In every niche in the collector car world, there are people you stop and listen to, no matter the occasion. When it comes to Studebaker drag racing, that person is Ted Harbit, who’s been campaigning the cars from South Bend on dragstrips since the Fifties. We’ve covered Ted’s Flyin’ Tomato in the pages of Hemmings Muscle Machines and have caught him at the Pure Stock Drags over the years, but more recently Ted weighed in on Bob Palma’s recently highlighted column about the Studebaker V-8. So let’s stop and listen to Ted’s story, told from his own keyboard.
I’m 84 years old and have driven Studebakers since I got my license at 16. My first car was a ’50 Champion and being a very economical six it was not a “hot” car. My next car was a ’51 Commander with the first year Stude V8 and found it to be almost impossible to destroy. It was a convertible and I entered it in the first NHRA National Drag Race held in Indianapolis. The oil pressure was really low on it and since I was going to enter it in the NHRA Summer National Drags in Indy I wanted to overhaul it but when I tried to “blow” the engine, I could not. I run it until the valves floated in first and second many times but it just kept on running. The oil pressure was about 5 pounds at idle and only would go up to about 20 while driving it even up to about 5000+ rpms when the valves would start to float.
When I gave up trying to blow it up I tore it down and the rod bearings looked worn but not completely shot. The main bearings still looked decent. I think the cam bearings