You may know by now that I like to take old car photos that look as if they may have been taken say, in the early ’60s when the cars shown were still common. So this evening as the sun was setting, I saw this 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk, and I had to stop and capture the moment for all time!
Oddly, Studebaker calls this mauve color “Mocha”, even though I’ve never seen actual mocha that was purple. I’ve never seen mauve-ish pink “Doeskin” either.
I don’t know a whole lot about these Hawks, so I’m just going to lay down the pictures and let others fill in any necessary details.
Looks like the trunk is missing its trim. Those fins would grow really big in 1957!
Interior shot: lousy picture, but it was the best I could do.
Love these little details. The chromium bullets house directional signal lights.
The Studebaker name in gold over pink.
This car has enough “authentic patina” to make it a genuine Curbside Classic in the truest sense of the word!
Twilight . . . it was also the twilight of Studebaker as an American car maker. Sales and profitability go down from here, despite the brief success of the Lark in 1959. After 1966, the Studebaker car brand was no more.
It always seemed to me that these Hawks should have sold much better. They occupied a unique niche–a sporty-looking car, but not a two-seater. Thunderbird and Mustang (and the 1970s-80s personal luxury coupes) had roaring success with this format. Why not Studebaker?
Studebaker was ahead of the game with the Hawk. The concept was not that popular in the 1950s and also, their dealer body just didn’t know how to move sporty cars – something that came back to haunt them when the Avanti came out.
Their timing was all off – had they held back launching their first by far with a post war car, they could have sold everything they made immediately after WW2 as it was a seller’s market then and the huge profits could have been invested into new models that fit the rest of the industry’s timing better.
Also, they would have been better armed financially for the big GM/Ford sales battle that saw the big two try to corner the market in the early 1950s – a move that led eventually to the death of the smaller independent carmakers (Nash, Hudson, Packard, Studebaker) and also dealt Chrysler a blow.
As an aside, the colour palette is so much more visually captivating than what’s found in practically any modern car.
Problem with hindsight is that it seems so obvious, but to launch a new car ahead of the competition seemed a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, it’s the 53’s that killed Studebaker as the bread and butter saloon cars didn’t sell. This beautiful car killed them.
Management goofed up the ’53s as they thought the bread and butter 4 door models would outsell the coupes and geared up production accordingly.
Also, Studebaker never really solved its early rust out issue and the lingering reputation hampered sales.
More fundamental was that the line workers at Studebaker were paid above the rate for the Big 3 and coupled to the output units churned out, led to less profit per car sold. This was a leading factor that sank Packard after the 1956 merger.
Great color combination! The Studebaker palette harks back to the day when color added excitement, unlike the Fifty Shades of Grey offered by manufacturers nowadays.
No silver. No black. No taupe. Only one shade of gray. But great color choices denied to buyers today. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1956. We’re new car shopping for something colorful.
One could buy a 1956 Golden Hawk in Cambridge Gray
And probably only one did!
As per http://www.1956goldenhawk.com 34 were sold in P5617 Cambridge Gray
I had one that was this very color. Unfortunately it sat too long without being run and the motor froze up. But it was a beautiful car.
You have not captured just any Hawk. Studebaker offered four separate Hawks – Flight Hawk and Power Hawk were the two with the pillared coupe body, and the Sky Hawk and the Golden Hawks were the hardtops. This is the top of the line Golden Hawk, of which only 4071 were built.
In any conversation of the fastest or most powerful car of 1956, this car has to be in the conversation, with its big Packard 352 V8. In period road tests, there seemed to have always been a shootout in 0-60 and 1/4 mile times between the Corvette, the Chrysler 300B and the Golden Hawk. This car with the 3 spd/OD transmission was genuinely fast. Speed Age magazine had a 4 way test of these cars (with a Vette, 300B & Thunderbird) in its July 1956 issue and the Hawk was the fastest with a 7.8 sec 0-60 and a 17.01 sec 1/4 mile. These offered the Packard Ultramatic for the auto, and those seemed to run 9-10 sec 0-60s.
I prefer this 1-year low fiberglass fin design to the 57-61 cars that used the taller fins. This was one time a low-buck kludge-job had a really good result. I think someone did some bodywork to fill in the recessed ribbed area in the deck lid.
I agree, this was a really unique niche vehicle – and was for its entire production life. It wasn’t a sports car like the Corvette (too big), it wasn’t a personal luxury car like the Thunderbird (not expensive enough), and it wasn’t a pony car like the Mustang (too long wheelbase). But in a venn diagram of those segments, the Hawk occupies a tiny space where they all overlap.
