Bob's Studebaker Resource Website


Bob Fierro

I am the first owner of R 3493 and am wondering if you would be interested in a write up on the car's early history? The car was intentionally special ordered with a 3:31 rear end ratio and a 4 speed. This choice lead to a number of "interesting problems" with the car over the years. I also had the opportunity to run the car, under identical conditions, against two different mid 60s Pontiac GTOs which had factory 335HP engines, on a chassis dyno. Under the same engine RPMs and final drive (MPH per RPM) ratios, the R2 Avanti put more HP (318) on the road than either GTO did. I also have details on my unofficial Chicago to NY "record" ( 13.5 hours total elapsed for 925 miles in 1963, via the PA TP, i.e., before RT 80 was completed)

The short history of the car is that I bought it w/R2 in March 1963. I purchased engine R-3 B103 as well as a heavy duty T10 speed directly from Paxton/Granatelli in the early fall of 1967. I had the engine swap done by my mechanic who stored the removed R-2 inside and against the back concrete wall of his shop. A month later the carb and air horn were missing without any satisfactory explanation. A year later he had a fire in the front of the shop and claimed that the engine was destroyed in the fire, obviously a lie given its subsequent resurrection. When last I saw the original R-2 it was complete, lacking only the carb/air horn, alt, starter, and supercharger, the latter three items finding a home on the R-3. The engine when pulled, had about 45,000 miles on it and ran perfectly.

In 1970, I drove the car out to South Bend and the Altman brothers restored it and upgraded the suspension to R3 specs. While it was out there, they saw the conversion bracket I designed to allow use of a slightly modified HURST shifter. Their subsequent use of my design was not sanctioned and I did not find out about it during their "tenure".

I was forced to sell the car to Nash with the R-3 installed in 2002. The car had been vandalized several years before ( a water hose was pushed in the rear window and allowed to run for several hours during a hot and humid July day) I did not find out about this for several weeks. That damage, pushed the cost to restore the car out of my budget, so, reluctantly I sold it to Nash several years later. I drove to Atlanta in 2003 to visit my son and stopped off to see Nash. Somewhere I have a pix of B103 after Nash restored that engine at his garage. I heard he sold the R3 engine alone and got a very good price for it. He also did a complete frame up restoration including hog troughs and new interior

I became dissatisfied with my R2 Avanti when in the summer of 1966, I met someone with an R3 and had a ride! I originally contacted Paxton during the early summer of 1967 looking for R3 heads, manifolds, etc so I could "convert" my R2 to an R3. I initially talked to Andy's brother Joe who explained to me that the conversion of an R2 to a R3 was not recommended, since the overbore required to go from 289 CID to 304.5 required the use of a special run of blocks, i.e., blocks whose cylinder cores were hand set in place in order to guarantee sufficient bore wall thickness after boring to size... but if I really wanted one, they were making their last run ever of R3 engines from spare parts and had (at the time I called him) two more potentially available. Sooooo..... I ordered one. By the time I got to this conversation, they were running low on parts and I had to settle for the broader (automatic) torque cam and single valve springs ( replaced 40,000 miles later with doubles & teflon guide seals). I was also told that my stock T10 4 speed was not up to the HP of the R3 and they recommended I consider buying one of their heavy duty (thin wall iron vs aluminum housing and magnafluxed gears, etc. Unfortunately, they only had close ratio boxes avail but I bought it anyway.) In due time a truck delivered the engine to my mechanic's shop and much to my astonishment, the engine came in a cardboard box marked "NOVI"... no pallet. the engine was undamaged and the swap occurred without note.

That's when the adventure began... first let me mention that I do not abuse cars. I don't pop the clutch, nor do I ride it, or let it slip unnecessarily... that said... Since the original R2 had broken its left front engine mount, I replaced the front mounts with thru bolted ones.
Within 2 weeks ( and still within the breakin period), one of the radius rods on the rear tore off the chassis. It was welded back.
2 weeks later, the other radius rod tore off.

A couple weeks later, the clutch died.
It was replaced and only lasted a month ( one of the springs popped out). Rember... normal driving!

My mechanic recommended installing a Scheiffer disc as the standard Stude weren't up to the torque load given the 3.31:1 rear ratio and the fact that I had upgraded the tires all around to large Michelins mounted on rims from a Chrysler Town and Country Station wagon.

The break in period finally ran out, and one Friday evening I found myself rather late in the evening on the Garden State Parkway next to a souped up Chevy Camaro. One thing lead to another and it was neck and neck up until about 120. I suspected the Chevy had 4.11 equivalent rear gears and would top out, so I looked over to the guy in the Chevy, waved to him and floored the gas and pulled away from, hitting 135 mph effortlessly.

That Monday morning, I was standing in the train station waiting for my train when I looked over to my car and noticed that green, unburnt oil was dripping out the exhaust pipe. Not boring you with all the details, I checked compression on the engine and found that #1 had ZERO compression. I called Paxton and this time was referred to Andy and told him what I had done. He asked my how high I had revved the engine, and I told him truthfully 6000, well under redline. He told me likely an unseated ring, so could I just take the car out on the highway and run it at 5000 RPM in 4th for an hour. I told him... No go, that's 125 MPH and I live in NJ. He said... OK.... 6000 RPM in 3rd for an hour. I said... Still no go, that's 90 MPH. He sent me a set of gaskets and rings for #1 and authorized a teardown and repair at their expense.

I took the car to my shop and since the mechanic was busy, started taking the stuff off the top of the engine, and when I removed the intake manifold, discovered that the passage in the intake manifold from port #1 was still full of core material from the casting process. I told Andy this and he would not believe it until I sent him photos and a sample of the material. He apologized profusely.

The take away for me was that I'd beaten the Camaro on 7 cylinders ! and that Andy Granatelli is a real stand up guy. I talked to him a bit about the car/engine performance stating that I was surprised as to how drivable the car was given its performance. His response was that the secret was not in the car duration/lift, but in the rate at which the cam opened the valve. When queried about the engine's HP output in its current state of tune ( milder cam and same blower boost (no HO pully) as the R2), he paused a moment and said.... 360 to 365 HP. Given the car's "long" gears, I asked if the car would redline ( 7500) in 4th, for a top speed of 175 MPH... His answer, yes.
I never tried this. Fastest I ever had the car was with the R2 engine in the fall of 1963 for 152 MPH @ 6100 RPM...and still climbing!