CC Project: 1963 Studebaker Lark – Assessment and Investigation

In garage.

Once the Studebaker was home and tucked away in the garage it was time to assess the car in depth. We already had plenty of snow so the classic driving season is already over, which gives me plenty of time to get it sorted for spring 2021.

Thanks to Bill Jarvis on Flickr I have the following information from my body tag and serial number.

Body tag:
63 = 1963
V = V8 (could be either 259 or 289 but the engine id says 259)
Y = 4-door sedan (could be either of 2 wheelbases)
6 = Lark Custom (top trim level for the regular 113-inch wheelbase)

Serial number:
63 = 1963
V = V-8
C = Canadian-built (Hamilton ON)

The trunk contents.

I am not sure why but I started with the trunk. Perhaps it was the thrill of the treasure hunt. Perhaps it was just the back of the car was closest to the garage door. There was certainly a large volume of stuff, so surely at least some of it would be at least interesting. As a refresher, above is how it looked like in as-bought condition. On the top layer I could see more of that exterior green deck carpet. That seemed like an obvious candidate for the trash but I will hold onto it for a bit to be sure. There was also a small cache of chrome trim, and I hoped at least some of it would fit the rear doors.

Layer 1

One layer down I found a spare tire plus a tire iron. A blue tarp, random gloves and an electrical cord were also exposed.

Layer 2.

Fuel pump, speaker, jumper cables and another extension cord are now visible with the spare out. Also ten cents in Canadian Tire money we can count that against my purchase price. Finding a bondo spreader in your new purchase does not exactly inspire confidence… let’s go deeper.

Cleaned out trunk.

A quick vacuum has it looking better. It could do with a wash and repaint at some point but it is remarkably solid and rust free.

The trunk contents.

Here are the contents minus the spare tire and trash:

Jack, sandpaper, chrome trim, air filter, sun visor, alternator, spray bottle, door pull, jumper cables, 2x extension cords, fuel pump, tarp, carpet, jack and box of parts.

Looking into the box we have spray paint, silicone caulk, painting tape, horn, trim, door handles, spare ignition, coil, radiator cap, single speaker.

10 cents of Canadian Tire money.

The sun visor, door handle pull and body trim chrome are likely the bits missing from the car, which is good news.

Awesome spray?

Very rusty pliers.

Rusty pliers.

Misc fastners.

Some hardware plus a spray straw.

 Some electrical.

Some miscellaneous electrical bits.

Since going through the trunk was fun, I had to do the glove box next. I made a video this time. These had a “Exclusive Beauty Vanity” which was marketed to women as an in-car vanity. It was the Sixties I guess.

Rear seat.

The rest of the interior needed a go through as well. The missing air cleaner housing and hub cap. Also paint container plus a car cover.

Cleaned rear seats.

After a quick clean. The stained fabric on the seats did not come as clean as I hoped but the stains have likely been there a long time. An ash tray for the rear occupants is something not seen on modern vehicles.

Front seats.

The front seats were given a similar cleaning attempt which worked well on the vinyl but not the fabric. While not visible in this shot, the headliner is not fantastic, with a few holes in it.

Front seatbelts.

Studebaker was one of the first makes to include seat belts as standard.

1966 gauge cluser.

The gauge cluster is quite complete with speedometer, clock, temperature, amps, oil pressure, and fuel. Interestingly this gauge cluster is incorrect for a 1963 and likely from 1966 Lark.

Studebaker Radio.

The Studebaker radio turned on and received some AM stations along with a generous helping of static.

Odd white paint.

A close up of some of the odd white paint splattered around the interior. Not sure why.

NOS manual.

New old stock manual for which I found the receipt in the truck. These are not a reprint but left overs from 1963.

It was now time to take a peek underneath to see how rusty it was. I was pleasantly surprised with only the front section of the floor replaced. The rest of the under-body and frame was very solid. There was also a recent looking exhaust system which was a definite plus. Things were looking up.

Dirty transmission.

The biggest question mark was the transmission. Taking a look at that, it was clear it was leaking, but how much and from where? Time for a clean.

Leak tracking.

I think there is a very slow leak coming from one of the linkage arms. The good news is that part is available but a bit of a pain to replace. Parts availability in general is very good on Studebakers. Now I was able to read the tag, which identifies this as an AS-10-5P transmission. These are a three speed unit that starts in second from what I understand (unless you manual select Low) making them a little slow off the mark. Can any reader shed any light on why a manufacturer would build a three speed but make it act like a two speed? I recall Mercedes transmissions did this as well for a number of years.

Engine now with air cleaner.

Reading the engine identification number, I now know it is a Canadian built 259 cid V8 producing 180 hp @ 4500 rpm from 1963. So there is a strong possibility that the car is numbers matching. The air cleaner went on the engine and the valve covers were cleaned up. Paint overspray is evident on the radiator from when it got painted. Not sure why the insides of the fenders are red. Primer perhaps, and the previous owner never painted them? Seems to make more sense than the car being previously red with the green interior. Overall the car is a bit of a hodgepodge, with the tail lights and hubcaps from a 1962 model. Good thing it will be driver level rather than show car.

Clean the rear body.

The filthy rear section was bugging me so I gave it a basic wash.

Window is now clean.

The rear window had some residue from a long missing stick on panel of some kind but looked much better once removed.

Going through the electrical components the signals, headlights, and brake lights all worked. The wipers moved a bit and stopped so I really need lubricate the linkage then wet down the glass before trying again. The horn did not work. I connected the horn directly to the battery and that worked. The steering wheel button wiring and mechanism looked in good shape and was not corroded. I suspect the relay is the culprit but need still to verify. With each discovery I am torn between loving this car and being a little let down by the condition of certain things. In the end it should be a very inexpensive classic cruiser for the summer. Regardless of the mental roller coaster I am putting myself on I cannot wait to get behind the wheel this upcoming summer.

Further reading:

Automotive History: The Studebaker V8 Engine – Punching Below Its Weight

Automotive History: Studebaker’s Automatic Drive (Borg Warner DG150/200/250) – Advanced, Efficient, But Too Expensive In The End

Car Show Classic: 1963 Studebaker Lark Regal – A Left Brain Car For A Right Brain World