1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
It's not every day you see one of these in the church parking lot.
Studebaker's Hawk series of "family sports cars" were the sort-of successor to, sort-of continuation of, the magnificent 1953-54 "Loewy coupes" styled by Robert Bourke of the Loewy & Associates design firm. In the nine years they were produced, there were a whole flock of Hawk variations: Flight Hawk, Power Hawk, Sky Hawk, Golden Hawk, Silver Hawk, the short-lived Packard Hawk, the just-plain "Hawk" Hawk of 1960-61, and this version, the Gran Turismo Hawk of 1962-64.
the more sedate, and much lower, original. One purpose of this change was to raise the hood line to accomodate larger engines such as the Packard 352 V-8. The Packard engine was only available in 1956, but later broods of Hawks could be had with a supercharged high-output version of the Studebaker small-block OHV V-8.
The Hawks' tail fins got bigger in 1957, and there were continual minor changes in ornamentation in subsequent years. Even after five years of evolution, a '61 Hawk was still pretty recognizably a derivative of the Loewy coupe, with the same roofline and distinctive quarter windows and wraparound backlight first introduced in 1953. Under the sheetmetal, it was a Loewy coupe; there had been no significant change in the basic engineering.
My Car Lust for Bob Bourke's 1953 masterpiece is such that I originally regarded the Hawks as a de-evolved shadow, if not an outright desecration, of the Loewy coupe ideal. I have since grown up, mellowed out, and possibly even matured, and while I'm not quite a Hawk fan, I can at least respect them and appreciate why they have a following. The styling is rakish in a steampunk sort of way, the cars were nicely trimmed (even if the build quality was a little iffy there for a while), and a Hawk with one of the more aggressive V-8s had excellent performance for its day.
By the end of the 1961 model year, the Hawk's sheetmetal was getting overdue for replacement. The task of restyling fell to industrial designer Brooks Stevens. He didn't have much of a budget to work with, but what he was able to accomplish, under constraints that would have driven most of his Detroit counterparts to seek comfort in hard liquor, was nothing short of amazing.
Up front, the "radiator" got a more prominent frame and a different mesh. Any resemblance you might see to the contemporary Mercedes Benz front end was completely intentional, since Studebaker was, at that time, Benz' distributor in the US.
While the cowl and forward sheetmetal were left alone, Stevens gave the car a new roofline, with a flat top, a wide "sail panel" for the C-pillar, and a squared-off profile, in deliberate imitation of the then-current Thunderbird. (If you really look closely at the roof of a GT Hawk while standing next to it, you can just make out where a steel "cap" was grafted on to the original sheetmetal to give it the longer look.) The new rear window was now a flat piece of glass, a much cheaper component than the complex curved backlight of the original 1953 design.
Stevens wanted to match the new roofline with a new squared-off decklid, but he didn't have the tooling budget for that much new sheetmetal. He came up with a rectangular grille that fit over the existing grooved decklid and disguised its shape. This was used on 1962 and 1963 Hawks; Studebaker finally scared up the money for a new decklid for the 1964 model year.
The final exterior touches were to delete the tacked-on tail fins, add full length chrome accent strips on the fender tops (unashamedly imitating those on the '61 Lincoln Continental), and throw in some new badging and scripts. Inside, the GT Hawk got bucket seats, a center console, and a new padded dash with a full set of instruments.
The result is a pretty decent looking car by any standard. The GT Hawk is much more 1963 than 1953. The Loewy coupe heritage is still there to be seen, but the new pieces are intergrated well with the old, and continuity of design themes from one restyling to the next is not a bad thing (just ask the Mustang). Give it a V-8, and the drivetrain was capable of living up to the promises the sheetmetal was making. Beginning in 1963, a "Super Hawk" option package was offered which included an Avanti R-series engine, necessary suspension upgrades, and screaming arrest-me red paint.
Like most everything else Studebaker did in its "last stand," the Gran Turismo Hawk was a brilliant improvisation, but not brilliant enough to keep the company in the automobile business. Sales of the GT Hawk declined each year, and a mere 1,767 of the 1964 version were built in late 1963 before the South Bend plant closed.
I've only seen two Hawks on the street (as opposed to in museums), and both of them were the rare '64 GT version. The one in the church parking lot was one of the nicest restorations I've ever seen. The body panels were straight, the interior was showroom-perfect. The owner must have just dashed in to the parish office for some quick bit of business, because he or she left the windows rolled down.
I particularly loved the bumper sticker that was sitting on the passenger seat: BAIL OUT STUDEBAKER.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner