Gary Wolcott's 1951 Studebaker Champion Business Coupe
(from Volume 22, Issue 264)

story and photos by Michael B. Kelly


If you have been around the Florida car show scene for a number of years, chances are you have seen one of Gary Wolcott’s creations before. He has built a number of cool custom cars, doing pretty much all of the work himself in his home garage in Seffner, Florida. You see, Gary has been honing his skills for well over 60 years, getting his start back in the 1950’s while growing up in Olean, New York. Back then, when the weather would turn cold and snowy Gary would crank up the big oil stove in his garage and get to work. He took auto mechanics class in high school, which taught him the basics, but the rest he learned by himself. That included painting, welding and fabricating....skills which he honed over years and years of making cool creations.

When Gary finished one of his cars he would drive it and enjoy it, but at the same time he would start a new project. Once the project in the garage was done and became his new driver, he would sell the previous car....which ultimately funded the next project he started in the garage. This process has been repeated for about 60 years, and as you can imagine Gary has now turned out dozens of cool creations.

When he was looking for his latest project Gary decided it was time to build up a “bullet nose” 1951 Studebaker Champion. However, he wanted it to be different, so he set his sights on a rare Business Coupe....which has a much shorter roof, since it doesn’t have back side windows like the regular model. Business Coupes were mainly used by traveling salesmen, and the trunk was open all the way to the front seat, creating lots of space for their wares, but also easier access to it from inside the car. However, there were only 2,500 of them produced. Gary put the word out to lots of people to keep an eye out for one, and sure enough someone from a Studebaker car club helped him locate a suitable starter for his project.

The body was left basically stock with the exception of the louvered hood, the shortened front splash pan and the bumper being tucked in closer to the body. Super straight “Synergy Green” PPG from a late model Camaro ensures that this Stude will stand out in a crowd (especially when the bright sun is shining), and is complemented with tan colored steel wheels fitted with beauty rings and dog dish hubcaps. It sits on a stock frame with a Fatman front clip, which includes coilover shocks, disc brakes, plus power rack and pinion steering. The rear end is from a Ford Explorer, though it was then shortened, has 31 spline axles, 3.73:1 gears, traction lock, and disc brakes.

Opening the hood reveals a new Ford Coyote crate motor, which brings 420 horsepower to the party. It is fitted with a Vintage Air frontrunner serpentine system, along with a 2-1/2 inch exhaust utilizing Dynomax stainless mufflers with a self adjusting baffle. The transmission duties are handled by a 2004 Mustang GT unit from Performance Automatic, which has a stand-alone adjustable computer, and a Lokar shifter.

Peeking inside you will now find a 1950 Ford dash, which has been shortened 7-inches and fitted with Dakota Digital black faced analog gauges. The console is custom made to mimic the shape of the car’s front fenders, and sits between seats taken from a Kia. The cabin is done up in black upholstery and carpet, plus you will also find custom door panels, a third brake light made from a pair of 1939 Chevy taillights, and an Ididit tilt steering column topped with a 1955 Chevy steering wheel. Vents for the Vintage Air system and controls for the air ride system are incorporated into the lower dash panel, and a skull shifter now adds to the retro cool theme.

The project took about 4 years to complete, working 4 days a week, with Gary doing everything himself except the upholstery. Gary told us this is his last full-on project....but who knows. He said that before when we featured his 1951 Ford Victoria Hardtop custom on the cover of Issue 238 back in June of 2014. Over the years we have always admired Gary’s creations, and it is doubly impressive when you realize they were done by one guy in his home garage. CN