(first posted 4/15/2017) In doing a bit of research, I stumbled into this scanned article from DieselPower, posted at the studebakerdriversclub.com, about Studebaker’s experiments with swapping in a Mercedes 180 diesel engine into one of their fleet-oriented Scotsman cars. The little 1.8 L diesel made all of some 46 hp (40 hp DIN) so performance in the heavier Studebaker was bound to be even slower. But for city taxi use, where speed is not that much of a factor, and economy is, it was considered adequate. But the cost of the Mercedes engine and anticipated modest sales kept it from being offered as an option.
But in 1962-1963, when the energetic Sherwood Egbert was desperate to find niches for Studebaker to exploit, like the Avanti, he got on a diesel kick and installed GM’s DD 3-53 and 4-53 diesels in his medium and heavy-duty trucks. And a Perkins four cylinder diesel was adapted to the Lark, and perhaps about 20 or so were actually built, a couple of which are still around.
Something seems a bit off in that section about gears, as the Studebaker had 4.09;1 rear gears compared to the 180D’s 3.70:1, yet the Studebaker is shown with higher speeds per gear. Either the chart is wrong, or the Studebakers 15″ wheels were a lot bigger than the Mercedes’.
Here’s the Perkins diesel four as it was installed in some lark sedans and wagons. A HD taxi chassis was used for these, as well as a HD automatic.
That appears to be the same DIESEL badge that Studebaker affixed to its diesel trucks. Needless to say, Egbert’s diesel experiment did not amount to much either, in both trucks and cars. As was often the case, Studebaker was just ahead of the times.
More on the Studebaker diesel trucks:
Vintage Trucks: 1962 – 1964 Studebaker Big Diesel Trucks – Extreme Rarities
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for one at the Ron Hackenberger auction In July. If anyone has one, it is this guy. I know there is a 3-53 truck, so maybe Ron picked up a diesel Lark or Scotsman at some point.
I live not far from his storage unit, and he has been moving a lot of his units outdoors with the weather improving. As far as Studebakers, I believe I have seen a truck or two.
The Ponton Mercedes 180/190 sedans of those years had 13″ wheels and weighed about 2600 pounds.
I had a ’61 180b gasser, with a low-compression 1.9 OHC engine that developed
78 SAE or 68 DIN horsepower. That one was slow enough. I can’t imagine living with a 46/32 HP diesel 180, or having that same small diesel in a Studebaker!
Happy Motoring, Mark
Did ’58 Scotmans use 15″ wheels? The rest of the Stude sedan lineup for ’58 went to 14″ wheels from the previous year’s to help lower them to look more modern. Also new – and the only obvious differentiator for ’58 rather than ’57 Scotsmans and Econ-o-Miler taxis – was the lower, flatter roof seen here, also helping to lower the car and modernize the appearance. The quad headlamps, tail fins, and flashier grilles grafted onto other ’58 Studes weren’t fitted to Scotsmans.
Don’t forget: The truck line used a GMC / Detroit Diesel 3-53 engine as an option
Don’t forget? It’s right there in my second paragraph! 🙂
A guy I know, has a real stripper Lark ( no armrests or sun visors!) and he says it gets 35mpg easily. I’d like to see the MPG figure for a diesel powered Lark! Or, would your foot be on the floor 99% of the time, negating any advantage? Another friend had a Geo Metro when those were new, and complained it wasn’t thrifty enough. However, he was driving it between Milwaukee and Chicago regularly, and I’m sure he had it running flat-out all the time.
That guy is lying, unless he has one of like two diesel Larks still out there. 20-25mpg, tops.
Dang it. I really wanted to believe the guy, too…
Well, it could probably hit 30 in steady, moderate speed driving.
I’ve learned to take folk’s mileage claims with a grain of salt.
I knew a guy long ago who drove a 1976 Lincoln Continental. He claimed that it got 25 mpg. I figured if it got half of that he was doing good.
I’ve known people who say their car gets great (or terrible) mileage because they have to fill it up only once a week (or every day). No mention of how many miles they drove between fillups, or how many gallons they needed. I take mileage claims with the whole salt mine.
Maybe he has the wrong speedometer drive gear for his axle ratio.
Maybe he’s quoting Imperial gallons instead of US gallons?
First a Studebaker prototype designed by Porsche..now one powered by Mercedes, what an incredible outward looking company that was.
Crazy! I knew Studebaker used Detroit 3-53’s and 4-53’s in some of their medium duty trucks but never knew they stuffed them into cars. That “Diesel” script looks just like this one on a ’63 truck I saw at an antique truck show.
I wonder what’s up with the orange lenses in the back up light location in the rear view of the ’63. Perhaps an export model originally?
I think European-market cars must have amber rear turn signals. Euro taillights were a popular retrofit for American-market imports back in the day, especially Beetles.
That’s how we got them here in Australia, so I’d agree they’d be factory export parts.
I can answer your question. But first some background on this rare car. I have fond memories of driving this gutless wonder on the road. [It was soooo slow!]
