BY VERN PARKER
Jim Wherry’s interest in Studebakers can be traced to his father and older brother, who both owned Studebakers.
Wherry’s brother taught him how to operate a three-speed manual transmission in a Studebaker with the shift lever on the steering column. Eventually his brother John went on to collect eight Studebakers, including station wagons, sedans, and his favorite, a 1964 Daytona convertible. Only 484 such models were manufactured in the waning days of the company.
This particular Daytona convertible was located by Wherry’s brother in a garage in Pittsburgh, Pa., where it had been parked for some time. Because the garage had a dirt floor, mildew had crept into the car. However, with 16 gallons of fresh gasoline and a new battery, the long-dormant engine started and the car could once more be driven.
A few years later, upon the death of his brother, Wherry took possession of the 1964 convertible, because it had been his brother’s favorite Studebaker. “I wanted to keep it in his memory,” he explains.
By 1990, Wherry determined the time had come for a complete, two-year-long, frame-off restoration. With the rust and mildew gone, the car was resprayed in the original Astra White paint and capped with a new black top with a plastic rear window.
When the power top is lowered, a red vinyl boot provides a finished appearance to the convertible. The interior is upholstered in matching red vinyl. From the front bench seat, the 120-mile-per-hour speedometer is visible through the two-spoke steering wheel. The horn ring is only half the circumference of the steering wheel.
The 1964 Studebaker is well equipped with power steering, an AM radio, and a “Climatizer” heater. It also has waist seat belts and turn signals for safety.
The one feature that Wherry did change during the restoration was to install a floor-mounted four-speed transmission to handle the power from the 289-cubic-inch V-8 engine. Atop that engine is a two-barrel carburetor. Wherry is quick to point out the engine is not a similar Ford product but is thoroughly a Studebaker product.
“Studebaker was ahead of its time in engineering,” Wherry says.
Supporting the car on a 113-inch wheelbase are new wheels wrapped in 5.70×15-inch white sidewall radials. Full wheel covers add sparkle to the stylish car.
Wherry reports that after the restoration was completed in 1991, the car was taken directly to a car show in Nashville where it won the best of show award. More awards followed in Hershey, Pa., and Detroit, among many others.
Even with all the shows to attend, Wherry says his car is a driver, not a show car. The Studebaker is still shown at distant car shows but it is more likely to be seen near Wherry’s home in Brookfield, Ohio. He believes the 85,000 miles counted on the odometer are an accurate memorial to his brother.
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