Rare bird: 1964 Gran Turismo Hawk fitted with the Avanti R-2 engine.
Studebaker’s famous Hawks evolved from Robert Bourke’s beautiful ’53-’54 Starliner/Starlight coupes. The Speedster of ’55 was a one year only model that anticipated the Hawk series which launched in 1956. As Studebaker stumbled through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, the Hawk line suffered neglect – until Sherwood Egbert arrived at Studebaker in 1961.
1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner (above); 1955 President Speedster (below)
The company had an uncanny knack for shooting itself in one foot even as it stepped forward with the other foot with the right product at the right time. Bourke’s Starliner/Starlight coupes are one example of this. The market was ready for such a dramatically beautiful car. But Studebaker botched the introduction of the coupes and lost thousands of sales as a result. Worse, they wouldn’t build the sedan version that Bourke and Raymond Loewy pleaded with management to build, foisting upon the public the awkward foreshortened sedan body of ’53-’54.
Likewise with the Golden Hawks, which were based on the Starliner hardtop “K” body Bourke penned, Studebaker failed to realize that the Hawk hardtop with the supercharged 289 cubic inch V-8 (after the Packard V-8 used in the original ’56 Golden Hawk was no longer available) was the car that predicted the personal luxury coupe market so deftly exploited by Ford beginning with its “Square Birds” of ’58-’60. Studebaker had the right car and had no clue they had it! Put one more shell in the chamber! Aim at the foot again!
Packard power! The original Golden Hawk of ’56 was powered by a 352 cu. in. Packard V-8.
1957 Golden Hawk – my first time to drive 100 mph was in a Hawk just like this one.
The South Bend company managed to rise from its death bed at the end of the ’58 model year when they introduced the ’59 Lark. Once again, it was the right car at the right time as had been the Champion when it was introduced in 1939. The Lark saved the company.
1961 Hawk – the last of the pillared coupe series.
The Hawk was continued – halfheartedly. Instead of continuing the Golden Hawk hardtop and marketing it against the “Square Birds”, Studebaker canned the hardtop and only offered the Silver Hawk – later known simply as “Hawk” – in the “C” body pillared coupe version and dropped the supercharged engine, though the normally aspirated 289 could still be ordered. The “C” body cars were still handsome but here the industry was at the height of the hardtop boom and Studebaker pulled their beautiful hardtop coupe from the line up. BLAM! Another toe blown off!
This nonsense with the Hawk went on until the end of the 1961 model year. Egbert hired Brooks Stevens to re-make the Studebaker sedans and Hawk while turning Raymond Loewy loose on the Avanti project.
Stevens worked fast and effectively – and with almost no budget. The result was the ’62 Gran Turismo Hawk. He turned the ’53 Starliner body shell into a elegant European-inspired hardtop coupe. The car has aged well. All these years later, Steven’s Gran Turismo Hawks are still very handsome.
1962 Gran Turismo Hawk
For 1963, there was a bit of trim shuffling but the big news for the ’63 Hawk line was the availability of the Avanti engines.
’63 Gran Turismo Hawk
Stevens achieved his gradual three year makeover of the Studebaker sedan line with the ’64s. His ’64 Gran Turismo Hawk had to make do with more trim shuffling – but the revised rear deck lid and tasteful trim changes on the sides make the ’64 the most handsome of the three model years of the Stevens-designed Hawks in the opinion of many Hawk enthusiasts.
The assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, TX in November, 1963 – just as the newest Studebakers in years were coming to market – had a chilling effect on the country. Seldom remembered today is Kennedy’s murder caused a pause in the economy. Not enough a pause to officially be labeled a recession, but retail sales nationwide took a hit that lasted for months.
This hurt Studebaker badly. And, with Egbert being sidelined with cancer, the Studebaker board, which had been itching to end automotive operations, struck. They used the excuse of unsold inventory of ’63 and ’64 Studebakers to justify shutting down production in South Bend – just before Christmas.
The upshot of this is that only 1,767 of the beautiful 1964 Gran Turismo Hawks were built.
A very rare ’64 Gran Turismo Hawk with the Avanti Super Hawk package.
One minute clip on the ’64 Hawk from the larger film “Different by Design”:
Studebaker Cheesecake, 1950 Champion Ta-Ta’s Edition
(Hat tip: “Chris-to-Fear”)
Hat tip: “B-Squared”: