Lee Talbot and Sam Chakries' 1953 Studebaker

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Sam Chakries and Lee Talbot welding away. Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Lee with the Studebaker in his garage around 1958.[2] Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The Stude as it first appeared when it was completed in 1958. Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Lee and Sam's pickup with a kart in the bed at the 1959 National Roadster Show. Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The Studebaker as it sat when it was advertised for sale in 2007. It had been in storage since 1964. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The old custom had been in storage for 40 years, and it was in a fair condition with no rust. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
December 1, 2007 a deal was struck, and Dick became the new caretaker of the old custom. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Without an engine and transmission installed, Dick had to pull the front springs out to get a proper stance.[3]
The parts that came with the car were wrapped in copies of the 1964 Oakland Tribune. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
This photo from the 1959 National Roadster Show was printed in the first issue of Hot Rod Deluxe. Dick's Stude can be seen in the middle of the photo.
After Hot Rod Deluxe published a letter from Dick regarding the Studebaker, Dick got in touch with Lee Talbot, one of the original builders and owner. In July 2008, Dick met Lee and his wife Judy for the first time. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Lee gave Dick 15 pictures of the Studbaker under construction and completed along with photos of another Studebaker custom he had built. This one featured Corvette taillights. Photo courtesy of Lee Talbot, provided by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Early in July 2008, Dick found and bought a Dart "A-Bone" kart to display in the bed of the Studebaker, just like Lee and Sam did at the 1959 National Roadster Show. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
During the restoration, Dick thought a lot about what color he should paint the car in, and how he wanted it to sit. This photo taken August 6, 2008 shows the Studebaker with its final tires, wheels and stance. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
By mid August the bodywork was done and the car had been covered in grey primer. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
September 27, 2008, the Studebaker was ready for paint. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Jon Falcon doing his magic. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The paint was sanded down and buffed to perfection. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The engine was built by Gord Richmond. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Engine installed. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Parts back from the chrome shop. Jerry Forrester did all the chrome work on the Studebaker. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
November 20 the rear part was done. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
By the end of November 2008 the car was reassembled and ready for the upholstery shop. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
The upholstery was done by Howdy Ledbetter. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Dick and his crew preparing the Studebaker for its big debut at the 2009 Grand National Roadster Show. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
Right after the Grand National Roadster Show, the Studebaker was taken to Bobby Walden's Speed Shop for a photoshoot by Wes Allison for Hot Rod Deluxe. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
At the 2009 Goodguys West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton Sam Chakires walked up and introduced himself to Dick. During the show, Dick sold the car to a collector in Texas. Photo by Dick Steinkamp.[1]
In 2011 Sam and Lee's old Stuebaker returned to Pomona for another Grand National Roadster Show. The car was chosen to be part of the historic "Customs Then and Now" display. During the show, the car was sold to a collector in Malibu. Photo by Sondre Kvipt.
Photo by Sondre Kvipt.
Photo by Sondre Kvipt.
Photo by Sondre Kvipt.
Photo by Sondre Kvipt.

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.[4] Later on the Stude got finned brakes from a late model Hawk.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.[5] A tragic day in custom car history.

Magazine Features

Hot Rod Deluxe July 2009
Hot Rod DeLuxe Best of the Best
The Rodder's Journal 53


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