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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. My 16-year old son is interested in buying a 1950 Studebaker truck but I do not know if this is a wise decision or not. The truck has been chopped and channeled, has disk brakes, a 327 engine and is primer painted. It has not been wired but it has a wiring harness and everything else needed to get it running. The owner wants $3000 for it as is or $5000 if he gets it running. How hard is it to wire this truck and do you know how hard it is to get parts for a Studebaker? Do you know what a 1950 Studebaker is worth? Is $3000 too much money to pay for something we don't even know will run when we get it wired? I'd like to buy this truck in June if it is worth buying.
M.B. Fair Oaks, CA

A. What you really would be buying is a street rod project that is wrapped in a Studebaker truck body and chassis. This kind of a package can be a fun project if you and your son have a well equipped home shop to work out of, lots of patience and plenty of money - if you want to do it right. Unless you can buy it in running condition, you could be buying engine, transmission, differential, steering and who knows what other problems. If the 327 engine is a Chevy, it is old stuff and hard to get parts for. If you're serious about buying the machine, have the owner get it running for the extra $2000 but make acceptability a condition of sale. Or have a local (to you) restoration shop mechanic look it over and get a bid to either just get it running or to have him complete it. If it's to be a graduation present for your son and it will be his only car, get him something more practical. If he (or you) haven't had lots of experience with this kind of hobby, that Studie could wind up many years hence in your back yard covered with a tarp.

Q. I have a 1992 Mazda 929. It has rear-wheel drive, no automatic adjustments for the suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. When I drive over bumps, railroad tracks that are inlaid across a highway, patched-up pavement that has high and low spots, or where there is a lot of construction going on, my steering is erratic and the wheel shakes from side to side. It responds to everything that my front wheels hit. I've had the lower control arms replaced, new struts both front and rear, and the dealership even replaced the short rack. I've had three or four alignments done and but nothing has been of much help. When I asked the mechanic to check for tightness on all the parts of my front end, he said that it was intact and tight. Do you think that I should replace my tie-rod ends? Is this common in this type of front suspension?
J.H. Norfolk, VA

A. If this was common in all cars (or even all Mazdas) with MacPherson struts, there would be an awful lot of unhappy drivers out there. I've had to fix a lot of cars with rack-and-pinion steering that have gotten the shakes and very often it was worn rubber mounts on the steering unit itself. It's also possible that the pinion gear in steering unit doesn't have enough pre-load or maybe the bushings that the rack slides in are worn. Tie rod ends and ball joints usually have wear indicators built into them and if they're worn, your mechanic should be able to spot it. If you've been taking your Mazda to a dealership, try a front-end specialist since your general practitioner isn't getting the job done.

Q. Is it possible to obtain complete information kits on new vehicles from the new car manufacturers? I'm getting into collecting automotive literature and memorabilia and this seems like a unique way to do it.
H.M. Bellevue, WA

A. We get press kits from all the 33 auto makers that market vehicles in the U.S. and they look like they're very expensive to produce. Contact the public relations people of all the manufacturers and if you can convince them that they'll get some publicity out of it, maybe they'll put you on their mailing list.

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