The car was owned for many years by a good friend of mine in West Virginia [note the license plate], Mr. A. Torry Kirby [RIP]. Torry found the car in a local used car lot in the mid 1960s, and bought it because not only was he a Studebaker enthusiast, but he commuted daily from his home in Inwood, WV to his job with the US Government in Washington, DC. He thought it might be a fuel saving vehicle. It wasn’t!
Now as to those amber lights in the back. Remember, this car was equipped with a Perkins Diesel when new, as an experiment/test. It was one of 2 cars, the other car was a 4-door Studebaker Taxi.
Perkins was located in the UK. Studebaker sold CKD cars in England. So instead of sending another 2 cars to England, they sent CKD cars from the London distributor, to Perkins. To meet the UK & European lighting requirements, where the turn signals had to be amber colored, they simply used the Euro-export lenses. This allowed the car to be tested in the UK. As the USA didn’t care if the lenses were amber, red, or clear, when the car came to the USA the turn signal lenses stayed that way.
Torry once told me that it was over a year before he even noticed the lenses were amber, and turn signals. At that time he didn’t know the car’s history, it was simply a used Studebaker with a diesel engine. Back then reverse lights on Studebakers were an option anyway.
If I’m not mistaken, this car now rests in the Studebaker museum in South Bend, Indiana.
When I went to school for a half-year in the UK, in 1964, I had a friend named Chris whose parents had a green and yellow Studebaker, I think a Lark. My visual memory of the car pulling up to the curb (I mean kerb) outside school was that it was LHD. Does this sound right for those CKD cars sold over there?
I had a stripper 60 Lark with the 2v 259. 20 mpg like clockwork with a 3.31 rear axle and no overdrive. Until we got “winterized fuel”. Dropped to 17 overnight. I just don’t see how we can reduce emissions and dependence on foreign oil by burning more fuel. The Perky diesel would be interesting but I would rather try a Delta Hawk or Gemini 100 for a bit livelier performance.
Of course, in those days the diesel Lark didn’t need a separate smog certification. Life was simpler for automakers then.
Wow ~ what a rare car ! .
Maybe one or to survived in a barn in the Mid West some where…
I recognize the Perkins from its industrial cousins.
That’s a 4.203, or some variant.
They were a real shaker. The conversion probably included very soft mounts and HEAVY flywheel to make the engine tolerable for passenger car use.
Perkins engines were fitted to Chrysler products in Europe in the 60s Ive no idea how well they went, A Perkins diesel was optional on Hillman Superminx wagons and the performance was apparently dismal and a Studebaker in heavier so , great fuel economy no doubt just dont be in a hurry.
Here’s your 1950s advertising tagline…
“The THRIFTIEST of all SCOTSMAN!”
Ironically for Studebaker their fellow Indiana resident Clessie Cummins was hard at work on improving diesel power. That would have been an interesting collaboration.
That was my original headline, but then the juxtaposition of German and Scot had me change it.
Kaiser-Illyn in Israel offered Mercedes Benz diesels in some of the heavier duty Transtars. Israeli Larks destined for cab duty got a Perkins diesel (Mercedes Benz was not going to cooperate on this given they were competing for the cab market over there).
Yes, I assumed that was the case, and helps explain the Diesel Lark.
… There it is.
Its worth noting that they tested the diesel in the 1957 Scotsman Econ-O-Miler taxi fleet-specific model. By way of background, those were built on the 120.5 inch wheelbase Y-Body shared with the President Classic and Packard Clipper Town Sedan. All other 1957 four door Studebaker sedans utilized the 116.5 inch wheelbase W-Body. The Y-Body can easily be identified by the four inch longer rear door equipped with a separate vent window, which wasn’t functional on the Econ-O-Miler. The additional four inches of rear seat legroom made it ideal for taxi/livery use, whereas the concurrent W-Body rear seat legroom was rather tight. The Econ-O-Miler and successor Heavy Duty/Taxi Y-Body models continued through the 1964 model year.
Better suited as a diesel-powered taxi might have been those later Y-Body units, as the wheelbase was reduced to 113 inches for the 1959 Econ-O-Miler, its weight down to 2,870 lbs. This wheelbase reduction was subtracted from the cowl-to-front axle and by a minor dogleg intrusion into the rear door but Y-Body rear seat legroom was maintained. Oddly enough, for both 1959 and 1960, this Y-Body was available only as an Econ-O-Miler taxi, no private sale Lark trim level was offered. When Sherwood Egbert came to the helm, he recognized the potential that an upscale compact had, instituted the Lark Cruiser for 1961. For 1962, all four door Lark sedans were rationalized on the Y-Body, 113 inch wheelbase platform shared with the four door station wagon, something that should have been the case from the Lark introduction
The depth of knowledge of the commenters here never fails to impress me.
Agreed. Get a worldwide group of car-obsessives together and this kind of result is inevitable. Most enjoyable site on the web.
