LONG BEACH, CA
Usually when I write about a Featured Motor Doll, several emails go back and forth between the feature-ee and myself: requests for pictures, and clarifications, and corrections, and, oh yeah, just one more question… but considering I know this Featured Motor Doll’s story nearly as well as I know my own, I figured I’d write this one a different way. Grease Girl came into my world because of Studebakers.
Before buying Miss Bondorella, I’d been pretty hung up on Studes. One day I spotted a ’55 Commander for sale, and even though I preferred two door, it was the right year (’55 has the BEST grill), and the price was right. After a test drive, I told the guy I wanted it, so went to the bank and got the money, but when I called him to make the transaction, he backed out–and not because he wanted to keep it. It wasn’t even his car. Why he decided not to sell still baffles me.
Anyway. Things happen for a reason, and because I didn’t buy the Studebaker, I found my truck, and wouldn’t trade Bondorella for anything. Even so, I still adored Studes and frequently scanned the web for them. One day I ran across the GREASE GIRL blog, written by Kristin Martin (now Kristin Cline), a girl who had recently gotten her ’55 Studebaker Champion on the road.
The story of Kristin and her Stude began in 2006.
Shortly before moving to Los Angeles, Kristin went on the hunt for a classic car to use as her daily driver. The fifties aesthetics appealed to her: the fashion, the hair, the swing dancing, but beyond that, she loved the simplicity of older cars. Unlike a modern car, Kristin could see herself getting her hands under the hood of a classic. When her dad forwarded her an ad for the Stude (for sale in Utah), she fell in love, and the love story has only grown stronger over the last several years. If you’d like to read the full journey of getting Stude on the road, click this link. She does a much better job telling the story than I would.
Instead of letting it overwhelm her, she found people to teach her and help her and over the past seven years has grown her skills exponentially.
Does she make mistakes? Sure. But that’s all in the learning process and something she’s not afraid to talk about in her blog. She writes about the victories as well as the failures, and with every post, I, as a reader, learn something–which is Kristin’s big picture goal: to encourage not just girls, but anyone to dive in and get dirty and learn alongside her.
Kristin and I have gotten greasy together many times…
…first when we bonded over a transmission job. After driving Stude to Mojave for Gene Winfield’s metal workshop, Stude’s 700R4 tranny no longer wanted to shift into first–which meant Kristin had to leave Stude behind and hop a bus for home. A couple of weeks later, after getting a replacement tranny, Kristin needed a ride back, along with an extra set of hands to do the job. I volunteered.
We had a blast, learned a ton, and became instant pals. I think we clicked because of our mutual silly streak, like how we do a little hop, and clap, and say YAY! when we accomplish a difficult feat. We sing silly songs. Love the word kittens. Do silly dances. Say silly things. It’s awesome.
Know what else is awesome? Kristin’s Stude.
The ’55 Champion still wears the ORIGINAL Pima Red paint and is patina’d like mad–something Kristin loves. While she’s redone the interior a couple of times (herself)… …and changed many things under the hood, even added a bit of flake to Stude’s Sonora Beige roof… …she has no plans to paint the body–not until she has to. New paint is not who Stude is. Stude, however, does need some help under the hood right now, which leads to Kristin’s current project. Rebuilding Stude’s Chevy small block. When she first got her car, Kristin tried to keep the old Studebaker engine running strong, but it was completely worn out.
Since Stude was her only car, she swapped to an engine more suited to daily driving, a Chevy small block. She’d been told it was a stroked 383, but years later, when she and her hubby Ethan pulled it apart, they discovered that while the cylinders are bored, the crank had never been changed, thus, no stroker engine! Does that make her love Stude any less? Not a chance.
Her documentation of the rebuild has been fascinating.
(You can click this link, and read from the beginning of operation Stude). Since tearing into an engine is new to her, she walks the reader through the process just as Ethan is walking her through. She clearly describes every step along the way, making sure to speak in terms that make sense to non-mechanics and those still learning like herself. She draws diagrams to show what each part is called, edits together videos, takes lots of pictures. Unlike reading a shop manual, I finish her posts actually understanding what I read. Plus, it’s fun learning alongside Kristin. There’s nothing intimidating about this sweet-voiced Grease Girl as she guides us through the task of getting the 350 back on the road. But this engine rebuild for Stude is only temporary.
Kristin has bigger plans.
Here’s the thing about the Chevy 350. While the choice of that engine was right at the time, Kristin has grown over the years, and now, in her words, feels a bit embarrassed to raise her hood at a car show. She’s ready to take the next step on her journey with Stude, and has some very cool plans for the future. While the Raymond Loewy designed Studebaker’s had style in spades, they didn’t have a ton of power, not until mechanic Bill Frick came up with a solution. He switched out the inline Studebaker 6 to the newly-released overhead valve Cadillac 331 V8, a process chronicled in a 1953 issue of Popular Science magazine. Because Kristin has always loved the idea of making her Stude a true hotrod, transforming her car into a Studillac completely fits the bill.
Well guess what?
Jerry Hansen has invited Kristin to drive his ’55 Studebaker Commander during the 2014 event!
I had to read through the email 4 or 5 times before I was sure what he was offering…and then still didn’t believe it! Since then, Jerry’s been keeping me updated on changes and progress of the car via email. I feel so privileged, not just to be offered a driver’s seat, but to be welcomed into Jerry’s team and his story.
Yee haw!! Go Kristin!! Can’t wait to read about it on the all new Grease Girl! Wait a minute. All new, you ask? But haven’t you been reading Kristin’s blog for years? Yes to both questions! In honor of the website’s five-year anniversary, Kristin gave GREASE GIRL a major overhaul. Like her Stude, Kristin is ready for the next step: to focus on building her career in the automotive industry. She currently works as an automotive journalist, managing and producing content for the online magazine, Driving Line, but she still has dreams of someday transitioning to the more mechanical side of things.
In the meantime she will continue…
Until our next grand adventure my friend…
Later gator! (By the way… Bondorella misses her best friend! We can’t wait until Stude is back on the road!!)
MOTOR DOLLS AVAILABLE NOW!
Fiction for people like Kristin, who love things that go VROOM! Part of her review…
Rich with imagery, this is one of those books that just makes the rest of the world go away it is so engaging. Not only do I love the adventures and mystery that they find themselves in the middle of, but I love that the two main characters are thoroughly unique, independent, and courageous. ~GREASE GIRLFor an autographed copy, click the link below…