Delta Airlines pilot and classic car enthusiast Rick Powell
explains how his “Stewie” came to be: “I wanted something fun and different that I could exercise a little creativity on.” The result, as anyone can see, was something way more than a little creativity.
What he now has is among the more unusual cars that appear at any car show anytime or anywhere.
It started out as a 1950 Bullet Nose Studebaker, but Rick has taken it well beyond what the manufacturer had created for the post-war car market.
“These were intended to look like a WWII fighter plane, specifically the P-40 Tomahawk. The bullet was suppose to be the spinner and propeller, and the grilles below mimicked the radiator inlets on the airplane. It needed absolutely everything when I found it, but was basically complete and fairly sound, if not completely rust- free. It was also sporting most of its original paint in quite an interesting kaleidoscope of multi-color primers, sun baked blue, and surface rust. It actually ran, so I drove it for a little while like it was while deciding how I wanted it to look. Like so many of these kinds of projects, it took on a life of its own. I’m fortunate enough to have a brother who is scary talented with all things mechanical, so the two of us built kind of a ‘high performance’ original flathead engine, in keeping with doing something different.”
The engine was bored and stroked, and has oversized Porsche valves, a custom ground camshaft, a finned aluminum cylinder head, dual one barrel carbs, and a custom-built stainless steel header and ‘Y’ pipe feeding the lake pipes.
Rick says everything under the hood, including the firewall, was completely stripped, repainted, and overhauled and detailed to the ‘nth degree. “With the exception of the ARP 12-point head bolts, I wanted to have everything look like it could have been done in the ‘50s,” he says. “I even disassembled the horns, cleaned and adjusted the internals, and glass beaded and repainted the cases.”
Okay, so what about the exterior
and why does it look the way it does? Rick provides the answer to that question with a smile and a good deal of justifiable pride.
“The chassis was likewise completely rebuilt, mostly to original specs, but I lowered the whole car two inches, then raked it using slightly larger rear tires to get the stance I wanted,” he says. “Again, short of taking the body off of the frame, every last piece that could be removed, was.
“There must have been a couple hundred pounds of dried on gunk from 60 plus years of use! I installed a brand new original appearing wire harness with the correct color-coded cloth wires. I kept the original 6-volt electrical system. Old school all the way, baby!”
Outside, the original finish was wet sanded, then sprayed with gloss clear. Don Ross from Dallas punched the louvers in the hood, and Ken Smith did the pin stripping and “Stewie” graphics.
“Inside,” he says, “the dash was smoothed and painted. All of the instruments were rebuilt, and I found a cool custom steering wheel for it. No one had a steering wheel I liked that would fit a 1950 Studebaker. They just aren’t popular subjects of custom work. So, I found an old original steering wheel, had the center splined hub machined out of it, and had the aftermarket wheel worked to accept the correct hub.”
And that picture of the little possum in the center?
Taking the cover off the pool skimmer one day, a very wet and peeved baby possum appeared. His picture was captured and, Rick says, “I liked it so much that I wet sanded the silver paint off the inside of the clear Lucite bullet dash ornament and mounted his portrait inside. His attitude seemed to fit.”
Rick wraps up his story sharing the reaction he gets. “It garners lots of attention, both for the slightly unusual sound the flathead makes through the lake pipes, and the fact that it’s always the only bullet nosed Studebaker at almost any car gathering, especially modified the way it is,” he says. “The gear heads flip when I open the hood! No one ever asks me how fast it is.”
Sure, they don’t.