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.