Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Studebaker-Packard Hawk series

The Studebaker-Packard Hawk series were cars produced by the merged Studebaker-Packard corporation between 1956 and 1964. All but the 1958 Packard Hawk were badged Studebaker. Described by the company as "family sports cars", they were all two-door, four-seat coupes and hardtops. They were an evolution of the beautiful 1953 cars designed by Robert Bourke, a lead designer with the Raymond Loewy Agency. The 1962 redesign as the GT Hawk was by another famed stylist, Brooks Stevens.

Timeline of the Hawk models

Model 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964

Flight Hawk X
Power Hawk X
Sky Hawk X
Golden Hawk X X X
Silver Hawk X X X
Packard Hawk X
Hawk X X
Gran Turismo Hawk X X X

1956 saw a four-model Hawk range launched, of which the lower three shared engines with Studebaker's three model levels; the two coupes; the Flight Hawk had the Champion's old but economical flathead straight-6 enlarged to 185.6"; the Power Hawk used Studebaker's OHV 259" with either 180 hp (130 kW) 2-bbl or 195 hp (145 kW) with a 4-bbl in (4.7 L) V8 from the Commander; the two hardtops; Sky Hawk shared the larger OHV 289 in³ V8 and luxury trim with the Studebaker President and Studebaker Golden Hawk, however, stood at the top of the range. The Golden Hawk, fitted with Packard's powerful big-block 352 cubic inch 275hp (5.8 L) V8, was the best all-around high performance car of the year. Some feel by installing the largest V8 in the smallest lightest body, Studebaker created the first muscle car eight years before the GTO. It had the second highest power-to-weight ratio of any American production car. Contemporary road tests verified the Golden Hawk was faster/quicker in the 1/4 mile than the Corvette, Thunderbird and Chrysler 300B. In top speed, only the Chrysler 300B could equal it.

In 1956 the Detroit and Utica Packard factory were closed, ending production of the Packard V8. For 1957 Packard-badged Studebakers were still produced in South Bend and sold to meet existing Packard dealer contracts. Packard's V8 was no longer being produced, so the 1957 Golden Hawk was fitted with Studebaker's largest 289 in³ V8, supercharged to produce the same 275 hp (205 kW) rated power output. The range was simplified; the Sky Hawk was discontinued as too close to the Golden Hawk, while the two lowest models were replaced with a single Silver Hawk model, available with either the straight-6 or 259 cubic inch (4.2 L) V8. 1958 saw a restyled and rebadged luxury version of the Golden Hawk sold as the Packard Hawk.

Drastic measures to save Studebaker from ruin in 1959 saw the Golden Hawk, all Packards, and the rest of Studebaker's car range gone; the Silver Hawk was the only holdover left alongside the new Studebaker Lark range. It was a make-or-break year, but Studebaker's big gamble paid off; the small Lark was the car the market wanted. The Silver Hawk served as a useful showroom draw, and it was continued; since it was the only Hawk model left, it was renamed simply the Studebaker Hawk and continued under that name through the end of 1961.

For the 1962 model year, a restyled Hawk was launched, the Gran Turismo Hawk. Its styling was well received, and sold relatively well for 1962. By 1963, Studebaker sales were in an irreversible death spiral. Even though the 1964 Super Hawk, available with a supercharged engine, 4-speed transmission, TwinTraction limited-slip differential, front disc brakes and a sport suspension, was the best Hawk ever, production was ended with the rest of Studebaker's US production in 1964.

I've got the sweetest set of wheels in town

By Roger Ebert on December 18, 2008 8:47 AM

It is thinkable that within a year, there will be no more new Fords, no more Dodges, no more Chevys to drive to the levee. It is less than a year since the manufacture of Postum was discontinued. Meccano sets are made of plastic. Piece by piece, the American prospect is being dismantled. Will the pulse of teenage boys quicken at the sight of the new Kia or Hyundai? Will they envy their pal because his dad drives a Camaro? I think that's all over with. There will be a void in our national imagination. Let me tell you about how it used to be.

In my opinion, the mourner of Miss American Pie drove a Studebaker. It's simply that "Chevy" was an easier rhyme. Since the classic 50s Chevy we think of is the '57 Bel Air, it is reasonable to conclude that the ride of Miss Pie's friend on the day the music died was a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk--the sexiest American car ever manufactured, although there are those who praise the 50s Thunderbirds and Corvettes, however slower than the Hawks they may have been..

"Hot Shot East," by O. Winston Link. (Collection of Roger and Chaz Ebert

But this is not about automobiles. It is about love. They say that when a man reaches 40 and finds some spare change in his pocket, his thoughts turn to the car he desired with all his heart in the years before he got his driver's license. In 1956, I took a part-time job at Johnston's Sport Shop in Champaign-Urbana. I was not a stock boy. I was a sales clerk. I knew nothing about sporting goods but I eavesdropped on old Mate Cuppernell, the sunburned, Camel-smoking fishing specialist. Overnight, I was an expert. "These Johnson motors are the same under the skin as the Evinrudes," I would explain, and, "The big cats are going for these Heddon spinners out at Kaufman's Clear Lake."

I got an hour for lunch. I stopped first at the Shell station across the street, run by a man who operated juke boxes and sold his old 45s for a nickel apiece. Marty Robbins. Elvis. Then I'd walk a block down Neil Street to the Chuck Wagon diner, one of the first restaurants to feature Col. Harland Sanders' chicken on its menu. I met him the day they started serving his chicken, and he asked me how I liked his spices. At six, I was given a penny by old Mr. J. C. Penney , so now I had met two titans of marketing.

In between the gas station and the diner was Maxey Motors, a Studebaker-Packard dealer. I didn't pay it much heed. All I knew about Studebakers was that kids joked about how they looked like they were going in both directions at once. Many years later I discovered that Raymond Loewy's design for the 1953 Starliner was proclaimed a work of genius by the Museum of Modern Art.

The '57 Studebaker Golden Hawk. Yes.

But enough about Starliners. One autumn day as I walked bent down into a chill wind, something caught the corner of my eye in the window of Maxey Motors. I turned and stood transfixed. It was the new 1957 Golden Hawk. I forgot the rain. I forgot the chicken. I wanted that car. I walked inside and slowly circled it. My eyes hungered. Before that day, cars were ordinary things like my dad's boxy '50 Plymouth or my mom's '55 Olds, designed along the lines that made a loaf of bread seem inevitable. Now here was a Hawk! that sprang from a lofty crag and circled the firmament with fierce beauty. And it was supercharged and had a grill that breathed great gulps of air.

The next year I got my driver's license, and was able to buy a 1954 Ford for $400. I was not faithful to it. In my heart, I lusted for the Golden Hawk. I became expert at sketching it from memory. In profile, the graceful fenders curving down to the headlights, The windshield raked back in harmonious counterbalance. Then the slant of the roof, leading down to the uprising of the bold fins. Musical. You could sing it.

When I was 40, and had a little change in my pocket, my thoughts turned back to the 1957 Golden Hawk. One day I was in Los Angeles and paging through Hemmings Motor News, and found an ad for a '57 Hawk being restored out in Santa Monica. I went to look at it, and the deal was sealed. Two months later it was dropped off six blocks from my home by an auto carrier. It was gold with white fins and its engine sounded mighty. Driving it home, my left elbow casually on the window sill, I was aware that every male I passed gave it a second look. Not so much the women. Evolution teaches us women are looking for a good provider in a man, not an aesthete. A Volvo driver, not a Hawk driver. Maybe, but the Hawk guy will be more fun in the sack.

The year was 1982. I was a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. I had won a Pulitzer Prize. I was co-host of a national TV show. These credits were pleasing, but...there was something missing. A hollow in my ego, waiting to be filled. I turned the key in the ignition, rolled down the window, turned the radio to rock 'n roll on an oldies station, hooked my elbow out the window, and purred out of the parking lot. I was only six blocks from home, but somehow my route took me through Old Town, and up and down Rush Street, and slowly through Lincoln Park.

Raymond Lowey: "The father of industrial design"

Out of the corner of my eye I saw males of all ages pausing to stare. They didn't recognize me, because they weren't looking at me. They were looking at my car. If they were with women, the women turned to see, not the Hawk, but why their men had paused. Inside of me, intense joy rose. It had nothing do do with what I had accomplished. It was entirely fueled by what I drove. This is a pure joy known to 16-year-old boys from that era, who had nothing else to excite envy except their ride. Even if they were all-state on the football team, it didn't mean as much if they were driving their dad's '40s Oldsmobile.

