Fred Haller
1939 Studebaker Champion
Dana Point, California

From time to time Early Iron gets a letter that tells the story better than what we can do, and the note the magazine got from Fred Haller is a case in point. He writes:

“I purchased this ’39 Studebaker from a local hot rod shop (Petty Engineering) about 15 years ago. After raising our family, I was well along with my career, and it allowed me to start searching for a hot rod project. I first wanted a ’41 Willys coupe or a ’40 Ford coupe. As I soon found out, they were both way out of my price range. I wanted a starter project but not a basket case, and I was limited as to space and have no welding talent. I began to evaluate other possibilities when I saw an ad for a ’57 Pontiac hardtop with a 455 engine at Petty’s shop.

“In the back of the shop was this Stude with the body off the chassis and the front hood welded together so as to make it tilt forward. It looked great and was at the right stage for me to start on. I asked if it was for sale and Petty said it was not ready yet, but I convinced him to take a $100 deposit and I would pay installments as he completed his construction progress along with my wants and requirements for the car.

“Petty was looking to make a drag car, as he had totally reinforced the stock chassis, tubbed the rearend, and it had no interior. The chassis had a stock Ford Mustang II frontend, and a 9-inch Lincoln rear (with no springs) but with a four-bar setup. The body was stock but had only bare sheetmetal with no dash or any brightwork, and I had Petty install a 350 motor with a 400 turbo trans with a crossflow radiator.

“There were no electrical, fuel lines, brake lines, driveline, or anything to get rolling for a few more years. We all know working weekends and evenings will only scratch the surface and our original timetable was totally screwed.

“I did the wrenching, fitting, and building while also searching for all the missing pieces for the dash and brightwork. I used a Honda center console and CRX seats and armrests, and the rear console was fabricated from fiberglass. People who need to be thanked for their help are: Richard Graves for welding and assembly, Gale Plummer for the blower work, Javier Guvino for bodywork, Alex Del O’Rosa for paint, and Don Geisen for the interior. It may have taken 15 years, but what a great trip it’s been and a great ride.”