Featured in The Antique Studebaker Review, July/August 2001
I’ve been interested in old cars for as long as I can remember, that may come from the fact that my folks were 42 years old when I was born. They were married in 1930, road out the depression in Minnesota, came to Bremerton, WA (Port Orchard) in 1942 when the war broke out. I inherited a 1931 Chev from my brother in 1963. I was fresh out of high school, the car was totally apart with the help of several friends, put it together that summer and still drive it to this day.
In 1964 while attending a meeting of the local car club, Olympic Vintage Auto Club, it was mentioned that “Dr. Munn’s Erskine was for sale.” I said, “What’s an Erskine?” Answer, “It’s a small Studebaker build from ’27 to ’30.” Well, I went and took a look; the price was $165. I didn’t have that kind of money, but a good friend put up half and we bought the Erskine.
The Erskine was complete, mostly together, running sort of. My friend, my girlfriend (and now wife of 32 years), and I went to drive it home, a distance of 16 miles. Remember now, I’m a kid of 19. This poor car has been through several teenage boys with little or no mechanical experience, and I’m no better. The Erskine has a terrible backfire; the brakes for one front wheel are in a box in the back seat, so of course it’s ready to drive home. At first turn my friend turns right as we had planned, I turn left because it’s downhill and that’s the only way I can keep it running. That was the last we saw of him, any good tools or a tow rope. Several hours later we limped into a friend’s repair shop about three miles from where the car was purchased. I’m sure he heard us coming. He lifted the hood, interchanged spark plug wires 2 and 4, and the backfire went away. We left the Erskine with him overnight and the next day when we picked it up, he had checked it over and did a few things like cotter pins in the front axle nuts.
I drove it some that summer of ’64 and then, in the wisdom of a 19-year-old, decided to completely restore it. No time, no money, limited talent, and not too bright. I took it all, 100%, apart. No pictured, not one item at a time, but everything. Boy is it easy to take apart. I did get some wood repaired, and all the metal cleaned, primered and lacquered. Then a few minor interruptions: Four years of college, 25 years of teaching, wife and four kids, , two house remodels, several rentals, and a successful antique car parts business.
When I had my 50th birthday in 1995, I realized the Erskine had been apart for 30 years. I am not getting this car done, either give it to somebody who needs the parts or have the gasket business pay to have it restored. About the same time I meet Bob Robinson of Robinson Restoration of Limerick, PA. I’ve taken the early out of teaching, running the gasket business full time, and going to Hershey, PA swap meet. Bob is not afraid of a car in a basket – the decision is made. In October of 1997 the Erskine in pieces is shipped to PA. 1,500 man hours, plus motor overhaul, material, etc. and the car is finished the afternoon of October 7, 1999 and delivered to me the motel in Hershey the morning of the 8th. We drive it to the show field, win our 1st Jr., I have the Erskine shipped home, it is nominated and received the Presidents Cup Award from AACA at the national convention in February of 2000 for an “outstanding restoration 1920 to ’42,” and in June it won its Senior award at Cheyenne, WY.
After 35 years, only five parts were missing. We found three and made two. With the help of another Erskine owner, David Oliver in FL, who is putting together an Erskine Owner’s Register and his father in NJ, who has an original car, we were able to find the missing parts and to see how things went together. A great deal of the credit goes to my wife Linda, who has put up with all this foolishness.
The Erskine had not been seen by anybody locally for 35 years. In August I took it to the local cruise, mostly hot rods. A fellow about my age parks next to me, gets out, walks over to the Erskine and says, “Oh is that Dr. Munn’s Erskine?” Turns out he was the doctor’s paperboy and his brother was one of the many teenage boys who had had it over the years.
The Erskine went on its first tour in September with the NW Antique Stude Club at Mt. Vernon, WA. I hope to show it at the AACA Grand National this summer and then drive it.