Studebakers: Meant to be driven

By Jon Stalnaker
AKA The Studebaker Dude

I am new to Sapulpa, having moved here from California earlier this year. You may have seen me driving around town in one of my Studebakers. I own a yellow 51 Bullet Nose sedan and a green 49 pickup. I’ve been actively involved with the Studebaker Drivers Club since 2006. It was a dream of mine, as a young boy, to have a car worthy of being on the cover of a car magazine. I have achieved that goal and now just enjoy driving them and sharing them with people that may not even know what a Studebaker is. I love being a Sapulpa resident and especially love Route 66 and the history and stories of traveling the Mother Road.

I was sharing my Route 66 story with Micah Choquette, the publisher of the Sapulpa Times, and he asked me to submit a series of stories about a trip I made several years ago. I drove my Studebaker from California to St Louis to attend an International Studebaker meet and returned on Route 66. The trip took over two weeks to complete, traveling 4354 miles across thirteen states. I will condense as best I can.

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I had been dreaming about driving a Studebaker to 49 states for a long time. With that goal in mind, I modified both of my Studebakers with modern running gear and creature comforts. The plan has always been to accomplish this goal in small segments after my wife, Carlene, and I retired. I had been preparing for years and I believed the car to be roadworthy. We were ready to head out to St Louis.

Preparing the Studebaker to leave California for St. Louis.

Knowing full well that a trip of over 2000 miles (2034 as it would turn out) would soil my car, I detailed it anyway. I washed; clay barred, and waxed the paint, cleaned the tires, whitewalls, and windows, and polished the chrome. When we set out on the trip, the car was looking good.

This whole trip to St Louis and back via Route 66 was actually the idea of another club member. He had been working on the plan for months and had been looking for fellow Stude dudes to make a caravan. At the last minute, he had to cancel out leaving us, and friend Mel, to go it alone. Mel was originally going to drive his 1934 Hot Rod Studebaker in the caravan but when it came down to just the two of us, Mel decided to trailer his car instead. That gave us a level of comfort knowing that if our car broke down in the middle of nowhere we could swap the cars on the trailer and drive the other one. But I had prepared my car so well, what could go wrong?

We left our home in Dixon California on a Friday morning at zero dark thirty and drove to Boomtown Nevada to meet up with Mel. We went up Interstate 80 and Mel cut across Hwy 20. We pulled into a gas station at Boomtown looking for Mel. We saw an Avanti on a trailer but didn’t see the 34 Stude. Mel had some problems with the hot rod and at the last minute decided to take his Avanti instead. We were ready to start this adventure, so we went inside the casino to have breakfast at Mel’s Diner before hitting the road. Yes, we ate at Mel’s, but he didn’t get a discount. We thought we should have, even though he wasn’t THAT Mel…

That’s it for now, stay tuned for the next segment of our adventure. We’re only in it 149 miles at this point. 4205 miles yet to go…