1961 Studebaker: Long tailfin two-door

Farm Forum

George Marshall decided to do his part in bringing springtime color to his part of the world. In April 2010, Marshall located a turquoise and white 1961 Studebaker Hawk for sale in Atlanta. It was similar to the Studebaker Hawk that his mother, Lucy, had bought years before.

Marshall’s wife, Rosemary, also found the car appealing. A trusted friend in Atlanta agreed to inspect the automobile. His positive report soon arrived with no negative comments. Based on his friend’s recommendation Marshall flew to Georgia, gave the car a quick once over and purchased it right then.

However, the car was new to him so he did not want to drive it several hundred miles home to Virginia. He flew home and waited for his car to arrive on the back of a truck. “If I knew then what I know now,” he says, “I would have driven it home.”

In 1961, Studebaker built 3,340 Hawks and sold each one with a base price of $2,650. This particular Studebaker had several accessories including, clock, AM radio, tachometer, backup lights, power steering, climatizer heater and antenna on the trunk lid.

Shoehorned in place under the sloping engine hood is a 289-cubic-inch V-8 engine. The 3,205-pound Hawk comfortably rides on a 120-inch wheelbase. Originally 6.70×15-inch tires supported the car but for improved handling Marshall now has radial tires on his Hawk.

He points out that the original carburetor has been replaced, and likewise, the generator has been replaced by an alternator. A four-speed manual floor-mounted transmission would be preferable, Marshall says, but he is quite content with the automatic transmission.

He must be alert because the shift pattern is not the same as on modern cars. From the left the gears are: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.

“Unless you pull it down to Low it starts in second gear when in Drive,” Marshall explains.

Visibility is excellent when seated at the two-tone, two-spoke steering wheel. The car has two exterior mirrors, enabling the driver to keep the canted tailfins in sight. Below the padded dashboard the aeronautical influence in design is obvious from the engine-turned face plate to all the toggle switches.

The two-speed electric wipers keep the windshield clear. In order to illuminate the cabin at night there is a single dome light above the left door. That is also where the switch to operate the light is located.

In the center of each full-size wheel cover is a stylized “S” for Studebaker. Near the speedometer, which tops out at 120 mph, is the odometer which now reads 22,497 miles. While motoring in the car squeaks and rattles are virtually non-existent. Finned brake drums bring the Studebaker to a straight-line halt.

Marshall got lucky when the man who sold him the car also gave him the contact information of the people who had restored the Studebaker before he acquired it. Marshall traced it to the restorers and telephoned them in Washington state.

“That’s my baby!” the restorer’s wife exclaimed. Marshall learned that his Hawk had always been a west coast car, until it was taken to Georgia. The restorers told him there had been absolutely no rust and the restoration primarily consisted of stripping the car, repainting it followed by new upholstery.

Marshall and his wife now drive the Studebaker with newfound confidence. He has given the Hawk a nickname, Lucy, in memory of his mother.

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