One of America’s oldest car companies, Studebaker spent its last two years in existence as a Canadian manufacturer.
By all rights, the end of the line for Studebaker as an automobile manufacturer should have arrived on December 20, 1963, when the sprawling plant in South Bend, Indiana was closed down for the final time. But through a curious twist in corporate decision making, Studebaker’s Canadian chief Gordon Grundy somehow persuaded the corporation to continue production at the company’s small but efficient Hamilton, Ontario plant, not far from Buffalo.
And so it came to pass that for Studebaker’s last two years in the business, it was a Canadian car maker. In the USA, these final Studebakers were sold under the slogan “The Common Sense Car.” But north of the border, the tagline was “Canada’s Own Car.”
At the Canadian operation, model lines were greatly simplified. Trucks, Hawks, and the Avanti were discontinued, while convertibles and hardtops were axed as well. All remaining models were built on the former Lark platform: a two-door sedan on a 109-in. wheelbase and the four-door sedan with 113-in. wheelbase. The top-of-the line Cruiser Sedan is shown above. Styling and trim were essentially carryovers from the 1964 model year.
With the South Bend operations shut down, Studebaker Canada no longer had an internal engine supply, so arrangements were made with, McKinnon Industries, the engine and foundry division of General Motors of Canada, to use Chevrolet powerplants, namely the 194 and 230 CID inline sixes and the venerable 283 CID V8. Here the famed small-block V8 was called the Thunderbolt and rated at 195 hp with a two-barrel carb. These engines were coupled to Studebaker’s traditional three-speed manual and Flightomatic automatic transmissions, manufactured by Borg-Warner. Some Studebaker enthusiasts prefer to refer to these engines as McKinnons rather than Chevrolets.
With the Avanti and Gran Turismo Hawk erased from the lineup, the closest thing to a performance model was the Daytona two-door post sedan (above). By checking the right boxes, buyers could select the 283 CID V8, front disc brakes, bucket seats, Twin-Traction rear axle. and heavy-duty suspension. A vinyl top in white or black was standard on the Daytona.
Although it wasn’t a big seller, one specialty model that was continued was the novel Wagonaire, the station wagon with the sliding roof panel, above. (Read about the Wagonaire here.) The wagon was available only in Wagonaire form for 1965, while both fixed-roof and Wagonaire models were offered in 1966.
For 1966 (below) the Studebaker line received a minor restyling job by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, with twin headlamps and a painted grille replacing the quad headlamps and chrome bezels used in ’64-’65. In Studebaker’s first year as a Canada-only carmaker, sales nearly met Grundy’s calculated break-even point of 20,000 units, but in 1966 the results fell far short of the mark. Fewer than 9,000 cars were produced before production was halted on March 17, 1966, and Studebaker was out of the automobile business for good.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.