In 1953, Studebaker unveiled the sleek and stylish Champion/Commander Starliner hardtops and coupes. The striking and futuristic design looked fast standing still though the family of somewhat anemic inline six-cylinder engines meant performance didn’t always live up to the promises made by the bodywork. For the 1956 model year, Studebaker lacked the budget to develop a new car from scratch so the Commander and Champ were heavily reworked by the team at Raymond Loewy Studios. A bold new grille mimicked the intake of an F-86 Sabre jet fighter, making room for the big 352 cubic inch Packard OHV V8 engine which finally gave the svelte Studebakers performance to match their looks. Touted as the “Family Sports Car”, the new Golden Hawk was one of the most unique cars of the era. Packard’s big 352 cubic inch V8 gave the Golden Hawk impressive straight-line performance, but it was also quite heavy and the enormous weight over the front axle gave translated into questionable handling characteristics.
For the 1956 model year, Packard’s 352 was superseded by the significantly lighter Studebaker-designed 289 cubic inch V8. On paper, this might seem like a downgrade, but the addition of a belt-driven McCullough supercharger allowed the 289 to punch out a very stout 275 horsepower and 333 lb. - ft. of torque. Over 100 pounds were shed from over the front axle, making the four-seat Golden Hawk surprisingly fast. It could easily outperform both the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette in a straight line, and now had vastly improved handling to hang with its two-seat rivals on twisty roads. The body retained the old roofline of the Starliner, but was brought in vogue with fiberglass fins (to the disdain of Robert Bourke, the Starliner’s designer), a hood bulge to clear the blower, and unique trunk lid with a fluted rear panel. The Golden Hawk proved to be one most powerful American GT cars of the era, made even more impressive by the shoestring budget under which it was developed, and today is counted among the most desirable and collectible of all Studebakers.
This striking 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk is a wonderful example wearing a finely-preserved older restoration. Recently out of 14 years in a large and diverse collection of sports cars, this Studebaker was originally a delivered to California where it remained for many years, documented via old registration slips and a UC Davis parking sticker from 1964. Looking sharp and attractive in its factory-correct Arctic White with Tiara Gold inserts, optional dual rear antennas, dual exhaust and tinted glass, this is an outstanding car with a superb presentation.
The handsome body is very straight with consistent panel gaps and doors that shut with satisfying solidity. Paintwork is highly attractive, having been well-maintained since the restoration was completed. It shows only a few minor touch-ups upon close inspection. Chrome and stainless brightwork is in beautiful condition overall, with a mix of restored and preserved original pieces. The bumpers feature excellent plating, and the stainless side moldings and window trims are straight and properly aligned, with only the beltline moldings and the original mirror shows some minor pitting. Like the Starliner before it, the Golden Hawk is rakish and low; this car sitting properly on Tiara Gold steel wheels with original stainless hubcaps and fresh Firestone Deluxe Champion wide-whitewall tires. The numerous exterior and interior options are confirmed via the included Studebaker build record.
A rare and desirable gold interior presents in excellent condition with restored seats complementing preserved original two-tone door and interior panels. The original radio remains in place and the fittings and controls all appear to be excellent originals. Carpets are correct gold nylon loop and the trunk is properly detailed, housing the spare wheel and jack. The spacious and comfortable interior gave the Golden Hawk an advantage over the competition, allowing room for five while appealing to the sporting driver with its purposeful race-inspired gauges and engine-turned alloy fascia.
The McCullough Supercharged 289 cubic inch V8 is tidy and well detailed, with correct air cleaner fittings and hardware. It is clean and appears well sorted without being fussy or over-restored. The undercarriage is similarly tidy, appearing very correct and showing minimal road use. The engine runs strong and the car is simply a pleasure to drive; the abundant power and low-end torque from that blown V8 lending it an impressive turn of speed. Power is sent through an automatic transmission and optional Twin-Traction rear differential. With unique Jet-Age style and the grunt to back it up, this Golden Hawk certainly lives up to the “Family Sports Car” moniker its creators gave it. This is a very fine example of Studebaker’s legendary Golden Hawk, a fabulous driver that is ready for events or casual show.