Museum Classic: 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk – Suggestibility And Vintage Car Ownership

I like too many cars, and thus I am perhaps too willing to waste money on their purchase, repair, maintenance, and rented storage.  Most of the purchases in my fleet, however, were suggested by fortuitous timing or pure whimsy (in addition to a lack of self-control).  Only once did I purposely and successfully search for and purchase a specific model, and as usual, I should have bought a nicer one.  This Studebaker GT Hawk, which once belonged to designer Brooks Stevens himself, is a recent acquisition of the Studebaker National Museum, and my seeing it on a recent visit had me reevaluating my next move, and whether or not it involves buying a car I have heretofore never seriously considered buying.

Here’s my vintage car tally so far:

1965 Mustang – It’s a family heirloom (since 1968), given to me by my mom in 1988.  Very rusty.  Started driving it in 1994, still driving it.  It’s been torn apart as much as it’s been together.

1965 Skylark – I got a full-time job in 2003 and decided to get another old car, even though I was still living with my parents.  It was down to this or a ’67 Impala.  I chose this.  Paid $3400.  Proposed to my now-wife next.  Still have the car and the girl.

1953 Buick Special – It came up for sale in the newspaper classifieds in 2005, two months after I got married.  My wife had no idea at the time that this would be a pattern.  I knew the car and had lusted after it every time I drove by the owner’s house.  Sent Dad with a check for $6500.  Immediately had to have the cylinder head rebuilt.  Still have girl, car, and cylinder head.

1965 Corvair – In 2007, right around Thanksgiving, my mom for some reason said “You should get a Corvair!”  I thought, “Of course I should!” Did I mention the word “suggestibility” in the title?  Found one that week on the used car lot of a local Ford dealer.  Paid $3000.  Got hosed, should have bought a much better one.  Still have it.  I’m “bottom of the Mariana Trench” underwater.

1965 Dart Wagon – October 2013.  Thought it would be cool to have a compact ’60s station wagon.  Found the Dart on eBay, offered by Wildcat Mopars in Oregon.  Put in a $1525 bid and won.  Had to pay $850 to have it shipped to Michigan.  Immediately replaced the engine.  Still have the car and both engines.

1974 Firebird – I was cruising eBay one December day in 2015 before it was overrun by consignment dealers.  Looked at cars within a 200-mile radius and found this.  Decided to live my Rockford dreams.  Paid $4084 and picked it up with a U-Haul truck and trailer.  The U-Haul got terrible gas mileage.  Still have the Firebird, still living my Rockford dreams.  Haven’t seen the U-Haul since.

1963 Thunderbird – Actively looked for a Bullet Bird in 2018 because I’ve liked them since I was a kid.  Found one within 100 miles on Hemmings being sold by a nice lady who was clearing her uncle’s estate.  Paid $7500.  It was too much, perhaps my greatest mistake aside from the Corvair.  My COALs on all my cars litter this website if for some reason you’re interested.

So I’ve never sold a vintage car, and I’ve been renting storage space from a local farmer for over a decade because I’m silly and I can only keep four old cars in the garage.  So what’s one more?  I’ve been looking for a Toronado or a Riviera forever, but I’m cheap and the long-term search for a specific car hasn’t been a spectacular success; it has to find me.  Therefore, to meander back to the main idea, maybe it’s time for a Studebaker GT Hawk, because I looked at it at a museum for three minutes and thought I might like one.  After all, it’s a really great-looking car.

One positive attribute of the GT Hawk is its size; compared to a Riviera or Toronado, it’s a little shorter and a lot narrower, which is a benefit when space is at a premium.  Plus, my wife commented that it looks almost like a foreign car, so it has a little of that mystique going for it.  It really is shocking how effectively Brooks Stevens updated the old 1953 Studebaker, and how simply he managed it using a big, protruding Mercedes-style grille…

…and a T-Bird roofline.

Here’s the roofline from my ’63 for comparison.

I’ve read somewhere that the Packard Predictor show car was more of an influence on the roof than the Thunderbird (after all, the Predictor DOES predate the ’58 T-Bird and its unique roofline).  But come on, let’s be realistic; the T-Bird was very popular and its roofline was known as THE T-Bird roofline, and the Predictor’s roofline is more akin to a Mercury Breezeway’s than a T-Bird’s.  If the T-Bird wasn’t the originator, then at the very least, the legend became fact.

Regardless of the origin story of its roofline, the GT Hawk is a fascinating potential car number eight.  First, few were built, so it’s uncommon to see one; therefore, it is a fitting representation of my oddball tendencies.  Second, it’s a Studebaker, so it’s not terribly overpriced (see above – I’m cheap).   Third, they’re all powered by the Studebaker 289, and that’s good, because I like V8s.  Fourth, what’s with that hood?  A prop rod?  Really, Studebaker?  I realize that the axe was falling almost perennially after about 1952, but a prop rod?  Also, it is inevitable that I will hit my head on that hood and swear.

Finding a GT Hawk in a color I’d like could be a challenge.  Typically, I only prefer black on a few vintage cars, such as a ’62 Bel Air or a ’41 Continental, but I think it’s the best choice on a GT Hawk (no two-tones on mine, please).

I don’t think I’d consider one in white, although this example illuminates the stylish rear end and manageable width.

White also highlights another subtle way Stevens updated the car; the GT Hawk simply used body color rather than chrome on the outer grilles.

You can see the chromed surround on this ’56 model.  Also notice how Stevens eliminated the character lines from the door of the earlier car to create a clean bodyside, one model year before the extremely tasteful and clean-sided 1963 Grand Prix.

Even so, Studebaker’s demise as a manufacturer blunted the Hawk’s potential success, and fewer than 15,000 were sold over the course of its 1962 to 1964 production run.

The GT Hawk has nonetheless been almost universally lauded as an amazing restyling job during a time of extreme financial duress for Studebaker, and it has now, all these years later, stared at me and dared me to make the next move.  Do I call its bluff?  Does it call mine?

Um, how long have YOU been sitting there, Avanti?