altered image by Barry Koch
Finding a genuine curbside classic on the street is like having a little fling. I glimpse it, and decide whether it’s seducing me or not. Sometimes I can’t quite tell at first; I almost passed up the Omega F-85 the other day, thinking it was just a regular Omega (I must be getting pretty jaded to consider passing one of those up). But only when I parked and walked up to it did I notice the little F-85 badge on the front fender…baby; what are your doing hanging out on the streets of Springfield? Don’t you know you’re a rare and exotic creature?
Some of these CC flings are genuine quickies; a couple of hours total to shoot and write up. Others linger into more extended affairs, but even then they usually end after the article is written and posted, which can take three hard days of labor for a very seductive car, like the ’59 Lark. Whew!! And then I usually move on, to the next conquest. But not in the case of the Lark. I wanted more, but I wanted her to slim down and shape up a bit.
But she was gone, so it was time for some serious MM’ing (mental masturbation). What makes the ’59 Lark a particularly attractive subject of that is that it had some serious performance potential, given its light weight and available 195 hp V8. I imagined myself in 1959, having come into wee bit of money, and looking for a fast but practical car. A Pontiac GTO was still five years away.
A Lark with the optional four-barrel 259 V8 teamed up with the three-speed manual (and overdrive) could undoubtedly break the 10 second barrier in the 0-60. I imagined what performance tweaks there were for the Studebaker V8 in 1959; sadly, I suspect quite few, as it just wasn’t an engine that had caught the eye of the hot rodders. Yes, in 1963, Studebaker belatedly got on the performance bandwagon with its Super Lark, and the supercharged and high-performance versions of their 289 V8, thanks to help from Any Granatelli.
But prior to that, although the Studebaker V8 was reasonable adequate, it was never a serious high-performance engine. To rectify the fairly weak-chested 232 inch version that came with the seductive ’53 coupes, one outfit started swapping in Cadillac V8s, to create the 125 mph Studillac.
If it had been 1957, there’s no doubt I would have bought myself a ’57 Chevy with the blisteringly new hot fuel injected 283 V8. It was a remarkable achievement, able to rev cleanly to 7,000 rpm, and propel the ’57 Corvette from 0-60 in a then mind-blowing 5.7 seconds. Unfortunately, the new for speed transmission was not yet offered in anything but the Corvette.
But it was now 1959, and Chevy was pushing its 290 hp FI 293 in the Impala coupe, now available with the four speed, as a family sports car. But its weight had ballooned, from 3278 for a ’57 to 3580 for the ’59. Meanwhile, a V8 Lark coupe weighed a mere 3034 lbs. That’s more like it. Now it just needs 100 more hp!
The solution is easy, when you’re laying in bed at six in the morning and it’s too early to get up. Swap in a Chevy 290 hp FI 283 and four speed; they can be bought at your friendly Chevy dealer. And pick up one of those “Fuel Injection” badges too; or maybe not…wouldn’t want suspicions aroused when you’re shutting down every other production car in 1959. Given that the Chevy V8 weighs 100 lbs less than the Stude V8, my Super Lark weighs in at a mere 2934 lbs. And some headers will lower tht further. And move the battery to the trunk for better weight distribution. And some Koni shock to the optional HD suspension. And..
Except it still looks a bit dorky, what with its tall body on that short frame. Time to roll over and go back to sleep…
And what comes to me? A lower and leaner Lark, a truly seductive one. The Lark of my dreams has come true….sort of.
Thanks to having ditched its tall ladder frame and gone unibody, the Lark has lost several inches of height. What a difference it makes. Yes, this is what the Lark could have looked like, and my fellow MM’er, Barry Koch, has made it possible, once again. Now if I could only get her out of my mind….