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.
Great article on the 64 Hawk
Considering that the basic architecture of the Hawk was approx 12 years old at the end of it’s production, they were still a good handling car (for the times). And as they are considered an orphan, they can still be had for a reasonable price, compared to anything from the big 3. More so if they need a little work. Exception would be the R-2 versions, but even they can be found for less than $25K in good condition. Not show quality, but decent driver quality with maybe a little work needed.
A sharp looking car then as now .
Thanx for the in depth article .
Thanks Tom for the great write-up and pictures. There is no question that the R1/R2 and available 4 speed and disc brake mechanicals and interior of the 62-64 GT Hawks are the best of the line, but in a very close race I prefer the exterior of the original 53-54 Loewy Coupes.
Since you regularly attend (and thankfully document) so many of these classic car gatherings, what is your impression of the age of the car owners? Are there any youngish Studebaker collectors or can we expect to see a lot of Studebakers in estate auctions in the near future? Also, do you note any significant differences between brands – are Cadillac or Lincoln collectors any younger or older than owners of the defunct brands?
I’ll throw in my observation;
For the most part, Studebaker owners ARE an older group. I am one of the younger ones in my area, and I’m on my 61st trip around the sun. As usual, there are some exceptions, but in general we tend to be older. As the brand has been defunct for 52 years, it is less in the general car community’s eye, than brands like Olds or Pontiac that have been gone for only a generation or so.
Just my $.02
Thanks – it will be very interesting to see how the classic car hobby survives the student loan indebted, smart phone obsessed millennial and Z generations (who also tend to know nothing about history) and the possible coming transition to self-driving vehicles and/or car sharing instead of car ownership.
Model T prices
under $20K , take your pick. If you are interested once the main group of owners and buyers dies off and/or loses interest they become more affordable. Not cheap, but affordable.
I get the Hemmings magazines. The auction prices are just stupid. Sometimes I think they overpay because “They can”. Greater fools theory will hit the 50s and 60s cars in about 15 years.
i love brooks stevens’ jeep wagoneer. i would love the gran turismo hawk, if i had never seen the starliner. loewy’s starliner is just cleaner and more modern from every angle.
I’ve had my ’64 GT Hawk for nearly 50 years. It came off the South Bend line just 4 days before closure & is still in the popular color of Strato Blue. Assembled in RHC along with 4 other Hawks, they were shipped to Melbourne during 1964. I’ve had the good fortune of owning 3 of the 5 Hawks. The ’64 Hawks are my favourite Studebaker.
For a brief moment.
Yes, this was the newly-fueled auto-enthusiasm of Sherwood Egbert, showing through as results. And could they have stayed the course, they could have had some success giving the Mustang a run for its money.
Three things would have been needed: Egbert’s health – while he would live on for several more years, his cancer surgeries made his tenure impossible. Studebaker had found its savior, but too late – for the man and the company.
Studebaker’s board, which hired Egbert, not to expand the auto line but to diversify the company and wind down auto production, would have had to have had a change of mind and/or membership. Byers Burlingame, a bean-counter of little imagination and dripping sarcasm, succeeded Egbert as CEO.
And then, the fat-and-happy UAW, which had had its way with Studebaker and then Studebaker-Packard for 20 years, would have had to be open to pay concessions. It didn’t take a financial audit to know the company was on its deathbed. Sales were declining and the breakeven point was fantasy. Had the UAW made the effort, even to just working without a contract during the stressful period, the company might have kept at it or found a merger or buyer.
All three of those were not to happen, of course. And as with other industrial tragedies of mismanagement, Studebaker is now a legend in the shadows.
Of the 22 Studebakers I’ve owned, my 3 favorites were a ’52 Starlight Coupe that I turned into a successful drag car, a ’64 GT, and a ’66 Daytona Coupe. Both the ’64 and ’66 were white with a black vinyl top, black bucket seats, automatic, and AC. I bought the Hawk for $1200 from Gross Studebaker in Moline, OH in late ’67 and used it as a tow car for the ’52. Occasionally, I raced both the GT and the ’52 at Milan, MI in ’68, but bought a truck the following Spring for towing during the ’69 racing season. I sold the GT in ’70 and at one point it later turned up at a used car lot in Toledo. I never saw it again. Although the interior looked like the photo of the R2 above, mine didn’t have a tach, nor did it have a floor shifter, IIRC. There was a tag on the dash stating this Grand Turismo was specially built for (and I can’t remember the name). I did however, enjoy the article and the included photos.
If your 1952 Starlight is the one I’m thinking of, it’s quite the car. Glad to see you’re still kicking!
Great write up of one of my favorite cars. It just goes to show what a terrific design the original Loewy coupe was that it could be subtly updated and look so good.
As a kid, Studebakers were old hat. When my great uncle Joe died in 1970, his 1962 Lark VIII four door sedan was offered for free to my brothers (both who were of driving age at the time). Neither one wanted an “old man’s car” and decided borrowing my parent’s Mercury a far better solution. What I would do to have that car now, but it’s long gone…
I didn’t fall in love with Hawks until about 25 years ago. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about cars, but really didn’t know a lot about Studebakers. If pressed, I would rather have a 1955 Thunderbird over a 1953 Starliner but by the early 1960’s, the Hawks were much better to my eye. But it seems we as car enthusiasts, can never escape the Board’s decision to wind down auto production.
Great pix, Tom and very glad you posted them here…
I think I would have liked the planned ’65 GT Hawk. It had a Thunderbird look, with a wide headlight to headlight mirror finish grill bars above and below the bisecting bumper. Those mirror bars were to have been on the ’65 regular Studebaker line as well. Not sure why they were considering the rather drastic style changes as it would have been the Hawk’s last planned year, if the Scepter had happened to replace it in ’66. But, the classic upright grill would have been gone. I’ve owned on Jade Green GT which I literally worshiped, and remains my all time favorite car.