Studebaker Starliner Coupe -> Hawk -> GT Hawk: From Beautiful to Ugly and Back

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Few cars have been as fortunate and unfortunate as the 1953 Starliner coupe from Studebaker. The beautiful and timeless ’53 Studie was the product of Raymond Loewy’s studio, with most of the design work being done by Robert Bourke. Ten years later, another great designer, Brooks Stevens, was tasked by the dying Studebaker to update the same basic body shell into what ended up being the Gran Turismo Hawk, usually called the GT Hawk. Though the original design is timeless, it’s still of its era, so ten years on it was looking a bit dated. In between Stevens and Bourke, Studebaker tried to keep the body looking modern by tacking on an upright grille and tail fins and uglified (yes, I know they have their fans but I’m not one of them) the Starliner coupe into the Hawk and Golden Hawk. By the early 1960s, besides being ugly, the Hawk was badly out of style. Stevens did a masterful job.  The Gran Turismo Hawk’s formal roofline and bladed fenders, with a cleaned up front end and squared off back deck, gave the GT Hawk a contemporary look that didn’t look out of place next to, let’s say, a ’61 Continental. Stevens also designed the GT Hawk’s modern interior. The GT Hawk was introduced in 1962 and you could get it with Studebaker’s V8, including the supercharged 289 HP R2 and 335 HP R3 versions. Though the basic body shell and chassis dated to the early 1950s, the GT Hawk was fairly mechanically advanced for its day, particularly when purchased with the Super Hawk package that came with one of the blown engines, a 4-speed transmission, “TwinTraction” limited-slip differential, front disc brakes and a sport suspension that included front and rear anti-sway bars, rear radius rods to better control the back axle and heavy-duty springs.

Photo gallery and more 3D videos after the break.

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Andy Granatelli, of STP and Indy 500 fame, was the president of Paxton superchargers, then owned by Studebaker. Granatelli took a specially prepared GT Hawk to the Bonneville Salt Flats and along with some prepped Lark Daytonas set over 300 USAC speed records for production cars. For a long time after Studebaker’s demise as a company, Studebaker cars still held production speed records. After the record runs, racer Dick Passwater bought the R3 powered GT Hawk and was sponsored by Studebaker for NASCAR’s top series in 1964, with a top finish of 10th in the Yankee 300.

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Stevens had been brought in by new Studebaker head Sherwood Egbert to update the stodgy Studebaker line and we’ve shown some of his concepts like the Sceptre that would have been part of the Studebaker lineup had the company survived. We’ve featured the concept cars that Egbert had Loewy render as well. Though they had new product, solid engineering, and some exciting models like the GT Hawk and the Avanti sport coupe, those cars were not enough to offset years of piled up debt and poor management at Studebaker before Egbert was brought in. Egbert unfortunately was diagnosed with cancer and had to step down. The company’s financial situation deteriorated and U.S. production was ended after the 1964 model year. With that end in U.S. production, the GT Hawk died. Studebaker continued to build Larks in Canada (and in CKD form in some export markets) for another couple of years.

anaglyph-studebaker1963gthawkred-2To view the entire photo gallery in 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats, click here for a Flash player , here for an HTML applet, or here for an HTML5 viewer

These videos, taken at the 2012 Orphan Car Show, show you the life of the Studebaker “Loewy” coupe, with examples of the original Starliner, a Hawk, and a number of outstanding Gran Turismo Hawks including John Begian’s red supercharged R2 model with a big red Paxton supercharger.

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