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.