What pleasure that car gave me. I kept it at our summer place in Michigan. The nearby Red Arrow Highway, the old hard road to Detroit, was built in the 1920s and looked retro. There was a roadhouse used by Capone, with a secret gambling room in the basement. Classic brick Shell stations. Fruit stands. A sign for the annual Milk Bottle Show. There was even a Frank Lloyd Wright lookalike motel. I drove the Golden Hawk around Harbor Country and, reader, I was envied. I frequented Mikey's in Bridgeman because they had car hops and I could roll down my window to balance a tray with a burger and shake, and Chaz could roll down her window and have her own separate tray. Life was easier in the 1950s.

Searching my old movie reviews for the word Studebaker, I found these words from my review of "Heavy Petting" in 1989:

There are a lot of adults around today who will tell you that their peak early sexual experiences took place in cars, and that beds will never be as exciting. Not long ago, for example, I took a woman in her 40s for a drive in my 1957 Studebaker, and after sliding across the vinyl upholstery, inhaling the aroma of gasoline and oil, listening to the tires spinning on the gravel, and waiting for the radio tubes to warm up, she reported that all of these physical associations made her feel exactly as if someone was going to try to take off her bra.

That autumn I met Chaz. The following summer, we participated in the annual Ride of LaPorte, Indiana. In its simplicity, this is an auto event superior to any other in Indiana, including the Indy 500. What you do is, you park your pre-1960 automobile in a lot at the county fairgrounds, have Coke and hot dogs, and walk around looking at the other cars. I parked my Golden Hawk next to an immaculate 1949 Hudson of the sort Miss Daisy was driven in. Now there was a car. You could raise a family in the back seat. It had the Step-Down Design, which allowed it to wipe out every Ford and Chevy in stock car races. It had less horsepower, but with such a low center of gravity it would cream them on the turns.

At 1 p.m., "The Stars and Stripes Forever" blared from the loudspeakers, and we pulled into line and paraded out of the fairgrounds. A state cop with a whistle was directing traffic onto the street. As we passed her, she said, "Sharp car!"

"Did you hear that?" I asked Chaz.

"Yeah. Sharp car."

"Sharp car!" I said. "She called it a sharp car!"

"Sharp car, all right," Chaz said. She later told this story about a thousand times, apparently because it meant something special to her.

With the LaPorte Ride, what you do is, you drive up and down the streets of LaPorte and people sit in lawn chairs and look at you. No floats. No marching bands. No Sheriff Sid on his horse. Just beautiful cars. Mostly the citizens of LaPorte sat and nodded pleasantly, waved a little, and poured their iced tea. But the Golden Hawk was greeted with applause. Perhaps there was a sentimental connection. The Studebaker was manufactured in South Bend, 30 miles away. Some of these people or their relatives may have worked there.

One weekend we took the car on a pilgrimage to South Bend, where I expected to see Studebakers lining the streets and backed up at traffic lights, like in a Twilight Zone episode. No luck. But we drove down by the St. Joseph river, turned right, and there before us was the Studebaker National Museum. We pulled the Hawk into a parking space right next to the entrance, posted, "Studebakers Only." My license plate read FAUCON, French for hawk.

The Museum occupied what once had been the largest Studebaker dealership in the world. It was across the street from the original Studebaker plant, now standing forlorn. Inside was a visual sea of vehicles. Cars, fire engines, school buses, troop transports, armored cars. The station wagon with the roof that would slide back so you could bring home a totem pole standing upright. The nifty Lark. Taxis. Ambulances. Touring sedans from the 1930s. Classic Packards like Gatsby drove. Champ trucks. Conestoga wagons, because Studebaker was the only wagon-maker that made the transition to cars, The wagons floated down the river to St. Louis, and then were pulled overland into John Wayne movies.

They had the carriage built by Studebaker in which Abraham Lincoln drove to Ford's Theater and did not drive home. The last Packard ever made, a show car for the year Packard died. And lots and lots of Studebakers. And medallions, postcards, t-shirts, visors, books, scarves, hats, jackets, signs, sweat shirts, scale models, books, mugs, jigsaw puzzles, metal Studebaker medallions, belt buckles, cuff links, videos, jigsaw puzzles, key rings and place mats. I discovered the National Studebaker Drivers' Club is the largest car-owners' club in America, and I could sign up. If there was one place in the nation that understood the Studebaker, it was South Bend, Indiana. They have a university there, too.

Abraham Lincoln's Last Ride. (Studebaker National Museum)

Our guests loved to drive to Mikey's and get the super-thick shakes. One summer our good friends Gillian and Peter Catto and their children visited from London. He drove a Bentley. I took them for a spin in my Studebaker. I startled them by stepping on the gas.

"Now this is something like it,"
he said from the back seat.

"Now tell the story," Chaz said.

"When these cars were new," I said. "They weremuch faster than '57 Corvettes or T-Birds. The salesmen would put a client on the back seat, put a $100 bill on the front seat, and tell the client he could keep the money if he could overcome the force of the acceleration, and lean forward and pick it up while the Hawk was doing zero-to-60."

I treasured the Golden Hawk. But I could not give it the care it deserved. I knew nothing about auto mechanics. When it was built, everybody did. When a car stopped and you looked under the hood, you were actually looking for something, not simply performing a roadside pantomime with a car that required computer programmers. I found the honey a good home with Dan Jedlicka, the automobile editor of the Sun-Times, who confessed that he had driven every car in history and the '57 Hawk was the only one he had wanted to own.

We have come to the end of my story. If Studebaker died in 1966, its legacy lived on in the Avanti, also designed by Raymond Loewy, the century's greatest industrial designer, who also designed (are you sitting down?) the Coke bottle, the Shell trademark, the Lucky Strike package, and the underlying lines of most of the postwar Studebakers. He could travel from coast to coast by plane, train, automobile and bus, using only vehicles he had designed. Andy Granatelli designed the Avanti engine, and, Wikipedia says, he drove it to establish or break broke 34 U.S. land speed records. So timeless was this sports car, its manufacture was continued until four year ago, and even now plans have been announced to resume production in Cancun.

All of that is sequel. The past is prologue. I fell in love with the Golden Hawk in 1956, I bought one in 1988, and now all I have is a model car on my desk, and my memories. It may be you have a different car in your dreams. If you have turned 40, and have some spare change in your pocket, buy it. It could cost you a fraction of a new car's price. And if your love is true, that car will be like Benjamin Button, growing younger every year.

Jamie Foxx ties a yellow ribbon 'round his Golden Hawk.

Studebaker Golden Hawk

The Studebaker Golden Hawk is a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe type car produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana between 1956 and 1958.

1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk

Studebaker Golden Hawk 1957


The last Studebaker until the Avanti to have styling influenced by industrial designer Raymond Loewy's studio, the Golden Hawk took the basic shape of the 1953-55 Champion/Commander Starliner hardtop coupe but added a large, almost vertical eggcrate grille and raised hoodline in place of the earlier car's swooping, pointed nose. At the rear, a raised, squared-off trunklid replaced the earlier sloped lid, and vertical fiberglass tailfins were added to the rear quarters.


The raised hood and grille were added to allow space for a larger engine, Packard's big 352 in³ (5.8 L) V8, which delivered 275 bhp (205 kW). This big, powerful engine in such a light car gave the Golden Hawk a phenomenal power-to-weight ratio (and thus performance) for the time; of 1956 American production cars, the Golden Hawk was second only to Chrysler's 300 B by that measure - and the expensive Chrysler was a road-legal NASCAR racing car. The Golden Hawk can be considered, like the Chryslers, a precursor to the muscle cars of the 1960s.

The heavy engine gave the car an unfounded reputation for being nose-heavy and poor handling (the supercharged Studebaker engine that replaced the Packard mill for '57 was actually heavier). Road tests of the time, many of which were conducted by racing drivers, seldom mentioned any handling issues. Speed Age magazine of July 1956tested the Golden Hawk against the Chrysler 300 B, Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette, finding that the Golden Hawk could out-perform the others comfortably in both 0-60 mph acceleration and quarter mile times. The fastest 0-60 reported in magazine testing was 7.8 seconds, while top speeds were quoted as 125 mph (201 km/h) plus. Film buffs will remember these performance statistics demonstrably cited as Charlie and Raymond Babbitt (Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman) spot a Golden Hawk in 1988's Rainman.