Do you have that Speed Age magazine? Or is it available online? That would make a good vintage review post here.
It’s too bad the Packard V8 couldn’t have been continued by Studebaker. It really didn’t weigh much more than the Stude V8, and had gobs of potential.
Sorry, all I had is a secondary source that goes through the results of several magazine tests that year. It is here: https://1956goldenhawk.com/perform.htm
It is clear that the Ultramatic really sucked a lot of performance out, something that would not have affected either the PG in a Corvette or a PowerFlite in the Chrysler.
Very true, there was hardly any difference in weight between the two engines. I fantasize about the company keeping the Packard engine in production and then the big 374 version finding its way into these cars. That would have been something. Put a big enough engine in a light enough car and magic happens. 🙂
Our family had a 1962 GT Hawk, 3 sp auto. I ran it in Jstock auto at a local strip. Usuall came out the winner.
What a lovely car. To be a perfect design the rear wheel maybe should have been placed a little more forward.
That CUSTOMER PARKING sign is too new, otherwise it might well be 1960. Very good picture.
I would not mind a Studebaker like that, ideal condition as well (as in: well used but still very presentable).
I also spy a smart electric meter which is out of period. Not sure about the red bollards protecting the natural gas lines, but I don’t really remember them being a thing so long ago. They’re ubiquitous in front of gas station pumps today, but as you can see from pics of old filling stations, they didn’t have them back then.
Very nice photos Stephen. I also don’t know much about Studebakers, but I do find the Hawks quite attractive. For me, it’s the incorporation of late 50s styling cues (like, all of them) in a reasonably svelte package. Nice.
I don’t often use the word, but this one seems to have just the right amount of “patina”.
The Studebaker Hawk was (I believe) an update of Loewys earlier two door vehicles. The original design was indeed ahead of it’s time, clean, and almost classic. Studebaker was struggling (like most other independents) to stay afloat. The proposed merger of Nash and Hudson as well as Studebaker and Packard both became complete. But George Mason’s plan to combine all four failed partly because of Mason’s untimely death. Nash and Hudson names disappeared after 1957 under Romneys decision to çapitalize on more successful Rambler name. Studebaker and Packard were combined, moving Packard to South Bend Studebaker facility which could not handle the big Packards. Consequently Packards became upscale rebadged Studebakers (often called Packardbakers). For 57? Or 58 Packard also had a Hawk with unfortunate add on styling gimmicks to set them apart from Studebaker Hawk which were cleaner and closer to this classic style. Packard name was gone after 58,as were the Hawks. While the Lark temporarily saved Studebaker, financial issues caused sale to Curtis Wright which used it as a tax loss. Avanti was last effort at a New Studebaker, but not enough to save the company AND not nearly as beautiful as the 50s Hawks!
It was in 58 and called a Packard Hawk. It was a bit more luxurious than the Golden Hawk, but in my opinion it was just plain ugly. The front end of the 56-61 Hawks was a thing of beauty. The dimensions of the Packard Hawk seemed all messed up with the front grill work that was attached to the front of the Hawk.
Forgot to mention colors. Mid 50s were ultimate for unusual combinations and names. In late 60s Cadillac offered Chateau Mauve Firemist. Never could forget that one! But the two and tri tones made some outstanding vehicles, especially for DeSoto and Packard. Too bad today’s vehicles only come in nondescript monotone. But then, most of today’s vehicles are nondescript SUVS and crossovers! 🤮
This car is actually wearing a 1964 GT Hawk trunk lid… a one year item that replaced the trunk lid with heavy horizontal ribs that debuted with the Hawk line in 1956. On 1962-63 GT Hawks, the “washboard” section was covered by an aluminum overlay in an effort to hide its origins, then Studebaker managed to come up with the smooth 1964 item, which was made of fiberglass. The only trim was a fairly large script emblem on the lower right side, which said “Studebaker Hawk”… obviously missing on this example. One more Hawk trunk lid anomaly was the 1958 Packard Hawk, which reached back in time and grabbed the 1953-55 trunk lid, then topped it with one of those fake spare tire thingies like the ones making the rounds at Mopar in the same era.
I am still going back and forth on whether this is a 64 lid or a 56-63 lid that has had fill work done on it. There is no hole for the trunk lid lock, so someone has clearly messed with it at least a little. But I cannot tell from photos whether the other contours are the same or not. I will defer to others who may have more knowledge about these lids, and perhaps you are that person.
