In 1956, Studebaker introduced the Hawk line—a stylish flock of coupes and hardtops that made the automaker’s final years more memorable. Here’s a look at the four original Hawk models that launched the series.
The Bob Bourke-styled 1953 Studebaker is easily one of the most beautiful automotive designs of its time, but by 1956 the car-buying public was ready to move on. Studebaker-Packard responded with a complete product realignment for ’56, with the Studebaker model lines split into two. The sedans were treated to all-new sheet metal south of the belt line, while the coupe was repackaged and repurposed as a “family sports car,” in Studebaker’s words, and rebadged as the Hawk.
To create the Hawk, Bourke and crew raised and squared up the flowing lines of the original ’53 design, adding a neo-classical vertical grille and a tall, flat deck lid to match. Cockpit and exterior details were given a luxury sports-car theme, much in the same flavor as the successful President Speedster marketed by Studebaker the year before. (Check out our 1955 President Speedster feature here.) For the ambitious 1956 rollout, the Hawk was offered in four models: Flight Hawk, Power Hawk, Sky Hawk, and Golden Hawk.
The base models of the Hawk line, the Flight Hawk (blue, above) and Power Hawk (red) were similar but for engines and badging. The Flight Hawk, powered by Studebaker’s trusty 185.6 CID flathead 6 with 101 hp, boasted a list price of just under $2,000, while the Power Hawk featured a 259 CID V8 with a two-barrel carb and 170 hp for a few hundred bucks more. Both were based on the Starlight C-body two-door post coupe with 120-inch wheelbase, and they were equivalent to a Champion or Commander in trim and equipment. A small number of hardtop-bodied Flight Hawks were also built for export.
The next step up in the ’56 Hawk lineup was the Sky Hawk (above). A true pillarless hardtop based on the Starliner K-body shell, the Sky Hawk carried President-level equipment and trim. A longer-stroke 289 CID version of the Studebaker V8, new for 1956, produced 210 hp with a Carter WCFB four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts. On all ’56 Hawks, the front turn/parking lamps were housed in chrome bullets atop the fenders.
One sporty and distinctive Hawk feature, and a departure from the rest of the Studebaker line, was the dash. Round, competition-style Stewart-Warner instruments with white-on-black dials were housed in an engine-turned panel in classic sports car fashion. Both the manual three-speed and automatic transmissions relied on a column-mounted shift lever.
The Golden Hawk, above, was the ultimate of the four Hawk models and the flagship of the entire Studebaker line for 1956. With a list price of $3,061, the Golden Hawk was loaded with equipment and chrome. For example, note the bright metal rocker panels and wheel opening moldings unique to this model. Like the Sky Hawk, the Golden Hawk was a K-body hardtop, but it was powered by a 352 CID Packard V8—the only Studebaker to be so equipped. (Read about the Packard V8 here.) With 275 hp, dual exhausts, and a shipping weight of 3,360 lbs, the Golden Hawk was touted by the car magazines as one of the hottest performers of the 1956 new-car season.
This shot from the 1956 Chicago Auto Show (above) reveals more of the Golden Hawk’s super-deluxe features, including the bolt-on fiberglass tail fins and a wide stainless band across the top of the rear window. While the Golden Hawk was a respectable seller at 4,000-plus units, the most popular Hawk in 1956 was the Power Hawk, the two-door post V8 version, at more than 7,000 sold. The slowest mover was the $2,477 Sky Hawk at 3,000 units.
For 1957, the Hawk line was consolidated from four models to two, SIlver Hawk and Golden Hawk, and the Golden Hawk’s big Packard mill was replaced with a McCulloch-supercharged Studebaker V8. A Packard-badged Hawk was briefly offered in 1958, and in 1959 the line shrank to just one model, the Silver Hawk, which in 1960 became simply the Hawk. The curtain call for the Hawk series was the Brooks Stevens-designed Gran Turismo Hawk of 1962-1964.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Nash was the pioneer of small cars in the postwar American market. Here’s the tale behind the Rambler, the little car that could.
As World War II drew to a close, many economic observers were expecting a postwar America much like the prewar years, with slow growth and thin employment—and with a massive war debt to boot. The Motor City’s automakers, Ford and General Motors included, went to work developing small, low-priced cars suited for the anticipated conditions, but these designs barely got off the drawing board when the U.S. economy took off like a rocket. The automakers could sell all the full-size cars they could make, as things turned out, and the the big shift to smaller cars never materialized.
But Nash-Kelvinator and its CEO George Mason continued to press the case for rationally sized cars, and in 1950 the company launched the Rambler, America’s first postwar compact. The Rambler led the first wave of postwar American small cars that included the Henry J, Aero Willys, and Hudson Jet, and it laid down the baseline for Detroit’s compact car movement of 1960.
