Hat tip to “Chris-to-Fear” for the link to the “Bring A Trailer” post about this rare Studebaker.
We’ve covered in various Gear Head Tuesday posts how, anticipating a grand merger between Nash, Hudson, Packard and Studebaker into what was to become American Motors, Packard president James Nance bought Studebaker. In doing so, Nance unwittingly fertilized the seeds of Packard’s demise, seeds planted by previous Packard president George Christopher. One of the great ironies of Packard’s demise is that, although it was Studebaker that (in Nance’s words) bleed Packard white, it was Studebaker that survived as an auto producer for another 10 years after Packard closed. We’ve seen how in the recession years of 1957 and 1958, Studebaker took their low-price Champion model, de-contented it further and garnered some badly needed sales by introducing their Scotsman model. The Scotsman begat the 1959 Lark economy compact car which sold well enough that Studebaker made money for the first time since the early 1950s. The success of the Lark was not to last. In 1960, GM, Ford and Chrysler introduced their own compact cars and took much of the momentum away from Studebaker.
By 1962, much of the bloom was off the compact car rose and Studebaker was once again out of cash needed for product development. Studebaker had become masters of trying to make silk purses out of sow’s ears in trying to find inexpensive ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors – most of whom would produce in a week what Studebaker would produce over the course of a year.
Against this backdrop, we have today’s car, a very rare 1962 Studebaker Lark Skytop. The Skytop was a retractable fabric roof option; one of those Studebaker devices that could be done on the cheap and still differentiate Studebaker from the competition. Although this type of roof was common on European cars, it was all but unheard of on American makes. (The original Rambler American convertible was, in effect, a retractable soft top car.) This type of retractable roof was not at all like the retractable hardtop roof Ford Skyliners of 1957-1959. As a matter of fact, the Skytop was SO European that it was sourced in Europe. (Hat tip to Geo. H. for pointing this out!)
Most of the Studebakers ordered with the Skytop option were built as Lark Regals, the better-trimmed version of the Lark. What makes this particular Lark interesting is that the Skytop was ordered as a Lark Deluxe. (It is ironic that in American car nomenclature of the time, the “Deluxe” models, Studebaker’s included, were usually the stripped down versions: rubber mats rather than carpet, lack of chrome inside and out, fewer amenities – but the words “De Luxe” are French for “luxury.”) So here we have a 1962 Lark Deluxe – with no radio, small hubcaps rather than full wheel covers, the 6 cylinder engine, de-chromed steering wheel and rubber floor mats fitted out with the expensive Skytop option! This Lark is one of only 45 in the Skytop registry.
Originally a California car, it was offered for sale at Motorcar Portfolio in Canton, Ohio. The car is showing only 73,000 miles. Painted in Studebaker’s “Riviera Blue,” it looks quite handsome in the photo in front of a mid-century “Atomic Ranch” architecture house.
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Studebaker Farm, Weatherford, TX