There’s a more likely answer: reproduction fiberglass 1964 GT trunk lids are available. This looks like one to me, and they probably don’t come pre-drilled for the key lock.
I’ve owned both Silver and Golden 1956 Hawks. My cars were low mileage original cars bought back when they were simply older used cars.
I believe I’ve seen this Hawk years ago. If so, it’s got a modern drive train with a 4-speed, A/C,, etc. Yes the trunk lid s from a 64, and the hood is from a 1857-61 hawk. The ’56 hawk hoods had a much shorter hood bump.
As for the lead photo, if one looks closer at what’s inside the building, you will see a late 1960s or early 1970s GM 4-door hardtop vehicle in white, possibly an Olds or Buick.
Now about that 4-way merger combining Nash-Hudson with Studebaker-Packard: Like most serious collectors of both car companies, I’ve always believed it was Mason’s death that doomed the deal. Stuart Blond’s new book “Spellbinder” goes into minute details of James Nance’s time as President at S-P, and based on his evidence neither Mason or Nance ever met to work on the 4-way merger. Anyone interested in the 1953-59 period of American car manufacturing, especially S-P, Ford, Lincoln and Edsel, should read the 2 vol set of Spellbinder.
What really caused Packard’s demise is a very involved recipe that includes several major mistakes like not having a investigation of Studebaker’s financial condition before Packard bought the company, and a decision to move the assembly line to the former Briggs body plant on Connor Avenue in Detroit. Moving the assembly line to a smaller facility, as well as doing so at the same time an all new chassis, engine, transmission, trim, etc was introduced.
Other factors beyond Packard or Nance’s control included Chrysler’s purchase of Briggs Body Co, and the overall financial recession in 1956. plus, a traditional line of short-term financing for Packard in the past [insurance companies], was no longer available. Curtiss-Wright took over S-P management just to grab the company’s defense contracts, and let Packard die.
What little I’ve read suggesting there was any thought of a 3- or 4-way merger had Mason running the show with all brands, Packard included, being based on modified Nash designs. I can’t imagine any scenario where that would go down well.
Any merger amongst independents would have had to happen circa 1946 to work, when you could sell anything with a motor and steering wheel at a steep profit, and use the next few years to get your merged-and-acquired house in order, leaving several brands that were visually and functionally distinct while sharing key under-the-skin parts and platforms.
Until I read Stuart’s book, I always thought Mason, Romney, and Nance had actually planned the big merger, but it fell apart after Mason’s death. Stuart indicates there was no paperwork concerning communication between Mason and Nance about the 2+2 merger. Nance was notorious for saving all his paperwork for prosperity, and to not find anything in his papers suggests there were no plans.
That said, there is plenty of paperwork pointing to Nance and Romney being at odds because they had very different ideas on how to achieve #4 of the “big 4”. So not surprised that on Mason’s death, both Nance and Romney continued on their merry ways.
Nance and Romney could have kept their very different ideas had they simply expanded their “love without marriage” arrangement. Had Nance been as strategic-minded and cold-hearted as Mason, in mid-1955 he would have shut down Studebaker production except for V8s and trucks, and had Nash make the ’56 Studebakers as part of a share with the new Rambler. Then for ’57 or ’58 it would have been Packard’s turn, launching its big new car and a Hudson version instead of the planned Clipper. Everyone would have gotten mostly what they wanted: control, scale, profits and the size car they preferred.
Car inside the building is a ’57 Thunderbird, light green.
Packard was woefully unaware of how bad a position Studebaker was prior to the merger. Lehman Bros way understated Studes break-even sales requirement leading Packard to believe that they Stude only had to sell about half as many cars as was true to survive. The truth was that at the time Studebsker would have had to sell about twice as many cars as their BEST YEAR EVER (1950) merely to survive. Lehman Bros was the same firm who led to the 2008 Wall St debacle that we have never really bounced back from. The only good news is that Lehman Bros also didn’t survive the 2008 crash.
When I was a kid in the 50s, there was a woman in our town that had a Yellowstone over gold one. We’d all yell ” There goes the flying banana !”.
Great photos, Stephen, and what a splendid color palette offered for 1956! Make mine Snowcap White over Seaside Green or Daybreak Blue.
These were great cars.Not without fault but but still extremely capable.I have owned 3.What is not mentioned is that Studebaker handling was also superior to most of the other cars of it’s day and were fun to drive in the mountains.Tires really being the limiting item.An old saying of the time was:Old Studebaker’s never die,they just become race cars.Really nice pics