Beauty From The Beast: Studebaker GT Hawk

Click on the anaglyph stereo 3D image to launch a Flash player and view the entire gallery of photos in 2D or your choice of S-3D formats.

The 1953 Studebaker Coupe is one of the best looking cars every made. We’ve already looked how, in an effort to keep the car looking fresh Studebaker turned the beautiful ’53 Starliner into awkward Hawks, Silver Hawks, Golden Hawks and, then worst of all, the fish-mouthed Packard Hawk, after the Studebaker-Packard merger. Then, for the 1962 model year, Studebaker reversed the process when Sherwood Egbert hired designer Brooks Stevens to give the by then 10 year old design a new lease on life, but to do it cheaply. Stevens did a remarkable job turning a design that dates from the late ’40s and early ’50s into something contemporary looking for the early 1960s and, I have to add, into a much nicer looking car than the earlier Hawks.

Click on the anaglyph stereo 3D image to launch a Flash player and view the entire gallery of photos in 2D or your choice of S-3D formats.

It’s tempting to say that Stevens’ job was eased because underneath the Hawk were still the great lines of the ’53 Coupe. However, as gracefully as the ’53 has aged, and as pure as its lines are, it’s still obviously a product of its era. Stevens’ GT Hawk, though, doesn’t look like a 1950s car, and he did it with pretty much one major stamping, a new formal roofline. Not only did the squared off roof look au courant in the early to mid ’60s, it also eliminated the cost of the curved rear glass of the coupe. The Hawk’s fins were pruned down, but whereas the original ’53’s rear fenders sloped down, the GT Hawk’s were more horizontal and bladed like the 1961 Lincoln Continental’s. Up front, Stevens cleaned up the face of the car, eliminating a lot of brightwork, thinning the bumper, and reshaping the grille. It’s probably one of the finest restyling jobs ever done by a major auto designer. Yes you can see the Hawk and Starliner Coupe underneath but its so well disguised that it almost looks like a completely different car that still has some familial Studebaker styling. More importantly, Stevens hit a bulls-eye on the design brief to make it look contemporary. Sitting next to GM and Ford products circa 1962-64, the years of the GT Hawk’s production, it doesn’t look dated, and to my eyes it looks more modern than the awkwardly styled Chrysler products of that era. This group of GT Hawks was at the 2011 Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti.

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