A wide variety of colors (including two-tone, befitting the times) were available. Two-tone schemes initially involved the front upper body, the roof and a panel on the tail being painted the contrast color, with the rest of the body the base color. Later 1956 production had the upper body above the belt line, including the trunk, as the contrast color with the tail panel, roof and the body below the belt line trim being the base color.

An increased options list and reduced standard equipment were used to keep prices down compared to the previous year's Studebaker President Speedster, which the Golden Hawk replaced. Even turn signals were technically an option.

The Golden Hawk was matched with three other Hawk models for 1956, and was the only Hawk not technically considered a sub-model within one of Studebaker's regular passenger car lines; the Flight Hawk coupe was a Champion, the Power Hawk coupe was a Commander and the Sky Hawk hardtop was a President.

1957 Golden Hawk

1957-58: The Supercharged Golden Hawk
The Golden Hawk was continued for the 1957 and 1958 model years, but with some changes. Packard's Utica, Michigan engine plant was leased to Curtiss-Wright during 1956 (and eventually sold to them), marking the end of genuine Packard production. Packard-badged cars were produced for two more years, but they were essentially dressed-up Studebakers. The Packard V-8, introduced only two years earlier, was therefore no longer available. It was replaced with the Studebaker 289 in³ (4.7 L) V-8 with the addition of a McCulloch supercharger, giving the same 275 horsepower (205 kW) output as the Packard engine. This improved the car's top speed, making these the best-performing Hawks until the Gran Turismo Hawk became available with the Avanti's R2 supercharged engine for the 1963 model year.

1957 Golden Hawk tailfins

Styling also changed somewhat. A fiberglass overlay on the hood was added, which covered a hole in the hood that was needed to clear the supercharger, which was mounted high on the front of the engine. The tailfins, now made of metal, were concave and swept out from the sides of the car. The fins were outlined in chrome trim and normally were painted a contrasting color, although some solid-color Golden Hawks were built.

Halfway through the 1957 model year, a luxury 400 model was introduced, featuring a leather interior, a fully upholstered trunk, and special trim. Only 41 of these special cars were produced, and a mere handful are believed to exist today. One of them is currently housed at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend.

For 1958, the Golden Hawk switched to 14-inch (356 mm) wheels instead of 15-inch (381 mm), making the car ride a little lower. The 15 inch wheels, however, were available as an option. Other styling changes included a new, round Hawk medallion mounted in the lower center of the grille, and the available contrasting-color paint was now applied to both the roof and tailfins.

Several minor engineering changes were made for '58, including revisions to the suspension and driveshaft that finally allowed designers to create a three-passenger rear seat. Earlier models had seating for only two passengers in the rear because the high driveshaft "hump" necessitated dividing the seat; a fixed arm rest (later made removable because of customer requests) was placed between the rear passengers in earlier models.

End of the line

Like many more expensive cars, Golden Hawk sales were heavily hit by the late-1950s recession, and the model was discontinued after only selling 878 examples in 1958. The Silver Hawk remained as the only Hawk model; it was renamed simply the Studebaker Hawk for the 1960 model year.

Studebaker Sky Hawk

1956 Sky Hawk

Rear View Of 1956 Sky Hawk

The Studebaker Sky Hawk was a pillarless two-door hardtop coupe produced by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation for the 1956 model year only. The Sky Hawk was considered part of the Studebaker President series. One of four models of Hawks available that year, the Sky Hawk was positioned between the flagship Golden Hawk and Power Hawk pillared coupe. Sky Hawks differed from Golden Hawks in that they had less chrome trim and lacked the Golden Hawk's fins. They also had slightly less luxurious interiors, and were powered by the President's 289 cubic inch (4.7 L) V-8 with 210 horsepower (157 kW) standard and 225 horsepower (168 kW) optional (rather than the Packard 352 of the Golden Hawk). The Sky Hawk's base price was $2,477 before options, and 3,050 were produced that year. The Sky Hawk was discontinued for the 1957 model year.

Studebaker Flight Hawk

1956 Studebaker Flight Hawk

The Studebaker Flight Hawk was the lowest-priced model in the four-model Hawk family sports car line introduced by Studebaker in 1956.


The Flight Hawk was based on the Champion two-door coupe which had been introduced for the 1953 model year. Like the other 1956 Hawks, the Flight Hawk received a new hood, grille, decklid and instrument panel. Flight Hawks otherwise had the minimum amount of exterior chrome and received hubcaps unless full wheel covers were otherwise ordered from the factory or optioned through the dealer.


Unlike the other Hawks, however, which were all powered strictly by V-8 engines, the Flight Hawk came with the Champion's 185.6-cubic-inch (3.0-liter) inline six-cylinder engine, rated at 101 horsepower (75 kW). Teamed with this engine could be either a standard three-speed manual transmission, the same with overdrive, or a three-speed automatic transmission (known as Flight-O-Matic).

Available models

The Flight Hawk was a two-door pillared coupe (model 56G-C3), which carried a list price of $1,986. However, for Canada and other foreign markets, Studebaker made a pillarless hardtop (model 56G-K7) available. Nine of the 560 hardtops built were sold in the U.S., although it is not known how much they cost when new.


Coupe, Model 56G-C3, 4,389 total, broken down by manufacturing plant:
2,508 (South Bend plant)
557 (Los Angeles plant)
584 (Hamilton, Ont. plant)
740 (Exported to other countries)
Hardtop, Model 56G-K7, 560 total, broken down by manufacturing plant:
9 (South Bend plant)
52 (Hamilton, Ont. plant)
499 (Exported to other countries

Of the four available Hawks for 1956, the Flight Hawk was the second-most popular. The Power Hawk, with 7,095 produced for all markets, led in sales by a fairly wide margin.

One-year wonder

Studebaker decided to simplify the Hawk line for 1957. This decision spelled the end for the Flight, Power and Sky Hawks, which were combined into the new Silver Hawk series.

Studebaker Silver Hawk

Studebaker Silver Hawk

The Studebaker Silver Hawk was an automobile produced between 1957 and 1959 by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The Hawk was also produced in 1956. There were four versions, pillared Flight Hawk and Power Hawk, and hardtop Sky Hawk and Golden Hawk. The Silver Hawk model was not produced in 1956, the first year of the Hawks. The same basic car was produced for two more years (1960 and 1961) as simply the Studebaker Hawk, since from 1959 onward no other Hawk models were being sold.


The Silver Hawk was the replacement for the two lower models in the four-model Hawk range in 1956, the Flight Hawk which carried the Champion 185 cu. in., six-cylinder 101 hp (75 kW) powerplant and the Power Hawk with the Commander's 259 in³ (4.2L) V8. Both of these models were two-door pillared coupes in the US market (based on the 1953 "Starlight" coupe body), and therefore, so was the Silver Hawk, which came in two differently-engined models with either the aforementioned Champion six or the 289 cu. in. (4.7L) President V8 engine (delivering 210 HP from the two-barrel, 225 HP from the four-barrel with dual exhaust). The Commander V8 was not offered in U.S. models; it was, however, the largest engine available in most overseas markets.

In appearance, the Silver Hawk was somewhat plainer in appearance than the Golden Hawk, the senior of the two Hawk models in 1957-58. There was a little bit less chrome, no supercharger or bulge in the hood, and a simpler two-tone paint scheme was adopted - simply one color below the chrome belt line and another above, but unlike the Golden Hawk, the lower color included the fin. Some dealers painted the fin only, and sometimes the deck lid recess and or the left and right "side grills" were painted in a contrasting Studebaker color. These usually matched the interior, some were Blue, Gold, Red or Black and were actually better looking according to many owners than the factory two-tone paint scheme.

In the midst of a financial crisis at Studebaker after a disastrous recession-year performance in 1958, the Golden Hawk was dropped; the Silver Hawk, which had sold somewhat better, was retained in the lineup.


For 1959, the Silver Hawk became the only Hawk model in production, largely because Studebaker dealers wanted a glamorous flagship model as a dealership draw. Those customers would more than likely walk out with Studebaker's last-ditch hope, the new Lark compact. In fact, the Silver Hawk was the only non-Lark model kept.

