Gear Head Tuesday – 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk

Gear Head

56J - Mocha/Doeskin

Hat tip to Studebaker owner “Chris-to-Fear” for bringing this Golden Hawk to our attention. This ’56 Golden Hawk was offered by the U.K. Auction House, Coys, at their 8th August auction at Nurburgring in Germany.

Two Tuesdays from today, we will cover the evolution of the Studebaker Hawk series.

The year 1956 saw the introduction of the Studebaker Hawk series, a series that ran through the 1964 model year. The Hawk’s lineage began with the beautiful 1953-1954 Studebaker Starlight/Starliner “Loewy” coupes.

The Raymond Loewy industrial design firm was contracted to Studebaker for the design of Studebaker cars for several years. The “Loewy” coupes of ’53-’54 represent the pinnacle of the Loewy firm’s work for Studebaker. Although the cars are commonly called the “Loewy coupes,” and Loewy himself is often thought to have designed them, the fact is that Loewy barely put a pencil to the design. These still-beautiful coupes are almost entirely the work of Robert Bourke who was on Loewy’s team at Studebaker. The Starlight coupe was the pillared version and the Starliner was the hardtop version.

1953StudebakerCommander

The 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner

The 1956 Hawks were offered in four trim levels and two body styles. Two of the trim levels were based on the Starlight pillared coupe and two on the Starliner hardtop coupe. The Golden Hawk hardtop was the top of the line and was fitted with the Packard 352 cubic inch V8 making 275 horsepower.

This 1956 car was assembled in Studebaker’s Los Angeles (Vernon), California plant in 1955 and was delivered on 20th December of that year. It is an early production Golden Hawk, number 215 of all 1956 Golden Hawks, 4071 built. Robert Bourke did most of the design work on the ’56 Hawk series.

This Golden Hawk remained for 30 years in the possession of its first owner in Ohio. It was next bought by Tom Borders, of Dayton, Ohio. Borders, who later moved to Pineville, West Virginia, executed a frame-off restoration of the car which lasted five years, from 1998 until 2002. A number of his letters about his restoration are included in the car’s history file. The car was carefully restored in its original two-tone colors of Mocha and Doeskin, one of the most popular combinations for the Golden Hawks. The restored car was purchased by Gene’s Classics in  New Jersey, who then sold it to Jan Dyck in Holland. Jan Dyck then used the car to successfully enter the Mille Miglia in 2012. The Golden Hawk 1956, fitted with Packard’s powerful big-block V8, was the best all-round, high performance car of 1956.

56J racing

In ‘Speed Age’ magazine’s track test (March 1956), the car was driven on a rain-soaked track by Bill Holland at lap speeds of over 120 mph. Some feel that by installing the largest V8 in the smallest and lightest body, Studebaker created the first muscle car, some 8 years before Pontiac’s GTO. The Golden Hawk had the second highest power-to-weight ratio of any American production car. Contemporary road tests verified the Golden Hawk could cover the ¼ mile faster than the Corvette, Thunderbird or Chrysler 300B. In top speed, only the mighty Chrysler 300B could equal it.

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The Golden Hawk was sold to another person in Europe in April 2013 who adapted it for historic race use, being exceptionally careful not to alter the car substantially, allowing it to be returned to original specification. The work was carried out by the noted Goodwood race preparation expert, Chris Snowdon, at his CS Racing outfit in Bosham, close to Goodwood itself. The Golden Hawk was raced at the Goodwood Revival 2014 in the prestigious St. Mary’s Trophy alongside F1 and Le Mans legend, Jochen Mass, who, when asked what he drove at The Revival in 2014 said: “A number of spectacular cars: A Cobra, a Mustang, a 300SL with gull wing doors and a Studebaker Gold Hawk: ‘The Lead Swan’, – just great!”.

Much of the text was adapted from the Coy’s of Kensington catalog for the Nurburgring auction.

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4 Comments

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  1. Ahhh, I remember the Golden Hawk well. Every boy I knew wanted one. I knew an older lady who had a pink one. Seemed sacrilegious, THEN. hahahahaa

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  2. Maximilian Brand 18/08/2015 — 07:46

    What a wonderful car it was, what great cars Studebaker built during their existence. I remember the days when Mercedes Benz signed many Studebaker dealers for Mercedes dealers. They wouldn’t have done this if Studebaker didn’t have an excellent reputation for quality.

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    • Yes! The Golden Hawk was quite a car – and the Mercedes-Benz connection saved many a Studebaker dealer as Studebaker itself faded. Studebaker had managed to wrest the distribution rights for Mercedes from the legendary Max Hoffman organization in 1958.

      Like

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