The Studebaker Starlight and Starliner coupes of 1953 were among America’s most beautiful cars. Low on the ground, sleek and fast, they were designed by Raymond Loewy, a hero of contemporary US auto engineering. Three years later and still guided by Loewy’s ideas, including the fabulous 1955 Studebaker President Speedster, they became the basis of Studebaker’s last great production series.
In 1956 Studebaker simultaneously announced its new Flight Hawk and Power Hawk coupes, the Sky Hawk hardtop, and a two-door, pillarless hardtop coupe for the top of the line, to be called the Studebaker Golden Hawk. It was to be America’s first, family-size sports car, and it was a serious contender.
The massive hood reared to a pointed nose truncated by a nearly vertical, ‘egg-crate’ front grille; and the shallow curve of each wing swept back to a graceful echo in the muted fins, but neatly contrasted with a chrome strip straight along the bodyline from the headlights to the centre of the vertically-stacked rear light cluster.
The wraparound rear window helped give the Golden Hawk the profile of a beast (or bird) of prey, poised on its haunches. So did the bump of the air intake on the hood, especially knowing it housed the McCulloch supercharger on the 5.8 litre V8 that could fling the big car forward to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs.
The heavy engine gave the Golden Hawk a power-to-weight ratio good enough to threaten Chrysler’s more expensive 300 B model, a street-legal NASCAR combatant. It was nose heavy, and difficult to handle, but a series of acceleration and sprint tests by racing professionals saw it shrug aside Ford’s Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. Respect. The Studebaker Golden Hawk is one of the true godfathers of the Muscle Cars of the following decade.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1956 (until 1958)
5.8 l (352 cid) V8 (1956); 4.7 l (289 cid) supercharged V8 (1957)
Top speed 125 mph (201 km/h): 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Studebaker was America’s oldest vehicle maker, and celebrated its centenary in 1952. Five brothers started the company, and turned it into the world’s biggest producer of horse-drawn vehicles, before creating some of the best and best looking of US cars. The company closed down in 1966.