Changes for 1959 included new tailfins, with the "Silver Hawk" script moved to the fins instead of on the trunk lid (where new individual block letters spelling out STUDEBAKER were placed), with a new Hawk badge in between the two words. The parking lights moved to the side grilles from the front fenders, chrome moldings around the windows (from the '53-'54 models) similar to the Golden Hawk were added, and the interior was somewhere in between the two former models' levels of luxury. Two-tone paint was discontinued for all US orders, though it was still available for export.

1960 Studebaker Hawk

Under the hood (at least for U.S. models), buyers could choose the newly-shrunken (to pre-'55 size) 90 HP 169.6 cu. in. (2.8L) six or the 259 cu. in. (4.2L) V8 of 180 or 195 HP (depending on the choice of carburetor). The 289 was no longer available.

The 1959 model year was Studebaker's first profitable year in six years, thanks mostly to the Lark, and the rising tide of sales lifted the Silver Hawk, which sold 7,788 examples.

For 1960, Studebaker dropped the Silver part of the name, leaving "just plain" Hawk. Largely unchanged externally from the '59, internally, the major change was the return of the 289 cubic inch (4.7 L) V8 last used in 1958. This was the only engine available for U.S. orders in both 1960 and 1961, the last year of the finned Hawk. Some 6-cylinder and 259 in³ (4.2 L) V8 models were built for export markets.

The 1961 models saw the limited return of a second paint color, beige, in a stripe along the base of the fin between the two lower moldings. Interiors gained the option of wide, comfortable bucket seats and Walter Mitty-types could opt to team their 289 V8 with a new four-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission, the same model used in the Chevrolet Corvette.

The Hawk was replaced for 1962 by the stunningly-restyled (by Brooks Stevens) Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk.

Almost the end of the line?

When the 1960 model year began, U.S. automakers were in the throes of a steel strike, and the shortage of steel hit Studebaker, which was a much smaller company than AMC or the Big Three, particularly hard.

Studebaker had a proven sales winner in the 1959 Lark, which was continued into 1960 with little change. With steel in short supply, the company chose to focus on building as many Larks as possible to ensure an adequate supply for the company's dealers. This meant that Silver Hawk production for 1960, which had been scheduled to begin in November or December 1959, was delayed.

Unfortunately for Studebaker -- but fortunately for Hawk buyers -- sales of the Lark began to fall off in the closing months of 1959. By the beginning of February 1960, Hawks finally began to roll from the South Bend assembly line.

It isn't known what might have happened had Lark sales continued at their 1959 levels, but speculation has been advanced that the company might not have produced any Hawks. The lengthy delay between new-model announcement time and the start of Hawk production in 1960 shows just how close Studebaker came to not producing a model that they had at least halfheartedly promoted in print advertising and showroom brochures.

Fortunately, though, the Hawk lived on, and later that year a stock production model won its class in the 1960 Mobil Economy Run, delivering 22.9 miles per gallon.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

The Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk (or GT Hawk), a sporty coupe sold between 1962 and 1964, was the final development of the Studebaker Hawk series that began with the Golden Hawk of 1956.

1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

Studebaker GT 1962

Studebaker GT 1964

Redesigning the Hawk

The GT Hawk's styling was a fairly radical facelift by designer Brooks Stevens of the older Hawk shape; Stevens went after a European-inspired, clean look for the car he codenamed the "Hawk Monaco" (his prototype even had Monegasque license plates!). The hood from the older Hawk was retained, but was given a more pronounced (imitation) radiator frame to more closely resemble the cars of Mercedes-Benz, which at the time were distributed by Studebaker. The grille inside the radiator frame was patterned after the Mercedes as well.

Despite the European influence, the Gran Turismo Hawk drew on American influences, too; the roofline was heavily inspired by the Ford Thunderbird, with thick C-pillars. A chrome edge running from front to rear highlighted the top of the bodywork in very similar fashion to that on the contemporary Lincoln Continental. The taillights were particularly fashioned after the Lincoln's, and the trunk lid was given a faux brightwork "grille" overlay (to hide the grooves of the otherwise carryover 1956-61 lid) that resembled the Lincoln as well.

Stevens's extensive yet inexpensive modifications to the body finally rid the car of the 1950s-style tailfins and bodyside trim of previous models. The rear window was nearly flat and recessed, reducing the cost of an ordinarily expensive piece of glass. Overall, the exterior look kept the smooth, aerodynamic style of previous Studebakers but moved up to date.

Passenger Compartment Updates

Stevens also cleaned up the interior with a modern instrument panel that could be ordered with a full complement of large, easy-to-read instruments within close range of the driver's line of sight. The top of the instrument panel was also padded to serve as a crash pad. This dashboard would prove to be another Studebaker trendsetter; later Chrysler models in particular (such as the 1977-1989 Dodge Diplomat) would have instrument arrangements clearly inspired by the Hawk.

The GT featured bucket seats and a console in the front, befitting a grand-touring car, and all seats were upholstered in either cloth and vinyl or all-pleated vinyl.

Unfortunately, the pleated vinyl (which was the overwhelming preference of buyers) was of poor quality during the 1962 production run and deteriorated rapidly. The problem was solved with the change to US Royal Naugahyde vinyl in 1963, but with sales already faltering, the reputation of the shoddy 1962 upholstery didn't help matters.

Chassis and engineering

Because of Studebaker's poor financial shape, the underpinnings of the car remained very similar to previous Hawks. For that matter, there wasn't much difference, chassis-wise, between a 1962 Hawk and a 1953 Starliner/Starlight.

For 1962, a Hawk buyer could choose from either two- or four-barrel carbureted versions of Studebaker's 289-cubic-inch (4.7-liter) V-8 engine (210 or 225 horsepower) teamed with standard three-speed manual, overdrive, four-speed or Flight-O-Matic automatic transmission.

Rear view of a 1962 GT Hawk

Beginning with the 1963 model year, the "Jet Thrust" R-series V-8 engines designed for the Avanti could be ordered throughout the Studebaker line, with the naturally aspirated R1 delivering 240 bhp (180 kW), the supercharged R2 giving 289 bhp (216 kW) and the limited-production supercharged 304.5 (5.0 L) cubic inch R3 powerplant issuing forth a full 335 bhp (250 kW). Handling and braking improvements were made to match the high-performance engines, with front and rear anti-roll bars, rear radius rods, heavy-duty springs, and front disc brakes all available ala carte or in a "Super Hawk" package (introduced mid year) with an R1 or R2 engine. Avanti engines that were factory installed in Hawks (and Larks) had serial numbers beginning with "JT" (for R1) and "JTS" (for R2), rather than the "R" and "RS" prefixes used in Avantis.

The GT Hawk was fairly light for an American car of its class and era, and any of these engines made it a sound performer; the blown R-engines just amplified the Hawk's performance capabilities. Despite the fact that Studebaker's V-8 was a heavy engine for its size, the Hawk was, by most accounts, a car with surprisingly good handling, as well as strong straight-line performance.

Annual styling refinements


For 1963 the car was slightly restyled, with refinements to the front, sides, and rear. Round parking lights below the headlights replaced the previous rectangular ones, set into the corners of the newly-closed side grilles that bore a squared pattern of lines over fine mesh. This same squared mesh pattern was carried over onto the main grille, replacing the simple fine mesh of the 1962 models. Early in 1963 production the parking light bezels were changed and the right side of the dash became woodgrain, matching the area around the instruments. The doors had red, white, and blue emblems added next to the Gran Turismo emblems, and at the rear, the aluminum overlay's colors were reversed and red, white, and blue were added to the Hawk emblem on the top of the trunk lid. Inside, 1963 Hawks have vertical pleats in the seat upholstery, replacing the 1962's horizontal pleats, and have far superior vinyl.

1963,left; 1964,right


For the 1964 model year, the GT saw some extensive design changes. Tooling money was finally appropriated to eliminate the grooved trunk lid that had required the 1962-63Hawks' faux rear "grille." The new, smooth trunklid bore a script "Studebaker Hawk" nameplate. Another grille change was made, this time with two new features: A Hawk emblem was centered in the grille, and a circle-S hood ornament (shared with the regular '64 Studebaker passenger cars) graced the top of the grille shell.