Wow, that’s a new one for me! I remember we had a couple lengthy discussions about the Checker diesel and Chrysler’s diesel experiments here a few years ago, so I’m surprised the Stude diesel never came up. Anyone know if the Larks were actually sold through dealerships, or were they test mules that have trickled out into private hands? I couldn’t find any period advertising in a quick Google search.
Very interesting that they went with the automatic only… although that makes perfect sense for taxi/city-based fleet use. In that type of setting, the lack of power probably wasn’t even all that obvious. Small (gas) sixes of that era often made around 80HP; the specs I could find claim 64HP for the Lark engine.
I rode in a brand spanking new Perkins Diesel powered ’70 Checker Marathon way back when. I was all of 7 but I do remember that car was glacially slow and incredibly noisy. Maybe that experience is why I don’t like diesels… 🙂
Perkins was the go-to manufacturer before auto companies designed their own diesels. They cropped up in lots of different stuff in the U.K over the years. Mercedes Benz aside, there weren’t really many other companies making small capacity diesels for automotive use. The Perkins 4/99, 4/107,4/108 was found as optional factory fitment in Ford Transits, Bedford CA and CF vans, Commer FC, Hillman superminx, etc etc there were also conversion kits available for a number of different cars in the 60s but the takeup was very low. These engines were reliable but any vehicle so equipped was glacially slow, both in acceleration and top speed.
There was a brief and small scale fad of installing 4 cylinder Gardner truck engines (much bigger and heavier than the perkins mentioned above) in cars large and strong enough to accept one (pre war rolls royces, Bentleys etc which-incredibly- were pretty much worthless gas guzzlers in the ’50s.
Certainly wouldn’t be a ball o’ fire, performancewise, but…goodness, gracious, great plumes of soot!
That black ’63 Lark appears to be one or another kind of export-spec unit, or at least to have been fitted with Australia-spec amber reversing/turn signal lamp lenses.
It’s really interesting. There were perhaps half a dozen 62 Studebarker Larks doing taxi work in Montevideo in the early 70s, all of them with Perkins and floor shift. I don’t know if the engines were swapped when new, if they came that way, or the most likely, they were swapped once the original sixes gave up the ghost. But they were terribly noisy, shaky, and with probably half a million km on them, very unattractive for riders….
> Egbert’s diesel experiment did not amount to much either, in both trucks and cars. As was often the case, Studebaker was just ahead of the times.
And not just with diesels; Studebaker sold their first of 33,842 EVs way back in 1902. 108 years before Tesla!
The car shown in the DieselPower article is a 1958 model, distinguished from the ’57 by the absence of front fender vent doors as well as a lower, flatter roof.
Good catch. I’ve changed the title. Thanks.
Actually thinking it through more, just being an Econ-O-Miler (as identified underneath the taxi illustration) assures it’s not a 1957 model, as while the Scotsman was offered starting in mid-1957, the Econ-o-Miler wasn’t until 1958; the latter’s difference being the 4″ wheelbase stretch and wider rear doors previously used only on top-line Presidents (and Packardbakers). The stretch can be easily spotted by the extra pane of glass in the rear doors – a functioning vent window on Presidents and Packards but fixed glass in Econ-O-Milers. Later Stude taxicabs would get beefed-up frames benefitting from the structural improvements needed for the 1960 Lark convertible and later the Avanti, but the first few years of Econ-o-Milers had only stiffer leaf springs and optional Twin Traction LSD to set them apart from civilian models.
The later Lark HD which replaced the Economiler in 1961 was pitched not only as a taxicab but also an off-road vehicle! We don’t need no stinkin’ 4WD! Still, that gets me to thinking how rather than just selling the Champ pickup truck – a Lark-based pickup body on a real truck platform – Studebaker could have created a revolutionary proto-Outback thing by dropping the Lark 4 door wagon body onto the 4WD truck frame and selling these to New Englanders and PNWesterners who later bought AMC Eagles and XJ Cherokees in droves.
Agreed on all counts. I had just used the year that was given at the source for this reprint.
Sure, the Lark HD was a bit tougher to stand up to rough roads, but I wouldn’t say it was pitched as an “off-road vehicle”. FWIW, the 4×4 vehicle you describe would have been a non-starter, due to its very tall stance and other factors.
Back then, 4×4 was only bought by folks who really truly needed it; folks who drove a lot on rough roads and tracks were fine with 2WD and M&S tires on the back. The folks who bought Eagles and Subarus were something of a different generation.
A big percentage of Willys station wagons (probably a substantial majority) were 2WD. And a fair number of the early Wagoneers too.
> Sure, the Lark HD was a bit tougher to stand up to rough roads, but I wouldn’t say it was pitched as an “off-road vehicle”
“Built for heavy going … off the road or on”
“The special work needs of off-road travel call for both stamina and special features engineered for the job.”
“With its 15-inch wheels, you even get high ground clearance for off-road driving”.
By the ’90s the automotive industry had convinced many drivers that 4WD/AWD was all but necessary for off-road use or even on-road use in bad weather, jobs probably better tackled with 2WD and all-terrain or winter/snow tires respectively.
I’m just glad Sherwood Egbert kept his diesel kick and Avanti project separate…