By on April 14, 2012

This Studebaker is a good example of patience in a search for a rare car. Howard is a huge fan of the 53-64 Studebaker. and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was this 1961 model.

As he said, “I’ve wanted one since I was 12 years old”.

The car is rare enough, but the 4 speed manual option really emphasizes the value of a good attitude in a meticulous quest for a dream car.

The original owner didn’t like the fins on the late 50s Studebakers, so he waited until that era ended. The car has spent its entire life in the semi arid confines of central Washington State, so the term solid survivor is appropriate.

The car went through one more owner before Howard acquired it five years ago. Howard used the car as a daily driver for the last years of his working career. In addition to that, every one of his six kids have driven the car. The last one passed his driver’s test in the 50 year old Studebaker. As Howard said, “they use it when their stuff breaks.”

Howard’s daughter borrowed the car when her new VW was in the shop and she found out how much power the old Studie had when she topped a long hill at 90 miles per hour. She pinned the old classic like she was driving her Volkswagen on the same hill but the results were far different with the torque of the old solid lifter 289.

He has a very casual game plan for the old Studebaker because he’s having so much fun with the car right now. Howard loves driving the car-particularly on the highway. As he reports, “the car gets out there at freeway speed, it really dangles and handles great, especially with the radials. It’ll do 49 miles per hour in first gear.”

When Howard does start the process of restoration, he “knows he’s got a lot to work with,” He doesn’t expect too much down time in his beloved Studebaker. He has a long term plan to bring this car back to factory fresh. After that, the car won’t leave the family – this legacy will stay in the hands of his kids.  They told Howard that, “under no circumstances can this car disappear.”

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24 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: 1961 Studebaker – Still a Working Member of a Family...”

  • avatar

    That’s practically a mid-engined car with the engine that far back.

    VW in the shop – nice touch!

  • avatar

    You sure that’s a ’61? Every photo of ’61s that I can find show the cars with fins.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    If you see this car on a trailer, call the cops its been stolen.

    These are my favorite types of old cars, ones that get used.

  • avatar
    the duke

    It looks like it’s a 1961 Hawk that someone removed the fins from and put 53-56 stainless trim on top of the rear quarter panels, and 53-54 tail lights. The quarter panels didn’t change from 1953 – 1964 so its easy enough to mix and match part on Hawks, I’ve seen it a lot. Everything else looks 61 correct, and 1961 was the first year the 4 speed (Borg Warner T10) was offered in a Hawk.

    They are great daily drivers, and I congratulate him on having his kids learn to drive in it. My first car was a 1962 GT Hawk (first year the factory removed the fins), and I daily drove it through high school. I was in Portland, OR at the time – only in the west coast/northwest and deep south can you daily drive a Studebaker and not have it rust like crazy.

    Paul Niedermeyer did a CC on my car a few years back:

    • 0 avatar

      If those changes are noticeable from these lo-res photos it begs the question, what other alterations have been done to the car? Perhaps the 4-speed manual is non-original, too. And when the author states that “The original owner didn’t like the fins on the late 50s Studebakers, so he waited until that era ended” does he mean that the original owner waited until that era ended to remove the fiberglass tailfins?

      Looks like the current owner has his work cut out for him if he goes ahead with a total restoration.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, since we also have a post from a previous owner of the car that seals it, although if you just showed me the car I would have said the opposite, that it was a ’56 Power Hawk with ’61 side and decklid trim.

  • avatar

    Cool car nice story.

    I hope Howard’s kids appreciate the car as much as he does, and one of them chooses to carry on the legacy.

    It would be a shame to see this thing end up on Mecum.

  • avatar

    My dad had a ’55 Studebaker President hardtop, a 1-year transition car between the Starliner and the Hawk but it’s basically the same car. I actually drove it in college some in the 1980’s but the combination of a 6-volt battery systems (unlike the 12V in the Hawk) and what later turned out to be bad battery cables made it too unreliable so I swapped it for another one of our extensive collection of vehicles. It was a fun car to drive though and certainly got a lot of attention on campus! I’ve always wanted a Hawk though the ’62-’64 GT Hawk is more my style than this finless ’61. Still it’s a pretty cool car and I applaud the owner for keeping it in daily driver status for all these years!

