As we have covered previously, Studebaker found itself on the ropes yet again after the 1959 Lark briefly saved the company. Studebaker had been in decline since the badly botched introduction of its 1953 line. In 1961 the Studebaker board brought in Sherwood Egbert to end auto production. Instead, he mounted a Churchillian effort to revive the company’s car business. While the effort didn’t save the company, it did result in some of the most memorable cars Studebaker ever built: the Gran Turismo Hawk and the Avanti. Egbert brought Brooks Stevens on board to re-make the cars and Raymond Loewy was tasked with the project that yielded the Avanti. Stevens worked miracles with almost no money on the passenger car bodies. Over three model years, he grafted enough new sheet metal onto the cars that the 1964s looked like they were an all-new design. Steven’s re-working of the Hawk produced one of the finest designs of the ’60s with the bonus to Studebaker of the ’62 Gran Turismo Hawk costing the company $28 a car less to produce than the ’61 model. Bean counters today would be pleased with the $28 per car savings, but in 1960’s dollars, this was a very significant cost reduction. Despite the lower cost, the car looked new and fresh – and the design has aged well. Stevens’ Gran Turismo Hawk, like the Robert Bourke-designed Starliner hardtop coupe it is based on, is still a very handsome automobile. Here’s a fun Studebaker ad announcing the Gran Turismo Hawk (Never mind that the competitors’ cars shown aren’t necessarily ’62 models …) Click to play:
The Avanti created by the Loewy team during the Egbert era at Studebaker became another timeless design. Studebaker added unique features to its cars, things to differentiate itself from the Detroit herd. In this ad, Studebaker explains how its cars for 1964 were “Different By Design” (click to play):
With the feisty retired Marine Egbert sidelined by cancer, former Packard executive Byers Burlingame assumed command of Studebaker’s auto operations. When the vastly re-worked and improved ’64 Studebakers were not selling in the numbers Egbert had hoped for, Burlingame did the deed Egbert wouldn’t – he ended Studebaker’s U.S. auto production in December, 1963, not giving the fine ’64 line up a fair chance in the market. Everything in the U.S. paused in November, 1963 with the assassination of President Kennedy. In the new year, the country returned to its normal pace, but Burlingame saw to it that the South Bend-built ’64 Studebakers wouldn’t have the opportunity to prove their mettle in the marketplace.
“Unkle Jerry” weighs in from Lubbock, TX with this photo of a Lark VIII taken at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture:
This Lark is fitted with Studebaker’s trusty 259 cu. in V-8. The wheel covers are not stock and the paint on the front clip doesn’t quite match the rest of the body. Nit picking aside, it looks to be a solid car. Without seeing the front grille, we can’t tell if this is a ’59 or a ’60 model. Perhaps this Lark was first sold by Louis Kerr. “Unkle Jerry” also sent this photo of John Deere tractors on display at the Bayer museum:
Jerry identifies the tractors and scooters in the comments below, so I updated the post: “The John Deere are a 37 A, 52 R diesel, 60 530 lp 63 2010 lp, 420 . The Cushman scooters are a 64 and 59 models. Had fun at the tractor show with 60 other antique tractors.”
“B-Squared” found this neat photo – but I can’t identify the make of the pickup.
Are any of you able to identify it?