Rod & Custom Feature Car
Liz Gerberding
Grand Island, Nebraska
1953 Studebaker
Champion Starlight Coupe

A Fatman Fabrications front frame stub and Mustang II-style suspension gave the Studebaker an improved ride, disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering, not to mention a much sexier stance. The updated suspension was complemented with an 8-inch Ford rear axle assembly, while a Master Power brake booster and master cylinder activate the brakes. A Mustang fuel tank holds the go-juice.

The cream-colored engine compartment sets off a small-block Chevy decked out in dark green. Gary got a deal on the seasoned, Quadrajet-fed 350, and then made it even better with block-hugger headers, Olds Rocket valve covers, and tasteful detailing. A Speedway Motors aluminum radiator and electric fan keep things cool. Heartland Transmissions in Kearney rebuilt the GM 200-4R overdrive automatic.

Wheels & Tires
A set of vintage 15x6 chrome reversed wheels with spider caps adds the right amount of sparkle and shine. They're wrapped in Coker 205/75R15 radial whitewall tires.

Body & Paint
Credit for the bodywork goes to Liz's husband, Gary, and his crew at The Body Shop in Grand Island. The couple's son, Dean, also played a major role. A sneaky chop-just 1 1/2 inches at the windshield, tapering back to no cut at the rear-tops the list of modifications. The dual grille openings were refined by removing the surrounding trim and extending the hood and fenders; black steel mesh and '55 Stude quarter-panel spears fill the voids. The front bumper is stock, but looks much more integrated after being narrowed, shaved, recontoured, and recessed 2 inches. The distinctive peepers are comprised of '55 Olds headlight rings frenched into extended fenders. Further back, the front fender fresh air doors were filled and the character lines on the doors opened up to create faux scoops. The stainless trim atop the rear quarters was shaved, the quarters peaked, and the stock taillights replaced with frenched Lee-style '56 Chevy lenses. The rear bumper is a shaved '55 Studebaker item. When all the cutting, welding, hammering, and long-blocking was finally finished, Dean used DuPont VW Cyber Green Pearl to cover the car's clean flanks.

Jim Stanley in Red Oak, Iowa, stitched Milkweed-colored Ultraleather in tasteful rolls and pleats over the Corvair front buckets and custom rear bench. Note how the pattern on the door panels matches the shape of the body character line-as well as the contour of the custom-built center console. The '51 Ford dash was filled with Stewart Warner gauges, with a custom-built lower panel to house the JVC stereo, vents, and switches for the Hot Rod Air climate controls. An American AutoWire harness distributes sparks. Green lap belts match the exterior, while the '68 Chevy tilt column and Moon wheel were painted to match the upholstery.