Introduced to the public on April 10, 1950, the Rambler was initially offered in a single body style, a distinctive Euro-style convertible with fixed door frames and a roll-down fabric top that Nash called a Landau. Mason carefully positioned the Rambler as a small car but not a cheap one, locking in a generous list of standard equipment including radio, heater, full wheel covers, and whitewall tires. At $1,808, the Rambler was the lowest-priced convertible in America, but it was still priced above the stripped-down base sedans from Ford, Chevy, and Plymouth. The Rambler’s sales pitch was not based on price.
Two months later in June of 1950, a handsome two-door wagon was added to the lineup, and for the 1951 model year a two-door Country Club hardtop was rolled out as well. Eventually, there would be four-door sedans and wagons, too. All models featured premium upholstery materials and the full complement of standard equipment, as Nash labored to avoid the dreaded cheap-car image that, in Mason’s view, traditionally stunted the sales potential of small cars among America’s consumers.
The Rambler was built on a downsized version of Nash’s advanced unit-construction platform with Airflex coil-spring front suspension and a 100-inch wheelbase. Nash boasted that the short, stiff structure was twice as rigid as conventional ladder-frame construction. The powerplant, a 173 CID L-head six borrowed from the 600/Statesman series, offered a rated 82 horsepower, and with a curb weight of around 2,500 lbs, the power-to-weight ratio was roughly similar to that of a prewar Ford V8. Performance was respectably peppy, while fuel economy touched the 30 mpg range.
The Rambler’s cabin was simple but well dressed, with big-car interior appointments and a single-dial gauge module that mirrored the Uniscope instrument pod found in the Statesman and Ambassador models. (Photo above courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum.) Unlike previous small cars like the Crosley and American Bantam, and Nash’s own British-built Metropolitan subcompact, the Rambler offered comfortable seating for five. In its essential dimensions and packaging, the small Nash accurately foreshadowed the Motor City compact craze of 1960, sharing its footprint with Falcon, Valiant, et al.
The original Rambler package was continued through 1955, when the body shell was treated to a styling update, with conventional open front wheel arches replacing the odd Airflyte-era skirted front fenders (below). When Nash and Hudson were merged in May of 1954 to create American Motors, the Rambler was sold with both Nash and Hudson badges for a time. The platform (but not the Rambler name) was then discontinued for two years, but in 1958, George Romney—Mason’s successor as American Motors chairman and CEO—hauled the tooling out of mothballs and put the model back in production. The Rambler American, as it was now known, remained an essential part of the AMC lineup through 1969.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Half-Ford and half-Mercury, these unusual products filled the gaps in Ford Motor Company’s thin Canadian dealer network. Here are the whys and hows of the Meteor and Monarch.
The postwar product strategies of the American automakers in Canada can look awfully strange—until we recognize that the country has slightly more geographical area than the United States, but barely one-tenth the population. As a result, the dealer networks were spread thin. There weren’t enough retail locations to go around, especially in rural areas. Ford and General Motors, to name two, invented some novel product lines to compensate for the geographical gaps. At Ford, the solutions included two uniquely Canadian products: the Meteor and Monarch.
The Meteor (1956 Meteor Rideau above) was sold through Mercury dealers in Canada from 1949 through 1961 and 1964 through 1976, replacing the similar-themed Mercury 114 of 1946-1948. Essentially an American-style Ford with distinctive chrome trim and details, the Meteor was intended to give Mercury retailers a Ford-priced product in their lineup. Under the same strategy, Canadian Mercury dealers offered a line of Mercury-badged Ford trucks. Meteor model names included Rideau, Niagara, and Montcalm, adding some local flavor. From 1964 on, the Meteor was based on the U.S. Mercury body shell.
Along similar lines, Ford dealers in Canada were given a Mercury-class car for their showrooms. The Monarch (1950 model above) was offered from 1946 through 1957 and from 1959 through 1961. (In 1958, the Edsel briefly filled the Monarch’s marketing slot.) Behind the badges the Monarch was essentially a Mercury, but with a different grille and trim to distinguish it from the regular Mercury line. Prices were in the Mercury range as well. Naturally, as transportation and communications improved and Canada joined the global village, the automakers no longer had any need for these unusual product alignments. At Ford these days, the strategy is one world, one Ford.
There was one more Canadian oddball that was offered for only one year, the Frontenac (below). Technically, the Frontenac was not a Ford or a Mercury but a standalone brand that allowed Mercury dealers to sell a rebadged version of the Motor Company’s new entry in the compact class for 1960, the Falcon. When Mercury introduced its own version of the Falcon, the 1961 Comet, the Frontenac was discontinued. Fewer than 10,000 Frontenacs were produced at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.