Bruce Bartlett's 1953 Studebaker
1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe restyled by Barris Kustoms for Ramblers of Long Beach member Bruce Bartlett of Long Beach, California. In late September of 1953, when the new '54 models came out, Bruce, and fellow club member Don Chapman bought a Studebaker each. Don's father ran his own Studebaker agency in Huntington Park. In 2015 Bruce told Kustomrama that Don picked a '54 hardtop while bruce went for a new '53 Starlight Coupe; "The 53 and 54 Starlite coupes were the same except for the insert in the grill, so figured I might as well save money and get the ’53 at a yearend price since I was taking the grill insert out anyway. The car was green with a cream top. It wasn't a real exciting color, but it was all that was available with a V8 and an overdrive. I knew if all went as planned it would be repainted within a year anyway so really didn’t care what color it was. Don worked with George Barris on his build, and I worked with Sam Barris on mine. The Stude came out great. I bought it brand new, and all the work, including paint and upholstery, was done in 8 months. Sam Barris did the bodywork. He nosed, decked and removed the door handles. Because I was young and poor, he told me where and what to buy to install solenoids in for the doors and trunk. He also told me to put the micro switches in the chrome molding by the quarter windows. The big thing though, I'd never tried anything like this before, so we did the work at their shop while Sam talked me through it. What a great guy he was. Also, he understood that I couldn't afford to have him paint it, and that was no problem. He suggested the color, and wanted to see it when it was done. One of the guys in the club's dad painted cars at home on the weekends. He painted my '36 Ford and it came out beautiful, so I had him do the 1953 Studebaker when the restyling was done. A custom aircraft upholsterer at the Long Beach Airport, by the name of Al Cooper did the interior, and Van’s Frame and Axle c’d the rear frame and de-arched the rear springs, cut the front coils and aligned everything so it handled great and actually road good even though it was that low."
Bruce kept the car until he went into the service January 31, 1955; "I was still making payments on it, and I knew I could afford to do that on Navy pay so I traded my equity for a ’50 Olds 88 2dr sedan that was paid for. I didn’t know the person that wound up with it, so I never knew what happened to it. The Olds was a GREAT car to wind up with. It was lowered, nosed and decked. It was black with black and white interior and unbelievably fast."
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