Perhaps the most interesting and notable exterior change involved the top of the car. Stevens, who had envisioned a half-vinyl-covered roof as part of the original Gran Turismo design, finally got his way with the '64 model. The new "Sport Roof" was made available in two colors (white or black) at a cost of $65.

New wheelcovers, shared with the rest of the '64 passenger-car line, were also added, along with painted dots on the headliner vinyl (replacing holes used in 1962-63), new silver-threaded cloth upholstery, larger upper-instrument-panel pad and a new lower-instrument-panel pad, and horizontal pleats on the side upholstery panels (replacing vertical ones). And, for the first time, Hawk buyers could order an AM-FM radio as a factory-installed option.

The Gran Turismo goes to Bonneville ... and stretches its wings in NASCAR, too

Andy Granatelli, then president of Studebaker's Paxton Products Division, took two 1964-model Gran Turismo Hawks to the Bonneville Salt Flats in September and October 1963. Both cars, which left the South Bend factory with regular-production 289 V8 engines, were retrofitted with R-series high-performance 304.5-cubic-inch V8s that were built for Studebaker by Paxton.

At Bonneville during the September session, the R3-powered car (which was supercharged), designated #5, ran the flying kilometer at a speed of 157.29 miles per hour (253.13 km/h). The R4-powered car (naturally aspirated, but with dual four-barrel carburetors), car #4, set a fastest average speed of 147.86 miles per hour (237.96 km/h).

When Granatelli and company returned to the flats in October, the R3 car was driven to a top speed of 154 miles per hour (248 km/h), while the R4 car made several runs at more than 135 miles per hour (217 km/h).

The Hawks were among several Studebakers that were run at Bonneville during this time period. The company's cars set 72 USAC records in September, and raised that to 337 the following month. Most of the records were set by the company's Lark-based Daytona convertibles, but the Hawks made a more than credible showing.

Impressed by this display of performance, Indianapolis, Indiana's Dick Passwater, a USAC and NASCAR Grand National driver in the 1950s and 1960s, purchased the R3-powered car from Granatelli following the Bonneville runs. Passwater convinced Studebaker to sponsor him, and he entered the car in the 1964 Yankee 300, as well as some other races, including some on dirt tracks. The car's best showing came in the Yankee 300, when Passwater finished tenth despite having brake problems with the car that forced him out of the race.

As a humorous aside, Passwater replaced the Studebaker engine in the Bonneville-tested Hawk with a Pontiac mill for the 1965 racing season, using a little bit of chicanery (he placed the Stude engine's valve covers over the Pontiac covers. In a 2001 story written by Denny LeRoy for Jet Thrust News, a Studebaker enthusiast publication, Passwater said of his engine swap (which evidently went unnoticed by race officials), "We cheated back then and sometimes we got caught, but most of the time we didn’t."

In the marketplace

Despite Studebaker's efforts to revitalize the Hawk, sales were slow, as indicated by the figures shown below. Sales figures for two of the GT Hawk's primary competitors, the Ford Thunderbird and the Pontiac Grand Prix, are included for comparison purposes:

Year GT Hawk Sales GT Hawk Export Sales Thunderbird Sales Grand Prix Sales
1962 8,388 947 78,011 30,195
1963 4,009 625 63,313 72,959
1964* 1,484 283 92,465 63,810

* Studebaker ceased production at its South Bend factory, including all GT Hawk production, on 20 December 1963. Figures shown for the 1964 Thunderbird and Grand Prix are for the entire 1964 model year.

Studebaker considered the GT Hawk very much a European-style GT, and accordingly the car was sold in Europe and elsewhere, though not in great numbers. Models shipped to Great Britain and Australia were equipped with right-hand-drive.

End of the line and collectibility

When Studebaker closed its South Bend, Indiana plant in December 1963, the GT Hawk was among the models discontinued by the company, which consolidated all production in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where manufacture of the Lark lasted only two more years, using Chevrolet-based engines.

The last GT Hawk, bearing serial number 64V-20197, was painted Astra White and was sold to a (now-deceased) California resident, who owned it until the mid-1980s. It is believed that this GT Hawk still exists today. This car has the distinction of being the last Lark-type or Hawk automobile produced in South Bend that was sold to a private individual.

Today, the Gran Turismo Hawk is considered fairly collectable, although prices are affordable, reflecting the car's specialist interest. The GT Hawk is recognized as a Milestone car by the Milestone Car Society.

1955 Studebaker President Speedster

1955 Studebaker President Speedster hardtop coupe

The 1955 Studebaker President Speedster was Studebaker's first step toward the sporty car, and the forerunner to the memorable Hawks. The most expensive offering in this year's revived top-line President series, this two-door hardtop featured a special interior with quilted-pattern leather and vinyl upholstery and a full complement of white-on-black instruments set into a dash with a tooled-metal appliqué.

A high-performance rendition of the Studebaker small-block V-8, now bored out to 259.2 cid, was standard on the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster. The midyear Speedsters shared the heavy, more chrome-laden "fish-lip" front-end styling adopted for '55 across the line.

All Speedsters wore two or three-tone paint jobs in garish color combinations like the unforgettable "lemon and lime" (shown above).

Pluses of the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster:

Historical interest
Excellent performance
A driver's cockpit
Another Studebaker Milestone car

Minuses of the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster:

Retrograde facelift of the clean 1953-1954 Studebaker models

Significant rust problems

Oil leaks
Production of the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster:


Specifications of the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster:

Wheelbase, inches: 120.5

Length, inches: 204.4

Weight, pounds: 3,301

Price, new: $3,253

Engines for the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster:

Type Size Horsepower Years

ohv V-8 259.2 cid 185 1955

Studebaker Speedster

Rob Ballard's 1955 Studebaker Speedster

Rob Ballard thought he may never find another 1955 Studebaker President Speedster after he passed up buying one from a seller in Australia because shipping would be so costly.

In a curious twist, however, that experience eventually led him, via e-mails from England, Holland, Australia and Texas, to another Speedster in California. By then, he said, he had learned not to quibble, and he snapped it up.

Ballard’s fascination with this rare Studebaker coupe started when he first saw one about five years ago. “I just fell in love with that car,” he said. The Studebaker coupe, designed by Raymond Loewy in 1953, is an icon. Loewy was an industrial designer who also penned the Lucky Strike package and logos for Shell, Exxon, Greyhound and Nabisco.

Loewy’s 1953 Studebaker coupe is touted as one of the top auto designs of all time, and his 1963 Studebaker Avanti has always been given high praise as well. Ballard’s Speedster has the distinctive profile and shape of the 1953. Priced at $3,253, it was the most expensive Studebaker until the supercharged 1957 Golden Hawk.

Ballard’s Speedster has Stewart-Warner gauges, a turned-metal finish on the instrument panel and diamond-tufted leather upholstery. The engine, sourced from Packard, is a Passmaster 259-cubic-inch V-8 with 185 horsepower.

Ballard said that of the 2,215 Speedsters produced, only 424 had this color scheme.

His car was originally a gift to actress Mary Brian from her husband, George Tomasini. From the 1920s through 1947, Brian appeared in 87 movies, including “Front Page” and “Blessed Event.” Tomasini, a film editor who gained renown with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” “Psycho” and “The Birds,” died at age 55. Brian drove her Studebaker until age 87. Then she gave the car to her godson, Stuart Erwin, Jr., and he restored it. Ballard bought it from him. Brian died in 2002 at age 95.

Ballard owns a number of collectible cars, and he said each one is an “affair of the heart.” It’s easy to put too much money into restorations, he said, and you don’t often come out ahead on value. He owns classic cars and motorcycles because he loves them. He laughs when he says that everyone should own a vehicle from each decade of their life. And while he’s not quite there, he’s close. For Ballard, owning classic cars is all about enjoyment, and that’s why his grin is so wide when he drives them.

Rob Ballard feels fortunate to have his Speedster.

Studebaker Speedster was an automobile produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana produced during the 1955 model year. The vehicle is considered Studebaker’s Halo model for the 1955 season. Studebaker had previously used the Speedster name in the early 1920s.

The Speedster was a member of the Studebaker President series, and was based on Studebaker’s President hardtop coupe. For 1955, the company heavily restyled its models to incorporate a larger front bumper and a massive chrome grille more in keeping with American cars of the era.

