Gear Head Tuesday – 1964: The Hawk’s Last Flight

Gear Head

64 GT Super Hawk

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.

1953StudebakerCommander

1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner (above); 1955 President Speedster (below)

Speedster-Pimlico_Coraltone

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!

56_Golden_Hawk

Packard power! The original Golden Hawk of ’56 was powered by a 352 cu. in. Packard V-8.

57 Golden Hawk

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.

61 Hawk

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.

62-sudebaker-hawk-gt-011

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 Hawk GT fr

’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.

64 Studebaker GT Super Hawk

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”:

gear

Studebaker Cheesecake, 1950 Champion Ta-Ta’s Edition

(Hat tip: “Chris-to-Fear”)

Studebaker cool
gear

Hat tip: “B-Squared”:

Dodge-Viper...

Horsepower-vs.-Torque

11 Comments

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  1. Wonderful post, sir! For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. michael cenit 21/05/2019 — 04:22

    Paul, a fitting story for a really nice car, the Hawk line from 56 to the end in 64 were special cars.
    What’s amazing was Studebaker put them out with really no money invested compared to industry standards.
    In fact the whole 1964 line, Hawks and Lark bodies were a very competitive, nice line. Shame was it didn’t matter how good the line was, the Board was waiting for a reason to pull the plug, the JFK event gave it to them. Both events were very sad, of cause the Studebaker South Bend closing was nothing compared to JFK’s killing, but Lee Harvey Oswald killed them both, didn’t he.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gary Lindstrom 21/05/2019 — 18:23

    For 1959, the 259 V8 was the only V8 available. Of the more than 50 Studebakers that I have owned, only two were Hawks, a 1957 Golden Hawk and a 1964.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I recall, the company wanted to axe the Hawk altogether for ’59 – but dealers begged them to continue it. It was as if Studebaker deliberately sabotaged potential sales on the Hawk by only offering the pillared coupe instead of the hardtop and only offering the 259 V-8 instead of the 289. I’ve always thought they should have continued the supercharged Golden Hawk for ’59 and dropped the pillared coupe – and put a fancy interior like the “400” interior from ’57 in the car and marketed it against the “Squarebird”.

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      • michael cenit 24/05/2019 — 05:03

        I think you are right, the dealers actually demanded that the Hawk line continued, not begged. I think the company did everything to kill it, even late production. Like a lot of things they did, it was short sighted. If they had kept the HT and not the coupe and if they ONLY sold the same amount they would have grossed about 15 to 20 percent more on the same sales. You have to wonder what they were thinking…….if the dealers pushed them into making the Hawk again, why not take the extra dollars…strange.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. michael cenit 24/05/2019 — 05:23

    “Rules” That’s pretty cool, I’m not a big BMW fan, I always thought they were more of an engine company than a car company….I’ve always been a Packard fan, and thought it was a company we shouldn’t have lost, Studebaker kind of came along for the ride after the merger for me. I’ve never been a GM fan, they’ve made some really nice stuff, and some real junk (by design), I just don’t like dealing with them, as a company, they treat everybody poorly, their dealers, their customers, their suppliers and their employee;s because as a company they think everybody is out to screw them, and I don’t have to deal with their nonsense. If you ever owned one of the 350 diesels you will understand what I mean. Ford is ok, I drive and have driven for years Dodge P’U’s (Ram now) for work, they do what they were designed for, no more, no less. I guess these days you can’t ask for more than that. My family drives Jeeps, I guess because we like the brand, they have come a long way….but they don’t give them away. In the “old” days I’d have a “toy” a MG or like, today it’s a Wrangler, and I like it. Your list is cool, some really nice cars, the Jaguar is a good pick….if Packard was still here I can see them as a Jaguar type product line, especially the last XJ8 line.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In those times they created (great and beautiful) cars with character. Today lots of them seem copies of the other and do not show any character, just rolling tools to go from here to nowhere in the world of immobility in a world plagued by the endless traffic jams.

    Liked by 1 person

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