Dick Gonzales' 1955 Studebaker

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Dick's Studebaker before the hood was shortened and the car was fit with a new grille shell and grille bar.
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Dick's Studebaker as it appeared in 1956. This version still has the stock front bumper and only half the amount of vertical grille teeth. Photo provided by Dick Gonzales.
The Studebaker at a show with other Cut Outs cars in 1956. Photo provided by Dick Gonzales.
The Studebaker as it appeared in Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car after Art's Custom Shop had restyled it for the second time.
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Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
The "Strawberries and Cream" version of Dick's Studebaker
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Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
This version of the car featured an interior upholstered by Wright's of Long Beach. Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
Dick's Studebaker and other Cut Outs cars parked outside the Snow White Lodge at the Big Bear lake were they had their annual party. Photo provided by Dick Gonzales.
A Crash Helmet Magazine group shot of some Cut-Outs of Long Beach members taken in 1957. The members in the photo are, from left to right Ron Dulin and Dick Gonzales. The two gentlemen in the center are un-identified, while Glenn and Gary Thorton sits on the right side. The guys are posing in front of Ron Dulin's 1956 Plymouth Fury, the "Strawberries and Cream" version of Dick Gonzales' 1955 Studebaker Speedster and Gary Thorton's Pickup truck. Photo from The Cut Outs of Long Beach Photo Collection.
Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
Photo provided by Dick Gonzales
Larry Watson pinstriping the edges between the yellow and white color on the Yellow Pearl version.
The Yellow Pearl version as it appeared in Rod & Custom December 1959. This version of the car was painted by Larry Watson.
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The Studebaker advertised for sale in 1963.
The Studebaker going through another modification in 1964. Photo by Andy Southard.

1955 Studebaker Speedster owned by Long Beach Cut Outs member Dick Gonzales of Anaheim, California.[1] Dick bought the car brand new. When he got it, it was yellow and chartreuse with gold quilted upholstery. Dick mainly bought the car because of its fiberglass dashboard that was fit with Stewart-Warner speedometer, tach, water temp, oil pressure, fuel and amp gauges. The gauges were set in a engine-turned aluminum faceplate. The Speedster, which was only made in 1955 also featured chrome plated window frames. The first day Dick got the car home he started pulling chrome off getting it ready to be nosed and decked.[2]


In 1956 Dick commissioned Art's Custom Shop to restyle his Studebaker. At Art's shop, the hood was shortened in order to make room for a hand-formed grille shell that was fit with a 1954 Chevrolet grillebar sporting 5 teeth. Hood, deck and door handles were shaved, the rear fenders were peaked; headlights and taillights were frenched. After removing the handles the doors were operated by electrical push-buttons. This version of the car was painted black with a gold top. After the first modifications were done it didn't take long time before Dick returned the Studebaker to Art's Custom Shop. Back at the shop the stock front bumper was removed and replaced by a custom made piece. Four more teeth were added to the grillebar, hood and rear deck corners were rounded, the hood peaked, and all body seams were filled. The frame on the car was C'ed, lowering it 4" in the front, and 5" in the rear. Total ground clearance was 2". 1956 Chrysler Imperial hubcaps were installed on the car. This version of the car was featured in Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car in 1957.[2]


Strawberries and Cream

In 1957 Dick's Studebaker was further restyled by Art's Custom Shop. Back at Art's shop, the stock sidetrim was replaced by sidetrim from a 1954 Buick. The rear fenders on this version were extended 3 inches, peaked and fit with scoops; the taillights were frenched and hooded.[3] This version of the car was painted Oldsmobile Rose Mist and featured pinstriping by Mike Clines. Wright's of Long Beach made a brand new white Naugahyde tuck and roll upholstery for the car. Even the headliner in the car received a tuck and roll treatment. This version of the car is known as "Strawberries and Cream"[2]


The Yellow Pearl

In 1959 Dick's Studebaker gained national recognition when it was featured on the cover of Rod & Custom December 1959. This version of the car featured a brand new yellow paint job by Larry Watson of Watson's House of Style. Larry laid the paint, while Dick did all the wet sanding. The Studebaker received 10 coats of pearlescent, and 30 coats of candy lemon. After painting the car, Larry pinstriped the dashboard and laid a black line around the scallops on the body. According to Dick, the paint job cost $120.00.[2] Before painting the car Dick had Art's Custom Shop fill the front fender vents. All custom work on the car was designed by Dick, while Art's Custom Shop did their best to follow Dick's instructions in performing the work. According to Dick, the Studebaker was the only car Art's Custom Shop did extensive custom work on. The Yellow Pearl version of the car received dual dummy-spotlights and Chrysler New Yorker wire wheels. [3] The engine still remained stock, but the engine compartment was cleaned and all appropriate parts were chromed. Glitter was applied in the engine compartment and trunk giving the car a show look.[3] After the car was restyled it made its first showing at a Santa Barbara car show. With the bright new paint job there were many bugs and butterflies attacking the car apparently because they thought it was a light bulb and Dick had to get large fans to get rid of them. Dick won sweepstakes best of show that day.[2]


The Fire

After trying to sell the car in 1963, Dick decided to yet change the appearance of the car in 1964. The Studebaker went through more modifications as the rear fins were further extended and fit with Cadillac Eldorado taillights. The trunk was also cut higher, and the rear was rolled to fade away under the rear of the car like a 1968 Cadillac Eldorado. While working on the car, Dick also cleaned up some past work in the front. Before the work was completed, Dick sold the car to his neighbor Dr. John Adrain, who was a car collector and restored classics. Dick had recently bought a new home, and needed a station wagon to carry his 3 kids around. Since John had the finances to finish the car Dick decided to sell it to him. John stored the car in a barn along with other collectables while waiting for the car to receive a new paint job. While being stored in the barn, tragedy struck as the barn caught fire and the car was completely destroyed. After the fire, the remains of the car went to a dump.[2]


Dick's Recreation

In 1971, Dick moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In 2009 he started to recreate his old Studebaker at New England Rod & Custom. The replica is a 1955 Studebaker Commander, and will look exactly like the Yellow Pearl, except for a 2 1/2 top chop, Art Morrison custom chassis, and a LS2 Corvette fuel-injected engine with a 6 speed transmission. For the build, Dick has secured himself a genuine Speedster fiberglass dash.[2]


Magazine Features

Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car
Rod & Custom November 1957
Custom Cars May 1958
Motor Life August 1958
Trend Book 156 Custom Cars 1958 Annual
Custom Cars November 1959
Rod & Custom December 1959
Trend Book 197 Custom Cars 1961 Annual
Hot Rod Magazine July 1989


References

  1. Rod & Custom November 1958
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Dick Gonzales
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named rcdec59


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