The Speedster's list price started at $3,253, or about $800 more than a base 1955 President State hardtop. The reason was the 1955 President Speedster was loaded with standard equipment including: choice of Studebaker Automatic Drive or overdrive transmissions, power steering and brakes, dual exhaust, four-barrel carburetor, "Shoemaker-stitched" diamond-quilted genuine top-grain leather seating, carpeting front and rear, a map pocket (but no glove box) an eight-tube push-button radio, a Stewart-Warner 160 mph speedometer and 8,000 rpm tachometer in a simulated engine-turned facing, turn signals, electric clock, tinted glass, cigarette lighter, oil filter and oil bath air cleaner, dual backup lamps, triple horns, two-speed electric wipers, tubeless whitewall tires, simulated wire wheel covers and fog-light bumperettes.

There was also Speedster-specific trim including a hood-length hood ornament, stainless roof band, Speedster nameplates and checkered emblems as well as chrome-plated ashtrays, rear-view mirror, moldings and tailpipe extensions. They also came in 2- and 3-tone paint jobs, the most famous of which was called "lemon/lime" by spectators. Studebaker's moniker was Hialeah Green & Sun Valley Yellow.

1955 Studebaker Speedster

Studebaker produced 2,215 Speedsters during the 1955 model year.

Note that the green and white 1955 President hardtop described in the picture below as a Speedster is not a Speedster. It is designated in factory brochures as President State 5-passenger Hardtop.

Studebaker Commander

Studebaker's 'World's Champion' 1928 GB Regal Commander Six, pictured on a 4000 km journey from Sydney to Perth, Australia, in 1975.

The Studebaker Commander is the model-name of a long succession of automobiles produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (USA) and Studebaker of Canada Ltd of Walkerville and, later, Hamilton, Ontario (Canada). Studebaker began using the Commander name in 1927 and continued to use it until 1964, with the exception of 1936 and 1959-63. The model-name was applied to various positions in the company's product line-up from year to year.


The 1920's

Until the appearance of the 8-cylinder President in January 1928, all Studebaker cars of the 1920s were sixes. There were three basic models—the Light, the Special and the Big Six, developing 40 bhp (30 kW; 41 PS), 50 bhp (37 kW; 51 PS), and 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) respectively at 2000 rpm. The first Commander, in 1927, was a continuation of the mid-range Special Six, with a 226 cubic inch (3.7-litre) engine. Their inbuilt durability and toughness gained them great renown under worldwide conditions. The 1928 GB Commander was a descendant of the Big Six, being powered with the proven 354 cu in (5.8 L) engine, modified to deliver 75 bhp (56 kW; 76 PS) at 2400 rpm. In October 1928, three Commander sixes lined up at the Atlantic City speedway to challenge the 15,000-mile (24,000 km) speed record (64.25 mph) held by the much higher-priced Auburn straight-eight Speedster.

They not only accomplished that but then went on to establish new records up to 25,000 miles (40,000 km). The two sports roadsters averaged better than 65 mph (105 km/h) and the sedan, which had flipped on the icy boards during one of the night runs and had been hurriedly repaired, averaged almost 62 mph.

After this, the three cars were closely scrutinised, part by part, and it was established that they were strictly stock automobiles, identical in every respect to those available at any Studebaker showroom.

These sixes were the last descendants of rugged cars designed for poor roads in the early 20th century--loaded with torque and strong in construction. They were less well suited to the higher cruising speeds made possible by better roads in later years.


1935 Commander roadster.

In 1935, the Commander was dropped from Studebaker’s product line, only to be reinstated in 1937 when the name was applied to Studebaker’s least expensive range formerly known as the Studebaker Dictator. Studebaker introduced the Champion in 1939, and the Commander line was again repositioned, now as the midrange vehicle.


Immediately following World War II, Studebaker dropped its President models, and the Commander again was elevated in the lineup. Studebaker also again rolled out an extended wheelbase model of the Commander, the Land Cruiser.


1950 Studebaker Champion

The 1950 Champion differed from the Commander, which had a distinctive bumper, carried over from 1949, longer front fenders and large headlight bezels, as well as a distinctive jet-style hood ornament.

In 1955, Studebaker reintroduced the President name for its premium models and 'Commander' was applied to the mid-range products. The Commander line was extended with the introduction of a lower-priced Custom sub-series, being basically a Champion with a V8 engine. Studebaker placed the name on hiatus at the end of the 1958 model year.


In 1963, Studebaker again resurrected the Commander name for the 1964 model year, applying it to the next-to-lowest-priced Lark model, the Challenger being below. 1964Studebaker Commanders are easily identified by their single headlight arrangement. The 1965 Commander shared the dual-headlight system of the Daytona and Cruiser.

Studebaker Scotsman

The 1957 Studebaker Scotsman was advertised as inexpensively priced car for those who wanted a "big car feel".

The Scotsman was an automobile series produced by the Studebaker Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana during model years 1957 and 1958, and also as a low-priced series of pickup trucks in 1958 and 1959.


When Studebaker-Packard's financial situation worsened in 1955 and 1956, company leaders decided to dump their earlier attempts to meet the "Big Three" automakers head-on and explore other market niches, specifically in low-priced, basic transportation.

The Scotsman was key to this new approach. Using the Studebaker Champion's two- and four-door sedan and two door station wagon bodies, the company created, essentially, a vehicle which could undercut the Chevrolet 150 and Chevrolet Delray, the Ford Custom, and the Plymouth Plaza in price, all of which were price-leader models themselves with minimal frills.

To reduce the price of the Scotsman (a name based upon the stereotype that implies Scottish frugality) the cars were built with minimum options. Hub caps and grilles for the cars were painted; buyers paid extra for a basic recirculating heater for the passenger compartment, as Studebaker's famous "Climatizer" fresh-air heater was deemed too expensive an option for the car. Interiors were fitted with painted cardboard panels – the only upholstery available was gray vinyl. In place of carpeting, Scotsman models were equipped with rubberized floor coverings. The only chrome to grace the car was carried by the front and rear bumpers and on some minor interior parts; painted bumpers, however, could be specially ordered and reduced the cost of the car even further. On two-door models, even the rear windows were fixed in place and did not roll down, which, although common today, was unusual in the 1950s. Windshield wipers were standard, although only because they were considered a safety feature. The only apparent frill was Studebaker's heavily promoted "Cyclops Eye" speedometer, which itself was the same as that used on the 1956 Studebakers (the rest of the '57 models received a wider, restyled speedometer housing).

The car reminded many of the "blackout" cars of the shortened 1942 model year that removed all chrome trim for cars due to war materials rationing.

The number of factory-installed options available on the Scotsman was purposely limited, with Studebaker officials even going so far as instructing dealers to avoid installing extra-cost accessories on the cars. The prevailing opinion was that if a buyer wanted frills on an economical car, he or she could spend an extra $200 and buy a regular Champion.

Priced below the competition starting at a patriotic $1,776 for the two-door sedan, Studebaker officials projected sales of 4,000 cars for the short 1957 model year. To their great surprise, they sold over 9,000 -- more than twice what they had hoped. To the company's surprise, the car did not appeal only to the frugal or those unable to afford something fancier. Such wealthy notables as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were all too pleased to make the Scotsman their car of choice.

Despite its austerity, the Scotsman delivered exceptional value and economy. The small six-cylinder engine delivered a claimed 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) of gasoline when the overdrive transmission was chosen. This was unheard-of mileage for a car of its size in 1957, although it came at a price: With only 101 horsepower (75 kW), the Scotsman was by no means a rip-roaring performer. It took about 20 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour from rest, at a time when sub-10-second zero-to-60 mph times were becoming more common, even among the low-priced field. However, it appears that few complained about poor performance in the early days of the Interstate highway.

Following up on the initial success of the first Scotsman, the 1958 models were changed little. An ever-so-slightly altered grille and round taillamp lenses were adopted, which allowed the company to keep prices as inexpensive as possible. Although the 1958 Champion received added-on tailfins in the back and fender-mounted pods up front to accept four headlamps (two per side) as was the trend in '58, the Scotsman remained finless in the rear and kept the old dual headlamp system.

In a push to increase fleet sales, Studebaker also offered the Econ-o-miler in 1958, based on the body of the 120½" wheelbase President sedan. The Econ-o-miler used the Scotsman's frugal exterior and interior elements and was pushed as a taxi model. In addition, Studebaker's police-package cars in 1958 were often Scotsmans with Commander and President V-8 engines.

