By the late 1950s, Studebaker was one of America’s oldest vehicle manufacturers. While they joined the automobile business almost by mistake in 1910, the Studebaker name was already well-established thanks to the reputation they earned from years of building high quality carriages and wagons, dating back to 1852. The first Studebaker car was an electric built in 1902, with a gasoline powered model following in 1904. But it wasn’t until around 1910, when Studebaker began selling E.M.F. automobiles out of their own showrooms that they fully committed to the motorcar business. The Studebaker brothers merged with E.M.F, at first envisioning sales of cars and wagons out of Studebaker’s extensive dealer network. But when quality problems with E.M.F. sparked a wave or warranty claims, Studebaker took over car production to protect their hard-earned reputation. Studebaker would go on to be a steady presence in the American market, often falling into the number 2 slot behind Ford in sales, a status they enjoyed for many years, until the firm began to falter in the 1930s.
In 1953, Studebaker unveiled the sleek, rakish Champion/Commander Starliner hardtops and coupes, though the inline six-cylinder engine didn’t always live up to the promises made by the bodywork. For 1956, the Commander and Champ were heavily reworked by Raymond Loewy as Studebaker lacked the budget for a whole new car. A bold new grille mimicked the intake of an F-86 Sabre jet fighter, making room for the big 352 cubic inch Packard V8 engine which finally gave the svelte Studebakers performance to match their looks. The flagship model was now called the “Golden Hawk”, touted by Studebaker as a “family sports car”. Packard’s 352 would soon be superseded by the lighter but equally powerful Studebaker 289, and with the addition of a belt-driven McCullough supercharger, would produce a very stout 275 horsepower. The four seat Golden Hawk was surprisingly fast, and could easily outperform both the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette! The body retained the old roofline of the Starliner, but it was brought up to date with fiberglass fins, a hood bulge to clear the blower, and unique trunk lid with a fluted rear panel. The Golden Hawk proved to be one of the most unique and powerful American GT cars of the era. Yet despite its enormous potential, Studebaker’s financial trouble would soon spell the end for the Golden Hawk and this legendary American car company.
This 1958 Golden Hawk is a beautiful example of Studebaker’s “Family Sports Car”. It is finished in the appropriately golden shade of Canyon Copper with Parchment White roof and coves; officially Studebaker code P 5836. It is a very handsome car that comes fully equipped with a number of desirable options as verified by the included Studebaker Production Order. First and foremost, the striking body by Raymond Loewy looks outstanding in this wonderfully bold color scheme. The body is very straight, displaying crisp lines and consistent panel gaps, while the paintwork has been finished to a high standard. Of course this is a 1950s American sporty car, so chrome trim is abundant. Bumpers and the bold grilles are straight and tidy, with nice original plating showing in good condition. The same goes for the rest of the bright trim, much of which appears to be original, including the dual optional mirrors emblazoned with the Golden Hawk logo and the optional trunk-mounted radio antenna. Some of the chrome appears a bit care worn in places, though the pleasing character is in good keeping with the overall quality of the car. It rides on a set of chrome Kelsey Hayes wire wheels, which are wrapped in wide-whitewall tires as originally equipped, and a full set of rare 1958-only wheel covers will also be included in the sale.
Inside, the cabin features a unique tri-tone treatment with tan leather on the seats and black accents in the door and quarter panels. The upholstery presents in very good condition throughout, appearing fresh and very tidy. In keeping with the sporty nature of the Golden Hawk, the dash consists of an engine-turned alloy fascia with an array of racy Stewart-Warner instruments. Original options include the Flight-O-Matic automatic transmission, Delco signal seek radio, rear seat speaker, and Climatizer air conditioning.
Lifting the hood reveals the beautifully detailed and highly optioned “Sweeptakes” 289 cubic inch V8 which, according to the build order document, is the original, numbers-matching unit for this car. It retains the big McCullough supercharger and air-conditioning compressor, and is very well presented with high-quality finishing on the accessories. Aside from the blower, it is also equipped from new with power steering, power brakes and the Twin-Traction limited slip differential, as denoted by the “TT” emblem on the trunk. Rarely do we encounter one of these rare and exciting Golden Hawks in such fine condition, and we are pleased to offer this fine driving example. With rarity, jet-age style courtesy of one of America’s greatest industrial designers, and surprisingly vivid performance, this Golden Hawk will make a welcome companion for casual show or for enjoyment out on the road.