  • avatar

    I drove a studebaker before it was collectable. My first car in about 1959 was a 1947 studebaker with a 3 speed manual and a flathead six. Frankly I was not impressed but when the 289’s came around (I think 1949) that was a different story.

  • avatar

    I was the former owner of this ’61 Hawk. It is a factory 4 speed, 289 V8 car that has had the original fins removed and ’53 fender top stainless pieces installed. I had pictures of the car on display at the 2005 Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet in Spokane Washington. The current owner bought the car from me shortly after the meet. I’m glad to see he is still enjoying it.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice to hear from a former owner of this car and yes, the current owner loves your ex-car.

    • 0 avatar

      I wanted to make those changes on my 59 Silver Hawk, but ended up doing a stock restoration. Now that I’ve seen the work done, I wish I had made those changes. It looks great. 53-64 is the range I work in, and my Studes “to die for” are the GT Hawks. I love the formal T-Bird roof and the clean lines. Maybe someday. Keeping them on the road is what’s important.

  • avatar

    Besides the fins, I was never much a fan of the Mercedes grille of the Hawk series, either.

    My ideal Studebaker would be the latest version that, in addition to removing the (literally) tacked-on fins, would have the front end converted to the much cleaner grille treatment of Raymond Loewy’s beautiful, timeless classic ’53-’54 original coupe.

    I guess that’s one nice thing about the last Studebakers: the company was so short of cash that, rather than actually going to the trouble and expense of creating new sheetmetal stampings, styling changes were bolted-on to the existing body so it was easy to remove/change them.

  • avatar

    The looks of fifties Studebakers was far, far ahead of the competition.

  • avatar

    Some cars are in production so long, with minimal changes to the class-A surfaces, that they spaned changes in automotive design language and attempted to remain fresh thru minor trim changes; this car would seem to fit to this category.

    It would be an interesting exercise to fit one of these cars with the styling elements, hardware and trim, from the first year of production, and the other side with elements from the last.

  • avatar

    I’m a huge fan of the ’53 Stude coupe. For the same reasons, I absolutely loathe all the Hawks except for the GT Hawk that Brook Stevens restyled. The intermediate year Hawks took a car with damn near perfect proportion and line, and turned it into abominations with standup grilles and tacked on (literally, it seems, from the comments above) tail fins. The beauty and the beast. Stevens cleaned up the front end, restored the bladed rear fenders (which by the early ’60s looked somewhat contemporary (cf. ’61 Continental & ’60s Imperials) and gave the car a sharp new formal roofline.

    Still, the Beauty and the Beast award doesn’t go to a Studebaker Hawk, but rather to the piscine Packard Hawk, produced after the ill-fated Packard-Studebaker merger, which has a face only a Pagani Huayra could love.

  • avatar

    Oops! I always thought the Packard Hawk was neat, from the day I first saw the new ones at the Johnstown Auto Show. However, since dad was a Chevrolet dealer, I knew better than to even suggest we get one for the family.

  • avatar

    Bah now you got me going to hemmings looking for old studebakers

  • avatar

    Yes, the ’53-’54 design is pert-near perfect. And the later hood with a Mercedes-like grill is darn heavy. But the supply of those early coupes is getting really thin and the prices are steep. So when I found a non-rusty ’59 Silver Hawk at a low price, I went for it. I’m fixing it up but not to show car quality; that’d be super expensive. The fins aren’t my thing, but I won’t unbolt them. They do provide a nice way to two-tone the car. (Though purists may note Studebaker didn’t make two-tone Hawks in ’61.)
    Studebaker’s V8 is a good engine, heavy but very durable. It is similar to Cadillac’s ’49 V8 so some people have suggested (erroneously) Stude engineers used the GM motor as a model. Introduced in ’51 at 231 cubic inches, it later grew to 259 and 289.
    Ronnie, you have an elegant way of saying the Packard Hawk has a carp-like mouth. So true.

  • avatar

    I have loved Studebakers and Packards since I became aware of cars in the early fifties, but it seems like they purposely made the Packard Hawk grille as ugly as they could.

  • avatar

    God, those cars were beautiful.

  • avatar

    Just for general information, the Australian War Memorial has a beautiful and spotless 1940 Studebaker Commander Sedan on display, complete with gas-producing trailer (Australian civilians couldn’t buy gas during WWII)

    Google AWM/Studebaker for a pic.

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