The Scotsman, which got off to a great start for '57, continued its success in 1958, outselling the Champion, Commander and President lines combined. The Scotsman proved that Studebaker need not attempt to follow the styling trends of the rest of the industry. Building on the Scotsman's clean-lined look, Studebaker engineers and designers took the next step, creating a new compact car, the Lark quickly and on the cheap for 1959. The Lark would not be nearly so austere as the Scotsman, but the concept of a car that could seat six adults in a package markedly different from those offered by the other U.S. automakers would continue to find favor, at least for a while.


With the success of the Scotsman car, Studebaker officials believed that there could likewise be an untapped market for a low-priced, basic pickup truck as well.

To serve this market, the basic pickup was given a restyling of its own, going back to the 1949-53 style of grille and front-end sheetmetal, with a few modifications.

If the Scotsman car was austere, the truck was positively barren. Most trucks in the 1950s came standard with one taillamp, one sun visor, one windshield wiper, and one arm rest -- all on the driver's side. The Scotsman followed this philosophy with one exception: There was no arm rest. Such frugality would extend outside as well. Most trucks had little chrome in those years, but the Scotsman had none. Simple plaid decals with the Studebaker name graced the hood, dashboard and tailgate.

Stripping the basic truck to an even more basic level did allow Studebaker to advertise the lowest-priced pickup in the U.S. in 1958; it cost less than $1,500 to drive home a standard Scotsman pickup.

Although the general auto and truck market was down in 1958, Studebaker's little rig sold reasonably well; in fact, if it were not for the Scotsman pickups, Studebaker's truck division, which had a bad year, would have shown positively frightening results.

The Scotsman truck, unlike its car namesake, would continue in 1959, exchanging its plaid decal nameplates for chromed "S" and "Studebaker" emblems. An inexpensive "Deluxe Equipment Group" enabled buyers to fit their Scotsmans with the same grille and front sheetmetal as the regular Studebaker trucks. Two new models were added as well, although these were comprised simply of additional engines from which to choose. Again, the pickups sold well, outselling the standard "Deluxe" line of trucks handily.

The Scotsman was replaced for the 1960 model year by the Studebaker Champ pickup, which was based on the truck chassis with a cab derived from the contemporary Lark four-door sedan.

Studebaker Land Cruiser

1953 Land Cruiser

The Studebaker Land Cruiser was an automobile produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (USA) from 1934 until 1954. The Land Cruiser debuted at the World's Fair alongside the Silver Arrow, a product Studebaker's former premium make Pierce-Arrow.

The Land Cruiser was introduced at the 1933 at the Chicago World's Fair as an extensively streamlined sedan. Many of the same aerodynamic features of the car were shared with Pierce-Arrow's Silver Arrow show car that also debuted at the fair. Work on both automobiles was authorized prior to the company being placed in receivership in March 1933, and Pierce being sold to investors.

Production Land Cruisers began to appear in dealer showrooms in the fall of 1933 as 1934 models. The Land Cruiser was designated as a body style, and classified in the President model range (C Series) for the year. It retailed for $1,510 FOB.

The body style was shared between the President and Commander series for 1936. From 1937 to 1940, the car was classified as the Commander Cruiser and President Cruiser. The Land Cruiser name officially returned in 1941 and 1942. In addition to offering its Land Cruisers in the Commander and President lines, for 1941 Studebaker introduced the ultra-luxurious Skyway Land Cruiser which featured a slightly curved single pane windshield, rear fender skirts and premium details and fabrics.

The 1947 models were so revolutionary that it had other car builders scurrying back to their drawing boards. While other manufacturers settled for re-chroming their pre-war models, the 1947 Studebaker, touted as "First by Far with a Postwar Car", had a completely new body. And the Land Cruiser rode the company's longest wheelbase (124"). It featured center-opening doors (called "suicide doors" by some) and was powered by Studebaker's straight-6 engine. The Land Cruiser suggested price of $2043 included a 1-piece curved windshield, an electric clock and carpeting front and rear. Only minor trim changes for 1948 brought a Land Cruiser price of $2265 and in 1949, it was increased to $2328.

Since it was a seller’s market after WWII, Studebaker felt no need to change the basic design of the car, even though they knew that other makers would have “new” cars in 1949. Studebaker coasted along with the old bodies until 1952.

But 1950 saw the “Next Look” in cars—Studebaker’s answer to the other manufacturer’s 1949 models. Considered very radical for the era, it had 3-point front styling (called the “bullet-nose” by some). Over 10,000 more Land Cruisers were sold in 1950 than in 1949. Studebaker Automatic Drive was introduced mid-year and was arguably the most advanced automatic transmission of the day. It featured reverse gear lock-out, hill-holder, anti-creep and a locking torque converter which allowed direct drive with virtually no converter power loss in high gear. The price of the 1950 Land Cruiser went down to $2187

Sales in 1951 skyrocketed, an increase of almost 12,000 over 1950. This can probably be attributed to the introduction of the lively new Studebaker V-8 engine that year. The front styling stayed virtually the same, with minor downplay of the 3 points. The price was raised to $2289.

The 1952 Land Cruiser was the last to use real glass for the tail and parking light lenses. Its grille, designated by some as the "clam digger", was actually a preview of the next generation.

The 1953 Land Cruisers were complete departure from the ’47-’52 models. The 1953 model sold retail for $2316. They were built on the same frame as the new (and famous) Starliner and Starlight coupe models but, as with any new model, there were some initial problems, primarily with the fit of the front fenders. With the engine out of the car, they fit. With the engine in the car, they didn’t. This was found to be primarily the fault of using a thinner gauge steel for the frame. The theory was that if the frame could flex a little, the car would ride better. The problem was, it flexed too much. If you jacked up one corner of the car, to change a tire, for example, the frame flexed so much that you could either not open the door or could not close it. There were also fewer frame re-enforcements than in subsequent years. As you might imagine, this problem caused many a late night conference and hasty fixes and tended to give the new model a bad name almost immediately.

Then a problem with the new (and revolutionary, for its day) mechanical power steering raised its head. It only required 2 pounds of pressure to turn the steering wheel but it was noisy. Only 100 of these units were sold before Studebaker began using GM Saginaw type units.

The Studebaker company had a problem with the Mercedes Benz company. A few years in the future, Studebaker would be the American distributor for that brand but in 1953, the M-B tri-star emblem was turned upside down and put on the front and rear of Studebaker cars. In the upper part, the Commander had a gold “8” while the Champion a gold “S”. The upside-down tri-star was used elsewhere in the car. The wheel covers, back-up light lenses, radio delete plate, horn button and the rear ashtray on the Starliner/Starlight coupe—all had this emblem. M-B complained and Studebaker hastily re-designed the emblems. On the hood and trunk, they removed the M-B look alike and on the Commander, replaced it with a large gold “8” in the middle of a chrome “V”. On the Champion, a gold “S” replaced the “8. When the other items ran their course, they were replaced by non-tri-star items. These are now collectors' items.

The construction problems were corrected in the 1954 Land Cruiser models with heavier metal in the frames and an additional re-enforcing crossmember. The famous designer, Eleanor LeMaire was retained to brighten up the interiors of the new cars. She demanded 4 more colorful interiors than previously, getting away from the one drab gray pin stripe color of the previous year. These new colors included green, blue and tan as well as an opulent silver-gray. The front grille bars had 5 vertical fins each to differentiate them from the earlier model. New, larger non-automatically adjusting brakes were included in the package, shortening stopping distances by 37 feet (11 m) according to Motor Trend. Engine horsepower increased to 127 as the result of a .5 compression increase (to 7.5).

There was also a smoother looking instrument panel, doing away with the individually hooded gauges of the previous year. The 1954 Land Cruiser sold for $2438.

All in all, many people are of the opinion that the 1954 Land Cruiser was better designed than the 1955 Ultra-Vista wrap around windshield President models. While it was in keeping with most other brands of the era, the large amount of chrome (demanded by the sales department) caused many people to shy away from the ’55 Studebakers. In 1955 the name was changed.

Top-trimmed Studebakers from 1955-1958 went by the Studebaker President name (revived from the prewar President models). After a four year run, The President, in turn, was dropped at the end of 1958 to make way for the new compact Lark model.

