Film star car gets new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 13:00 16 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 March 2010

CLASSIC car which featured in the film "Empire of the Sun" will be back on the road this summer after being restored to its former glory by a former Suffolk policeman.

CLASSIC car which featured in the film "Empire of the Sun" will be back on the road this summer after being restored to its former glory by a former Suffolk policeman.

The 1938 Studebaker Commander was sitting gathering dust in an old barn at Waldringfield when retired police dog handler Bob McGlone and his wife Judith first set eyes on it.

The Studebaker had a large dent in the roof which Bob later discovered was caused when the car was driven under a low bridge while being transported on a low loader during the filming of Empire of the Sun.

Although the roof was damaged the car appeared to be complete with the dashboard clock, Philco radio and headlights intact.

A deal was struck with the car's owner with Bob trading in his MGB and the car was transported back to Bob's home at Grange Farm, Kesgrave on a trailer.

It didn't take Bob long to discover the car had appeared in Empire of the Sun and had been shipped to Shanghai before going to Spain for location shots.

Bob still has the licence plates used in filming and has since watched the film on video.

Since buying the car he has spent hundreds of hours working on it and in September took it to his local garage where it past its MoT first time exactly five years and one day after he purchased it.

A major problem proved to be the running boards but through the internet Bob found a company in Australia which specialised in rubber materials for pre-war American cars.

While dismantling the car Bob found a small panel showing the original maroon colour of the paint work and through ICI found a near match.

A friend in the United States managed to obtain an overhaul kit for the mechanical petrol pump and the engine was stripped and rebuilt as necessary.

Bob found a glazier to pattern the glass of the car's windscreen and doors before tackling the wiring himself.

The wood effect on the dashboard had suffered from the effects of water penetration and Bob managed to repaint the wood effect.

There was no carpet so Bob called on a local carpet weaver who was able to help him fit a suitable carpet.

Bob is now looking forward to driving the car with his family during the summer and attending rallies including a classic American car weekend at Knebworth Park, Herts in July as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations of the Studebaker Company which shut down in 1966.

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