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      Car History: Car History Year 1962
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 00:27:39 UTC by Cars
      Cars By 1962, the Studebaker-Packard Corporation was in serious trouble and the end of the road was in sight for the once-proud names of two long-established marques who had merged in 1954. In fact, the last cars bearing the Packard badge were actually produced in 1958 and Packard was dropped from the company name in '62, marking the final sad ending of a history of building fine automobiles that stretched back to 1899.

    But Studebaker still struggled on, and even in their death throes, they managed to produce several rather remarkable automobiles. Probably the most notable of these was the Grand Turismo Hawk which was a face-lift of a design dating back to 1956 (the '56 was actually a revamp of the body shell first introduced in '53!). The updated design was produced at record speed and with very little expenditure. The car enjoyed a favorable reception and its success can be gauged by the comments in Motor Trend who called it: "A bold new approach to luxury and power - a man's car all the way." Technical Editor Jim Wright described the response from other drivers by saying: "if the amount of interest generated in and around the Los Angeles area is any indication of what Studebaker-Packard can expect throughout the rest of the country, then we'd say their new Grand Turismo Hawk is definitely 'in'." Other motoring magazines were equally supportive. Car Life stated: "In some ways, it was the most appealing car we've driven this year... It's very much the kind of car we'd be happy to own." Wheels magazine described it as "quick and handsome," while the reporter for Modern Motor magazine said about it: "...it's all motor-car, in the best sense of the term. The most advanced by far that I've driven." Judging from these reviews it would seem that Studebaker had created a triumph in spite of the prevailing doom, much in the same way as a conjuror pulls a rabbit from a hat. Unfortunately, Studebaker needed some magic of a more powerful kind to survive, and even the most skilled illusionist couldn't hide the enormity of the task facing the company which eventually folded in 1966 - after closing the South Bend, Indiana factory and moving its operations to Canada toward the end of 1963. The foundations of the GT Hawk were laid by the studio of extrovert stylist Raymond Loewy (whose long association with Studebaker resulted in some wonderful automobiles) with the new 1953 models which included the graceful Starliner hardtop and Starlight coupe - the work of designer Bob Bourke, assisted by Holden Koto. The Loewy studio also carried out the update for the '56 Hawk range, but this was to be a final collaboration and thereafter the relationship ended. The main reason for the split was one of cost. Strapped for cash, Studebaker couldn't justify the expense of the high-profile Loewy organization and started to seek out cheaper freelance designers. The task of rejuvenating the Hawk was given to Brooks Stevens who has, over the years, ac*****ulated many great designs in his portfolio, but who is probably remembered most often as the man behind the Excalibur automobile. At a time when the development of a new model (or even a relatively straightforward face-lift) was usually measured in years rather than months, Stevens worked something of a miracle in just a few weeks. The first hand-built example was put together at his Milwaukee workshop in June '61 and finished versions were in front of Studebaker dealers by September! It was a truly remarkable turn round. What Stevens did in essence was to take a good, if out-dated, design, refine it and add a quality of style and distinction that befitted a classic grand tourer. The rakish Fifties tail fins were quickly consigned to the rubbish bin to be replaced with far neater items, and the external re-skinning presented a flatter, more elegant body. Efforts were then concentrated on the roof section creating a squared-off, formal appearance which many people said was a direct copy of a Thunderbird, although Studebaker claimed it had been derived from the Packard Predictor concept car which had been built six years earlier. Other styling elements that Stevens used to good advantage were altering the grille which gave it a slight resemblance to the Mercedes (Studebaker was then the distributor for Mercedes-Benz cars) and add ing a chrome strip a long the belt line on top of the fenders, which ran the whole length of the car in much the same manner as the Lincoln Continental. This device of using styling features to bring an association with recognized upmarket automobiles could have been a disaster, but Brooks Stevens managed to bring all the elements together and made it work beautifully. The only item that looks out of place is the false, stick-on trunk lid "grille" which was used to disguise a virtually unchanged component. This was deleted for the '64 GT Hawks (the final in the series) and there's no doubt the smooth uncluttered panel works far better. The trunk lid apart, the decoration on the car is minimal and chrome trim is used in a restrained manner. To back up the looks, a true GT needed some respectable performance, and here the Studebaker was able to take care of itself pretty well. The 289 cu.in. V8 engine might have been a touch on the heavy side for its capacity, but it was durable and, in standard form, it put out 210 horsepower which was sufficient to give a top speed over tOOmph. For those who wanted to do some really "grand" touring, there was also a 225bhp option which included a four barrel carburetor and dual exhausts and, together with the four-speed manual transmission (three-speed was standard and automatic was also an option), this provided sufficient performance for one magazine to label the Hawk "an enthusiast's car." In subsequent years there were even more powerful choices available, including a supercharged Avanti engine, but these are rare finds today. Another highlight for Studebaker in 1962 was having the Lark Daytona chosen as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500. However, while Raymond Loewy's radical new Avanti would also provide the company with plenty of publicity, it couldn't halt Studebaker's slide into obscurity. Studebaker's own woes paled into insignificance compared to those facing the nation. The Cuban missile crisis sawJFK and Russian premier Kruschev bring the world almost to the brink of another war in October. Thankfully, everybody was able to breath a sigh of relief when the Soviet government finally backed down from the confrontation. A tragedy that was mourned by red-blooded men around the globe was the death of Marilyn Monroe on August 5 -an event that is still shrouded in intrigue and mystery today. There was no such mystery over the demise of Studebaker. A mixture of very poor management decisions following World War Two, inadequate investment for the future, and difficulties with controlling their work force had all contributed to their downfall. Even so, the company had built some excellent automobiles and the Grand Turismo Hawk still rates as one of the best. Specification STUDEBAKER GRAND TURISMO HAWK Engine Cast iron - 4 cylinders in line Displacement 289 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.56x3.63 ins. Horsepower 210 Body styles Hardtop coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 3,230 Ibs Price $3,095 Produced 8,388     Specification FORD THUNDERBIRD COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 290 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.05x3.78 ins. Horsepower 300 Body styles 4 Hardtop coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 4,132 Ibs Price $4,321 Produced 68,000     Specification DODGE DART FLEET SPECIAL SEDAN L Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 318 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.91 x3.31 ins. Horsepower 230 Body styles 4 door sedan No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 2,995 Ibs Price $2,214 Produced 18,000 (All L series)  
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