In 1961, Studebaker added a Lark model, the Cruiser, which continued through the 1966model year. This model was built on the long wheelbase chassis and was a better equipped and more luxurious version of the 4-door Lark.

Studebaker Champion

Studebaker Champion

Manufacturer Studebaker Production 1939-1958

Assembly South Bend, Indiana

Body style(s)

4-door sedan
2-door coupe
4-door station wagon
2-door convertible

Layout FR layout

First generation Production 1939-1941

Second generation Production 1942-1945

Third generation Production 1946-1950

Fourth generation Production 1951-1956

Fifth generation Production 1957-1958

The Champion was an automobile of the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. Production for the model began at the beginning of the 1939 model year and continued until 1958, when the model was phased out in preparation for the 1959 Studebaker Lark. Prior to that time, Studebaker had been placed under receivership, and the company was trying to return to a profitable position.

Success of the Champion in 1939 was imperative to Studebaker’s survival following weak sales during the 1938 model year.

Unlike most other cars, the Champion was designed from a "clean sheet"; that is, having no restrictions caused by necessarily utilizing older parts or requiring the subsequent use of its components in heavier vehicles. Careful market research guided the selection of features, but a key principle adhered to was the engineering watchword "Weight is the enemy." For its size, it was one of the lightest cars of its era; its main competitor in this regard being the Willys Americar, which did not have so thoroughgoing a design process. And the engineering was good; its compact straight-6 engine was maintained to the end of the 1964 model year (with a change to an OHV design in 1961).

The Champion was one of Studebaker's best-selling models by virtue of its low price (US$660 for the two-door business coupe in 1939), durable engine and styling. Styling for the car was handled by industrial designer Raymond Loewy who was under contract with Studebaker for the design of their automobiles. Champions won Mobilgas economy runs by posting the highest gas mileage tests. During World War II, Champions were coveted for their high mileage in a time when gas was rationed in the United States. From 1943 to 1945 the Champion motor was used as the powerplant for the unique Studebaker M29 Weasel personnel and cargo carrier, which also used four sets of the Champion's leaf springs arranged transversely for its bogie suspension.

1950 Studebaker Champion convertible

In 1946, Studebaker built a limited number of cars based on their 1942 body shell in preparation of its new body and design roll out in 1947. All Studebakers built in 1946 were designated Skyway Champion models.

In 1957, the Champion Scotsman, a stripped down Champion, was introduced by Studebaker in an attempt to compete with the Big Three and Nash in the low price field. Shortly after its introduction, the car was redesignated the Studebaker Scotsman.

Studebaker Dictator

Studebaker Dictator 4-Door Sedan 1937

1937 Studebaker Dictator coupe in the collection of the Studebaker National Museum.

The Studebaker Dictator was an automobile produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (USA) from 1927 through 1937. Model year 1928 was the first full year of Dictator production.

In the mid-1920s, Studebaker began renaming its vehicles. The model previously known as the Studebaker Standard Six became the Dictator during the 1927 model year; internally these models were designated model GE. The name was chosen to imply that Studebaker's model "dictated the standard" that other automobile makes would follow.

Dictators were the low-end price leader of the Studebaker marque, followed (in ascending order) by the Studebaker Commander and Studebaker President series. In 1929, Studebaker began offering an 8-cylinder engine for the Dictator series. Dictators were available in a full range of body-styles.

At the end of the 1935 model year, Studebaker suspended production of the Commander, marketing only its Dictator and President series in 1936.

Consequences of the Dictator name

In retrospect, the choice of the model name might seem unfortunate. Benjamin L. Alpers begins his history of American perceptions of dictators, Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture: Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy, 1920s-1950s, with the introduction of the Studebaker Dictator: "There were, of course, some political problems connected with the name 'Dictator'. A number of the European monarchies to which Studebaker exported the car were wary of the moniker. Diplomatically, Studebaker marketed its Standard Six as the 'Director' in these countries. In the United States, apparently, the name appears initially to have caused no problems."

Studebaker had chosen the Dictator name at a moment when the only dictator that would have immediately come to an American mind was Benito Mussolini, who was widely admired in the US for the image of audacious boldness and strength that successfully sold cars, in spite of well-publicized fascist violence (Alpers 2003). However the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany tainted the word dictator, and Studebaker abruptly and without fanfare (or surviving internal correspondence) discontinued the Dictator at the end of the 1936 model year, and replaced it in the 1937 model year and beyond with the Studebaker Commander moniker.

Studebaker President

1931 Studebaker President four seasons roadster

Studebaker President Series 90X Eight 7-Passenger Sedan 1931

1932 President Convertible Coupe in the collection of the Studebaker National Museum.

The Studebaker President was the premier automobile model manufactured by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (USA) during the 1926 to 1942 model years. The nameplate was reintroduced in 1955 and used until the end of the 1958 model when the name was retired.

Prior to mid-1926, Studebaker’s premium model was the Studebaker Big Six. The first automobile bearing the name President was unveiled on July 23, 1926, designated as the ES model in internal Studebaker memos. It was powered by a 354-cubic-inch (5,800 cc) six-cylinder engine until the appearance in January 1928 of the smaller and smoother straight-eight engine of 312.5 cubic inches (5,121 cc). Albert Russel Erskine, Studebaker’s president, spared no expense in his goal of making the President the finest automobile on the American road. Presidents produced from 1928 to 1933 established land speed records, some of which went unbroken for three and a half decades.

The primary advance of the 1931 engine was that the crankshaft was drilled for oil passage to each of its nine large main bearings. At this time, the straight-eight engines of other firms had only five bearings; connecting the crank throws of every pair of cylinders between said bearings, their crankshafts had a heavy diagonal beam to take the stress, and the lubrication of the bearings was not as effective. Other advances for performance were that the valves had spring dampers and the muffler was a straight-through type. With these improvements the engine achieved 122 horsepower (91 kW). It also had modern filters for air, oil, and fuel, an improved thermostat, and a Lanchester vibration damper.

In 1932, Studebaker introduced "Ovaloid" headlights which were oblong in shape and made identification of the President and other "senior" Studebaker models easier. Presidents manufactured in this era were considered to rival more expensive marques such as Cadillac, Packard and Chrysler’s Imperial model range. Studebaker went into receivership during 1933-34, Erskine and the era of the big, impressive President came to an abrupt end.

For 1934, Studebaker trimmed its model lineup and streamlined its vehicles. The company designed a new body, the Land Cruiser, which was offered on the Dictator, Commander and President. The Land Cruiser models were easily identified by their extreme streamlining features, unusual 4-piece rear window, trunk and the full fender skirts on the rear of the vehicle. The new Presidents were smaller and less impressive than their predecessors, though still fine automobiles.

For 1935, Presidents and Commanders offered an optional steel sliding roof similar to sunroofs common on vehicles today. In 1936, all Studebaker cars featured the "Planar" suspension system, and offered the "Startix" automatic engine-starting system as an optional accessory. Vehicles manufactured from 1936 also showed the influence of industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who was hired as Studebaker’s design consultant, and Helen Dryden who specialised in interior styling.[4] Studebaker made its Hill-Holder device (an anti-rollback brake system) standard on the President in that year.

In 1938, the company offered a remote-controlled "Miracle-Shift" transmission which featured a dashboard-mounted shifter. The unit was discontinued in 1939 when the transmission shift lever was moved to the steering column.

For 1941, the President received a new body style, a four-door sedan with rear-opening rear doors, as opposed to the then-conventional front-opening (suicide) rear doors. This vehicle was designated the Skyway President, recognizable by its concealed running-boards and lack of rear quarter-windows. This style continued for the shortened 1942 model, after which the President was discontinued. The Skyway designation was, however, used for shortened 1946 Studebaker Champions.

Studebaker reintroduced the President nameplate in 1955 when it was applied to all premium-trimmed vehicles. The most noteworthy of these later Presidents was the 1955 Studebaker Speedster. The name was discontinued after the 1958 model year, when Studebaker began focusing on the compact Studebaker Lark.

Classic car status

The Classic Car Club of America, regarded as the American authority for accreditation of "classic car" status, recognizes only the 38,403 8-cylinder FA & FB model Studebaker Presidents produced in 1928 and those produced between 1929 and 1933 as “full classics”.