Our 1940 Studebaker Opera Coupe By Jerry and Faye Germon, Membership #0274
I purchased the 1940 Studebaker Opera Coupe 50 years ago with the intention of making a dragster for the Scoudouc dragstrip. While racing my 1956 Studebaker in stock class, I was impressed with a 1938 Chev Coupe from Saint John and thought that this light coupe would make a fast dragster to compete. Purchasing the car in Hampton in March of 1964, my friends and I drove the car to Moncton. In Sussex we were down two quarts of oil and in Moncton down another two quarts. The car smoked badly. Some would say, ‘why Studebaker’? My father bought a big 1948 Studebaker truck and made a living with it. On some Saturdays, as a child, when my father was working for himself, I got to go with him in the truck for the drive. After a few family Studebaker cars, I was hooked.
Studebaker started as a family business in 1852, making wheelbarrows and wagons and in the early 1900’s making automobiles, electric cars, and moved to gasoline cars, which were more reliable. They continued making quality cars and trucks until 1966. Things change in life, and the 1940 Coupe never got done. After years of moving from one storage to another, we decided to get at the 1940; and over the next few years, it was stripped down to the last nut and bolt and built to what it is today. In the early 1990’s I stripped the ’40 Coupe down to the frame, but got sidetracked and purchased a 1961 Lark, which I restored completely from the frame up. The Lark was finished in 1998 and has been quite reliable, travelling 47,000 miles since then. This included a trip of 13,000 miles across Canada and USA with the 2000 Cross Canada Tour group. The 1940, still in pieces, had to have something done with it, so we decided to make it as close to original as possible. The mechanical was all rebuilt and the body rebuilt and painted, piece by piece, with some help by Gerry Lantz, who came and helped with the sanding and preparing for painting.
The upholstery was more of a problem because I could not do it myself, and finding the right material was not easy. With the help of Brian Edgett, an excellent upholsterer, the materials were put back together with every stitch as it was from the factory, the result was excellent.
After looking for years, I found an overdrive transmission from Houston, Texas, and installed it last year (2014). This made for much better driving on the highway.
The 1940 is what they call an Opera Coupe because of the two seats in back, which fold out of the wall and the passengers sit facing each other. In 1939 the car was completely designed from the ground up to compete in the low cost market. It was $640 new. Most everything was extra; for example, the heater, the second right hand tail light, windshield wiper on passenger side, and back passenger seats were all extra.
In 1939, for this model the engine was redesigned to a 170 cubic inch flat head six. In one of their tests, two cars were driven around the clock for 15,000 miles and averaged 62 MPH with only a fan belt and a wiper blade broke.
New old stock parts are available for these vehicles. Three years ago they cleaned out the last of the Studebaker factories in South Bend, removing 147 tractor trailer loads of parts to sort and store.
In 2012 we trailered the ‘40 Coupe to South Bend, Indiana, and entered in the week long National Studebaker meet. I entered the car to be judged, and it scored 386 points out of a possible 400 to make first division in the prewar class.
I lost five points because I used the original wheel and tire that came on it from the factory for a spare and in their judging all five tires must match.
I have now started work on a 1947 Studebaker 1 Ton truck which I have owned for about 45 years.