I blame my great-grandmother for my obsession with cars because she too loved her cars. Around 1914 she wanted to buy a car at the age of 14. Her dad had previously left the family and her mom was a traveling sales woman, selling women’s makeup products from town to town around the Ottumwa Iowa area, so she was gone a lot of nights throughout the week. My grandmother, at age 14, was left to raise her nine-year-old brother. She recognized the usefulness of having a car, and with her own money went to purchase one but no one would sell a woman a car at that time in history. She then devised the scheme for her nine-year-old brother to purchase the car, and after giving him the money, sent him to the car dealer. He was scared that he would get into trouble for contributing to the driving of a female, and in his fear he refused to do it. She finally convinced him into buying an Indian motorcycle. She loved it and told stories to me when she was in her 80s about riding it.
In 1920 she finally got her first car and for the rest of her life, she had a lot of pride in her cars and it was always a joy for her to drive them. When she met my great-grandfather, one of the first cars they bought together as a family was 1924 Studebaker. They had many Studebakers through the years as they were strong entrepreneurs and could afford the additional luxury of a Studebaker over other brands.
As a little boy I always had an interest in cars. My dad was a Chevrolet dealership mechanic his whole life and I grew up with a wrench in my hand learning from him. I first remember my interest in antiques when I was around 8 to 10 years old in the mid 1970’s. I had seen photographs of my great-grandparents cars and I had envied my grandfather, who at 5 years old, was riding in rumble seats and standing on running boards in the automobiles of the 20s. I also remember one particular photograph of my grandfather and my great-grandfather with their 1924 Studebaker, and thinking that this was the cutest car I had ever seen in my life. I had always dreamed of driving it and had put myself into that picture many times as a kid.
About 4 years ago, after I had long forgotten about the car, I came across that old photograph again. I remembered how I thought this was the cutest car I had ever seen, and I still felt that way 40 years later. Yet I had no clue what kind of car this was, and after a little research through my great-grandmother’s photo albums, I saw she had written on one of the photos "Our new Studebaker - Classy?” What the heck was the Studebaker? My dad’s side of the family was all Chevrolet loyalists and I knew nothing other than the GM product line, so I was clueless about Studebaker other than a recognizable name. The only thing I could picture in my mind was the ugly little boxy 1960 vintage Avanti, or the Red and White 1959 Idaho Potato pickup advertisement. I knew nothing about Studebaker but decided that I would like to add it to my collection.
I began by using Google in an attempt to research matching photos in an attempt to discover what year and model it was, with no luck. So I joined the online forums of the Studebaker Drivers Club in hopes that someone smarter than I in Studebakers could identify this car. It was almost immediately identified by Richard Quinn as having the body style of a 1923 or 1924, "Light 6" EM model Roadster, but with the obvious nickel-plating on the radiator shroud and the solid metal wheels, as a 1924. I eagerly started searching for one to purchase and with no luck, I started asking the rest of the members in the Forum about finding one of these cars. I would like the same model that my great-grandparents had. Since I was ignorant to the Studebaker history and models, a couple members started sending me photos and pdf’s of the sales brochure pages and excerpts from the book of Studebaker history and of course this fueled my love of the car even more and I decided I had to add it to my collection. I even contacted two consignment companies that will actually find the vehicle you are looking for.
I never heard anything back from these companies, and I later discovered from Mr. Quinn and from Rick Peterson that there are only a handful of these vehicles left and members pitied me and told me that I would most likely never find one for purchase. My heart sank and I all but gave up on the possibility of ever owning one. But the ASC and the SDC members were very helpful beyond my expectations, and to my surprise, several members were able to get the word out and I started receiving emails from all over the world from people that were eager to help me acquire my first LIGHT SIX. I literally received emails from Amsterdam to Australia and all over the USA. Unfortunately, some were 1924 but not roadster. Some were roadsters but not 1920’s decade. Ultimately, they were not the same look and body style as what my grandparents had and I declined their offers.
After 2 years of consistent searches on eBay and other vintage car websites, Rick Peterson emailed me and said that he knew of someone within the club that had the car I was looking for, and he would put us in contact if I was serious about buying one. The owner was currently restoring a dual cowl phaeton "President" and did not have much time for the Light Six. I was ecstatic. I could not wait for the contact information and to talk with this seller. He put me in touch with George Vassos and we made plans for me to purchase the car from him in Boston. He told me that it was a 1923, and I was satisfied because it was the same body style as my grandparents 1924, so it would do. From everything I have learned through research and conversations with other ASC members, it turns out that it REALLY IS a 1924. This is better than I had anticipated.
He assured me that he could send it via transport since I was far away in Phoenix, but being familiar with 1930s vintage and never have driven a car of the 20s decade – I wanted someone to give me some schooling on how the car is to be started, driven, and maintained. I wanted someone who knew the machine and to share with me the idiosyncrasies of this particular vehicle and how it likes to be treated. I also knew that the cost of shipping would be about the same as a trailering it home, so why not do a ROAD TRIP!!! J
So in October of 2016, I set out from Phoenix to Boston dragging a 24 foot trailer to meet the car I had only dreamed about. When I first laid eyes on the car, it was almost surreal - to see for the very first time, a car I have wanted since I was a little boy. It felt almost like being an actor in a Disney movie and seemed like more of a fantasy than reality. I could not believe that I was seeing the car in my grandparents’ photos. The car my grandfather was riding in as a little boy. But it was reality and after driving it around the neighborhood and being schooled on some of the differences in the 20’s era of technology - we loaded it on the trailer and headed back to Phoenix.
The trek home was long and we only made it longer by stopping for lots of "photo ops" with the car. Along the way we totally played the part of a motoring tourist with stops at Niagara falls, Chevrolet Detroit assembly plant (Willow Run), many iconic gas stations along route 66, and of course - the national Studebaker museum and the sole standing building of the plant which happened to be the one the car was assembled in.
The restoration was done several years ago and being on the east coast, there are lots of "salt water / weather damp" corrosion issues that plagued the car. The car looked great but was a danger to run or drive due to major shorts in the electrical system from the corrosion. It has been a long road getting this car to live up to my motto “ Drive it like it is 1924 ” and I am a long way from that goal. Between rust; electrical shorts and bad grounds; lack of gaskets on the carburetor and alternator; windshield and wing windows falling out; incorrect year head gasket; oil leaks from the spark plugs and cylinder head; water pump leaks; and worst of all wood spokes with 1/8 inch gaps on each of the 4 wheels wobbling down the street. It has been a rough year and a half getting the car drivable, but it has been a great learning curve of Studebaker from what I have always known in my other restorations.
The photo I admired as an 8 year old of my grand-papa (age 31) and my grandpa (age 3) was taken in 1927. When I started this search I imagined it would be nice to replicate the photo of the two of them, but with me and my nephew. After all, my nephew was named after the two of them. All three of them have the middle name of “Cash”. So it was only appropriate that the car be honorably named “Cash”. But since I did not find this car when he was 5 years old - he was a little big to stand on the running board at 220 lbs. and 6’6" tall. In 2017 – 90 years after the photo of my grandparents road trip - I got an idea to merge all three men in one photo, and this became his graduation photo. Proudly sitting with his grandparents on their car.
The photos I referred to above, that made me fall in love with antique autos - are the first 3 from 1927 of my grandfather and his parents on a road trip from their farm home in Goodland Kansas to Ottumwa Iowa to visit relatives. 628 miles, and with the maps I have from that year, they show only the last 50 miles of it were paved.
(I tried to put more than one photo so the story would make sense, but it did not allow me to do so. Maybe later).