Gearhead of the Week: Bob Helbling and '53 Studebaker

Gearhead of the Week: Bob Helbling and '53 Studebaker

Gearhead is a weekly look at folks whose passion involves them with their vehicles. 

Driver's license

Name: Bob Helbling

Age: 81

Residence: Fisher

Occupation: retired Chanute Air Base civil service employee; member of the Illini Collector Car Club

How long I've been a gearhead: "When I was 16, every car I bought needed work."

The vehicle I wish I never sold: a 1949 Studebaker Starlite coupe

Street cred: Through the years, Helbling's vehicles have included a 1948 Chevrolet coupe, a 1964 Chevrolet Nova station wagon and a 1970 Ford Fairlane station wagon.

On the sticker

Make/model: 1953 Studebaker Champion coupe

Powertrain: 169-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine with a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive

Class: stock

Special features: Found in Indiana in 1999, the Studebaker required frame-off restoration, and the engine was restored to original specifications. It also has custom-made fender skirts, an option not offered by Studebaker in 1953.

Know any gearheads?

Do you know someone who has a passion about vehicles?

Nominate a friend, family member or even yourself for Gearhead of the Week by emailing We have received a gratifying number of respondents, so please be patient. We're working our way through the nominees — and we're always glad to receive more. If you know of any events within driving distance that would be of interest to gearheads in the area, email us. We'll run them occasionally in our gearhead calendar.


July 6: Sparks in the Park Car Show, presented by Wheels Car Club Ltd. Registration (entry fee $10) 1-3 p.m.; awards at 5. Rain or shine, Ervin Park, Tuscola. Trophies for Top 10, participants' choice, best of show. Featuring Battle Creek Country Band, fireworks, inflatables, vendors and swimming. Information: 253-4147, 268-3873.

July 20: 22nd Car, Truck and Custom Semi-Truck Show during the Champaign County Fair. No classes; top 25 earn trophies. Registration 9 a.m. (entry fee $10); show runs from noon to 3:30 p.m.; prizes at 3:30. Dash plaques for first 75 entries; car, truck, semi-truck Best of Show trophies; plaques for best paint, interior, engine, chrome; special plaques for fair queen choice, WIXY choice and Tires Plus choice. Sponsored by Chambana Sales, Reynolds Towing, Tires Plus, Stone Cold M.C. and WIXY.

Aug. 3: Villa Grove Car Show 2013, Cars for the Cure in support of breast cancer awareness. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Harrison Park. Registration runs from 9 a.m. to noon ($10 entry fee); trophies will be awarded at 3 p.m. to top 20 cars, top 10 trucks, top 10 motorcycles, veterans' choice, chairman's choice (three), sponsors' choice (three), best paint (three), best interior (two) and farthest traveled. Other features: dash plaques, free goody bags, raffle drawings throughout the day, first 25 entrants receive free T-shirt, free barbecue lunch to all participants, 50/50 drawing to benefit the Mills Breast Cancer Institute. Register/information: Stephen Akers, 832-9778 or 621-3027.

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