Hannaford honors father with Studebaker

Staff writer

He meant to get around to it someday, refurbishing the old 1940 Studebaker Champion two-door coupe that had languished for years in his mother’s garage. He recently had found someone nearby who could do the work.

But, as he held the folder filled with notes scrawled on paper, old repair bills, and articles that he had saved since he bought the Studebaker in 1960, Roger ‘Bud’ Hannaford of Marion knew he had run out of time. Cancer had sapped his strength, canceled his plans.

“He was cleaning out his desk, about a month before he passed,” said Roger Hannaford III, Bud’s son. “He handed the folder to me and said ‘Well, it’s up to you now. Do what you want with it.’ I said I’d do my best to follow through.”

Bud died Oct. 1, 2011, shortly after serving as grand marshal of the Old Settlers’ Day parade. With winter fast approaching, the Studebaker would have to wait.

Acquisition

Bud Hannaford was living in El Dorado, teaching history and social studies, when he bought the car in 1960.

“I was 6 years old, I remember it as a kid,” Hannaford said. “It was a pretty good vehicle back in those days. He drove that to work every day.”

Bud’s wife, Lavonne, occasionally drove the coupe to bridge club, but Hannaford said he never took a turn behind the wheel growing up.

“It was his possession and I wasn’t going to get near it. That was his baby, you know what I mean?” Hannaford said.

When the Hannafords moved to Marion in the mid-1960s, Bud tucked away the Studebaker in the garage of Norma Hannaford, his mother, and it did not get out much, Hannaford said.

A receipt from Don’s Upholstery for re-covering the seats was in the folder, along with a picture of the car in an Old Settlers’ Day parade, which Hannaford estimated was in the mid-1980s.

“I wish he had a date on that thing,” Hannaford said. “Dad had the upholstery done in 1982. It’s in very fine shape.”

Hannaford said he could not recall a time the Studebaker was out of the garage in the past 20 years.

Restoration

Late this past spring, Hannaford started the restoration process, intending to have the car ready for the Old Settlers’ Day parade.

Hannaford recruited the help of local car collector Jim Hefley to transport the car to Halstead, where Studebaker restoration expert Vern Ediger would work on it.

“We dug it out of grandma’s garage. Two of the tires were shot, they were flat, old, and rotten. It was work just getting it out of there,” Hannaford said.

Ediger’s interest in Studebakers started early, and people around the world recognize his expertise.

“I’m 72, and I’ve been at it since I was 14 or 15 years old,” Ediger said. “I’ve gotten calls from New Zealand, Australia, Germany, England, and other countries.”

Hannaford’s coupe needed a lot of work, Ediger said.

“It had never been apart before, it was all original. The engine was worn out,” Ediger said. “It needed a general overhaul, kind of a major overhaul without rebuilding everything.”

“They went from bumper to bumper — brakes, clutch, engine, tires, the exhaust system,” Hannaford said.

Ediger finished his work in August, and Hannaford slid into the driver’s seat for the first time for the trip back to Marion.

“I drove it from Halstead to Marion when we got it back. I was kind of a nervous cat. That’s the first I’ve ever driven it, and I thought it might be the last, too,” Hannaford said. “I just kept my fingers crossed and hoped Dad’s blessing was upon me.”

Once home, the Studebaker would not consistently start, so Hannaford took the car to Leith’s Service in Marion. Dave Leith said Hannaford was his first customer to ask for help with a Studebaker.

“It was a little tricky because sometimes it would start and run fine,” Leith said. It took several tries to hit on a solution.

“We did everything in stages,” Leith said. “First time we cleaned out the fuel bowl, and it ran. The second time, we replaced the distributor cap, the rotor, and spark plug wires, and it ran. The third time we got the coil, and since then he hasn’t had any trouble.”

“We actually got it running the week of Old Settlers’ Day. I’d say about Monday or Tuesday we got it fine-tuned,” Hannaford said.

Hannaford’s son, Scott, drove the car Sept. 29 in the parade, as Hannaford road on the float for his high school class reunion.

“He wasn’t quite adjusted to it, but he got it through Main Street and back home again,” Hannaford said. “That baby was running good, so I was very proud it got through the parade.”

Hannaford said he would not use the Studebaker on a regular basis the way his father did in El Dorado.

“I’ve got a place to store it now, and I’m going to leave it there. Maybe about once a month I’ll go up there, start it up, drag Main once or twice, and put it back,” Hannaford said.

Hannaford expects he will get the car out occasionally during family gatherings, and may take it to car shows in Marion County. One day every September is already booked.

“My goal is to make it an annual OSD parade car,” Hannaford said. “But maybe this summer I’ll get it out and drive it to work, just for fun.”

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