September 27, 2008 the car was ready for paint. Dick knew he didn't want to paint the car pink, so after considering several different color combinations he finally settled for a 1953 Studebaker Chippewa Green, approved by Lee. All body and paintwork was done by Jon Falcon.
As he bought the car without an engine and transmission, a 1955 Studebaker President 259 ci V8 engine and a Borg Warner T86 three speed with overdrive was bought for the project. The engine and transmission were built by Gord Richmond. The transmission was converted to a floor shifter using Jeep top shift assembly. Painted in a bright gold, the newly rebuilt engine was equipped with a vintage Stu-V intake with Stromberg WW carburetors, reproduction Edmunds air cleaners and finned Offenhauser valve covers. All of the chrome on the car was redone to a show finish and the stainless was polished. The undercarriage was cleared to a bare metal during the restoration and detailed. All latches, hinges and reused special fasteners were cadmium plated. Any worn parts in the running gear were replaced with new. By the end of November the car was assembled and ready to be shipped off for upholstery. Dick had SMS Auto Fabrics custom make Chippewa Green and Cream vinyl to perfectly match the paint. Howdy Ledbetter stitched a period perfect interior for the car using the supplied vinyl and high end Mercedes wool carpet. December 21, 2008 the upholstery was done and Dick had two friends pick the car up from Howdy and drive it to his sons house for the finishing work. The restoration was completed in January 2009, just in time for its second debut at the Grand National Roadster Show. Lee Talbot flew down for the show.
In August of 2009, Dick sold the car to a collector in Texas at the Pleasanton Goodguys show. The Texas owner sold it the following year at the Pebble Beach auction in August 2010. The new owner was invited to display the car at the Customs Then and Now exhibit at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show. At the show, the car swapped hands again, and it was sold to a collector in Malibu, California.
Lost to Malibu Wildfires
In November of 2018 the Kart Hauler, and 30 plus other cars, including Dave Cunningham's 1940 Ford, The Norman Timbs Special, and Ray Goulart's 1950 Oldsmobile were lost to the Malibu wildfires as Gary Cerveny's collection burned down to the ground. A tragic day in custom car history.
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