Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Car Of The Day: June 21, 2011

Today's car of the day comes from Bruce Slifer's collection and is Shrock Brothers' 1960 Studebaker Lark convertible.

The Studebaker Lark is a "compact car" which was produced by Studebaker from 1959 to 1966.

From its introduction in early 1959 until 1962, the Lark was a product of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. In mid-1962, the company dropped "Packard" from its name and reverted to its pre-1954 name, the Studebaker Corporation. In addition to being built in Studebaker's South Bend, Indiana, home plant, the Lark and its descendants were also built in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, from 1959-1966 by Studebaker of Canada Limited. The cars were also exported to a number of countries around the world as completed units and completely knocked down (CKD) kits.

Lark-based variants represented the bulk of the range produced by Studebaker after 1958 and sold in far greater volume than the contemporary Hawk and Avanti models. Beginning with the 1963 Cruiser, the Lark name was gradually phased out of the company catalog and by early 1964, Lark-based models were being marketed under Commander, Daytona and Cruiser nameplates only. The Studebaker company, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1952, ceased automobile production in 1966.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Studebaker Lark

Unlike the rest of the Shrocks featured this week, this model is not 1/72 scale.  Before they focused on 1/72, the Shrocks did a series of models in 1/55, most prominently a series of Larks, of which this is one of them.

Sales of the Lark were good for the 1959 and 1960 model year, thanks to the fact that Studebaker had obtained "dual" dealerships with dealers of the Big Three manufacturers that did not as yet have their own compacts to sell.

Initial models included two- and four-door sedans, a two-door hardtop coupe and a two-door station wagon, with two levels of trim (Deluxe and Regal) offered on most. Aside from American Motors Corporation's Rambler line, the Lark offered the broadest line of compacts on the U.S. market. Indeed, the Lark was the first car of its size to offer a V-8 engine — the similarly-sized Rambler American offered only an inline six.

The lineup grew for 1960, when the company issued a convertible (Studebaker's first since 1952) and a four-door station wagon. Two-door wagons were fast falling from favor throughout the industry, despite a minor redesign which made the two-door Lark wagon's tailgate and rear side windows more user-friendly, and indeed the four-door quickly proved the more popular of the two available wagons from Studebaker.
A taxicab version of the Lark, originally called the "Econ-O-Miler," was built on the station wagon's longer 113 in (2,900 mm) wheelbase. The extra 4.5 in (110 mm) of wheelbase translated into extra rear seat legroom, which was important in the taxi trade.

For 1959 and 1960, Larks were available with either an L-head (flathead) 170 cu in (2.8 L) six-cylinder engine or the company's 259 cu in (4.2 L) V8. Testers at the time gave high marks to the V-8's performance. A V-8 Lark could turn out a 0 to 60 mph time of around 10 seconds, which was on par with much larger cars. By comparison, among the early Big Three compacts (Ford Falcon, Mercury Comet, Chevrolet Corvair and Plymouth Valiant) that arrived on the scene in 1960, only the Valiant could break the 20-second mark from 0-60 mph. None of the Big Three compacts offered a V-8 until the second wave of such cars — the so-called "senior compacts" — arrived for 1961.

To meet the challenge of those new cars head-on, for 1961 Studebaker created a new four-door sedan, the Cruiser, using the Econ-O-Miler taxicab body with an upgraded, more luxurious interior. The resulting car harked back to the long-wheelbase Studebaker Land Cruiser sedans of the late Forties and early Fifties. These cars can be distinguished from their lesser four-door counterparts by the 1959-60-style roofline and operational vent windows in the rear doors, while other sedans used one-piece glass in the rear doors.
A new option, a canvas-covered folding sunroof dubbed the "Skytop" was introduced as an extra-cost feature for sedans and the two-door hardtop. A mild restyling, too, was carried out. Non-Cruiser sedans and the two-door hardtop received a squared-off roofline, and a new front end design gave the Lark a broader grille and the availability of quad headlamps (as standard equipment on Regal and Cruiser models, optional on Deluxes).

Although the styling was modified, engineering enhancements were the big news for 1961, as the Larks received a performance boost. Studebaker advertised as "the compact with Performability," and this was abetted by the addition of the 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8 from the Hawk family sports car as an option, although this was mainly for Larks intended for police pursuit packages. The bigger news, as far as the general public was concerned, involved the six-cylinder engine. Studebaker's engineers had long known that their little flathead mill, which dated in its basic form to 1939, was falling farther and farther behind the competition in both power and fuel economy. Lacking the budget to design a completely new engine, the engineering staff converted the 170 engine to overhead valves while retaining much of the basic design. The "new" six, which displaced the same 170 cu. in. as before, went from 90 hp (67 kW) to 112 hp (84 kW), all without a loss in fuel economy. Indeed, most road testers of the day found the new engine to be easier on fuel than the flathead, and cars so equipped were able to shave nearly four seconds off the all-important 0-60 mph time. The redesigned six, known as the "Skybolt Six," was marketed by Studebaker extensively in 1961.
Other engineering improvements that modernized the '61 Larks included the introduction of cowl ventilation, suspended brake and clutch pedals (accompanied by a firewall-mounted brake master cylinder) and revamped steering systems.

Unfortunately, for all of its new engineering and the mild restyling, sales of the Lark dropped off precipitously for 1961. Even more new competitors were squeezing their way into the marketplace, as Dodge brought out the Lancer, and General Motors issued the Buick Special, Oldsmobile F-85 and Pontiac Tempest. These new "senior compacts", in addition to their very presence in the market, caused other problems for Studebaker. Most of the Big Three dealers who had signed on with the independent when the Lark debuted dropped the smaller company under pressure from the Detroit manufacturers once the new cars broke cover. Those who did not drop Studebaker outright often put more effort to selling their other product lines.

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