Unique racecars can be found across the globe at drag strips — that’s nothing new, but you don’t see many Studebaker Starlight coupes making passes. Steve Pyburn literally drug his 1950 model Studebaker out of the open desert and turned it into a wild race machine. This Starlight coupe lights the boards with 9-second passes thanks to some big-block Ford power.
Pyburn’s racing career started in 1974 on the back of a Kawasaki 900 motorcycle. Pyburn hung up his riding leathers in 1991 and started to peruse door-car racing, spending many years behind the wheel of a 1957 Ford. The Studebaker literally appeared in Pyburn’s life and he couldn’t resist the chance to build something new and different.
“We were out in the desert and saw the car sitting there; it was filled with bullet holes, it was missing the hood, and the top was crushed. We brought it home for me to build and race since my son was going to race my old car. My wife saw it and said we’re not starting a junkyard…she wasn’t happy at all. After a lot of work, I got the car done and I’ve been racing it for 10 years,” Pyburn says.
Pyburn did all of the body work, built the roll cage, assembled the engine, and painted the car at home. He used a Mustang II front end to hold the 427 cubic-inch Ford engine he built. The engine uses a Windsor block, CHI Cleveland cylinder heads, a CHI intake, and a Holley carburetor that was built by Bob Book. The big Ford mill is backed by a GM Powerglide transmission and torque converter from Converter Works. The Studebaker weighs in at a healthy 2,940 pounds and has gone 9.08 at 149 mph.
“I built the car because it was free and it’s something you don’t really see at the track. The Ford engine was an easy choice for me because I’ve built so many of them. I really like the internals of the big-block Ford more than other engines, and the Cleveland heads are great because they make so much power without a lot of work,” Pyburn explains.
It’s really cool to see a car like Plyburn’s Studebaker Starlight coupe at the track because they are so rare. The story behind how he got the car and the Ford engine just crank up the ‘wow’ factor of this car even more.