The 1962-64 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk is my favorite Studebaker. It was the last of a line of Studebaker Hawks that began in 1956. But thanks to the deft hand of Milwaukee’s famous industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, it was remarkably refreshed in Autumn of ’61 for one last hurrah.
But its structural origins went back to the early Fifties. And while it wasn’t much of a secret to anyone who had an interest in Studebakers, the improved 1962 Gran Turismo Hawk somehow managed to be newer, fresher and more interesting than the sum of its parts.
Underneath every Gran Turismo Hawk was a 1953 “Loewy coupe.” First ushered in for the 1953 model year, the swoopy coupes came in Starlight (pillared) and Starliner (pillarless hardtop) versions, in basic Champion or premium Commander trim levels.
I almost always digress in my Studebaker posts, but I’ll try to control myself this time around. But the original 1953-54 Studebaker coupes were smooth, clean and attractive. But more chrome, trim and gadgets were added as the model years carried on, to keep them looking new, and different from the earlier ones.
The Hawk line was added in 1956, with a more formal front end, consisting of a radiator-style grille, and top-of-the-line Golden Hawks, with the Packard V8 and Ultramatic gaining fiberglass fins on the rear quarters. In ’57 the Golden Hawk regained its Studebaker V8, added a supercharger, compliments of Paxton, recently acquired by Studebaker Corp.
Interiors were snazzy.
And the formerly subtle yet attractive 1953-54 body got even bigger fins to make the cars contemporary.
The 1957-58 Golden Hawk is another favorite of mine. I was especially taken with this 1958 model seen at an SDC zone meet last month in Iowa City, the same place I shot our featured tobacco brown metallic ’64 Gran Turismo Hawk. It was actually about ten feet away from the 1964, as a matter of fact.
I see that I’m digressing again. Focus, Klockau! Well, Studebakers have that effect on me. And heck, you’re lucky if you see one at a show, let alone three or four. So when I arrived at the zone meet, and saw approximately 65 Studebakers on display, my brain kind of overloaded! Now where was I?
Oh yes, 1964. As related in my recent post on the Laguna Blue 1964 Daytona convertible, it was more or less the last year for a full-line at Studebaker.
The Larks were redone, the Avanti carried on from inaugural ’63 in Bristol fashion, and then there was the Gran Turismo Hawk.
Changes were minor as far as the big picture, but said changes resulted in my favorite Gran Turismo Hawk. The grille was updated with new mesh and brand-new central emblem, the stand-up hood ornament, seen on nearly all other 1964 Studebakers save the Avanti and cheapskate-special Challenger, was added.
Wheel covers were redesigned and shared with Studebaker Cruisers, Commanders and Daytonas.
Also, the aluminum trim seen on 1962-63 Gran Turismo Hawk trunk lids was removed.
A new “Studebaker Hawk” chrome emblem was added. Adding to the clean, no-nonsense lines, de-finned back end and Thunderbird-style roofline added by Brooks Stevens.
I honestly love all the Studebaker coupes from 1953-64. Of course, the favorite for many is the 1953 Commander Starliner hardtop coupe, the original, and I agree it’s a beauty. But I really prefer the Gran Turismo Hawk. It’s such a great refresh of what was by 1962 a very old platform. Imagine if Chevrolet was still selling heavily facelifted 1953 Bel Airs with the Stovebolt Six and Powerglide? Sounds crazy right?
But for Studebaker, they managed to pull it off. The car looked great. Elegant, clean, sharp. At least in your author’s opinion!
I think the final ’64s were the best of the bunch. Despite it being on borrowed time when the 1964 Studebakers were announced, there were several cosmetic changes, inside and out. All minor, but all an improvement.
The wrap-around instrument cluster received a black overlay, while the passenger side trim panel and glove compartment door got a woodgrained finish. There was more padding on the top of the instrument panel as well, compared to the ’63 Gran Turismo Hawk.
All U.S. market Gran Turismo Hawks were V8 powered, though the car was available with a six, believe it or not, in selected export markets.
The 1964 GT Hawk had a base price of $2,958, rode a 120.5 inch wheelbase, and 1,548 V8 models were sold. 224 six-cylinder GT Hawks were also built for export. Try finding one of those now! But other than the novelty factor, why not go with the V8?
As mentioned before, the grand old dated, nearly obsolete Studebaker factory in South Bend was closed in December of 1963, just a few months into 1964 model year production. With that closure, all Studebaker taxi models, pickups, heavy-duty trucks, the Avanti, and of course, the Gran Turismo Hawk, was discontinued.
But as I’ve already mentioned, there were some nice improvements to the last Hawks. Door panels were redesigned as well, with a new red, white and blue emblem to match the one on the exterior door panel.
And all ornamentation went from gold-toned to chrome.
So, this particularly excellent example of the swansong year of the Gran Turismo Hawk was at a Studebaker Drivers’ Club zone meet in Iowa City last month. In fact, it was the same show as the 1964 Daytona convertible I wrote up recently. This car was my favorite one in the show, and there were many others I loved and took way, way too many photos of. But the rich metallic tobacco brown paint, tan interior and white canopy-style vinyl top made this example stunning.
But wait, there’s even more! For lo and behold, there was ANOTHER 1964 Gran Turismo Hawk. At this point, by brain was undergoing a pleasure overload. TWO of my favorite Studebaker model, in my favorite year?
But buckle up! For the red example was not your average GT Hawk. It was R2 powered! So what’s an R2, you ask? It was, as Tim Taylor once said, more power! Arrgh Arrgh Arrgh!
A standard Gran Turismo Hawk had a 289 CID V8 with 210 hp at 4500 rpm and a Stromberg model WW two-barrel carb (excluding the six-cylinder export models, of course).
The R1 was essentially the Avanti’s engine, with 240 hp, a Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetor, and a 10.25:1 compression ratio. It was a $157 option. The R2 added a supercharger, retained the R1’s four barrel carb, and received a 9.0:1 compression ratio. Power? 289 bhp. The R2 was an extra $210 to the bottom line.
The R-Series Studebaker Larks, Hawks and Avantis generated a lot of positive press for Studebaker at a time when many may have forgotten the company was still selling new cars.
Several records were set at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but while interesting, it didn’t seriously generate any additional showroom traffic or sales. And the point was moot by December ’63, when South Bend closed and all the hot cars-and the R-series engines, faded away for good.
The so-called “Second series” 1964 Studebakers were made in Canada, and all the fun models were gone. The last attempt to keep the automobile division afloat was based on practical two- and four-door sedans and station wagons.
But for one brief, all-too-short moment, Studebaker really made some excellent cars. It’s too bad that by then no one wanted to buy them.