Studebaker Gran Turismo Super Hawk

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Studebaker Gran Turismo Super Hawk

1962 - 1964
300 @ 5000 rpm (approx)
4 spd. MT / 3 spd. AT
Top Speed:
118 mph
Number Built:
5 star
Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
Studebaker Gran Turismo Super Hawk
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5


Due to a number of factors, Studebaker's finances were poor by 1954, leading to a merger with Packard. Studebaker-Packard would fare no better, as Studebaker would lose 43 million dollars in 1956, and Packard disappeared altogether after 1958. Studebaker would rebound in 1959, introducing the compact Lark, a success that helped push Studebaker back into the black. By 1961, however, Studebaker would be back in the loss column.

Studebaker countered with the new Gran Turismo Hawk for the 1962 model year, styled by Brooks Stevens. The other Studebaker of note to emerge that year was the Avanti, which debuted as a 1963 model. Styled under Raymond Loewy, the Avanti featured disc brakes, optional supercharged engines, and a fibreglass body. Studebaker's financial problems, however, continued. In December 1963, Studebaker closed its South Bend plant. Production continued through March 1966 at the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada plant, where a blue and white 1966 Cruiser marked the end of 114 years of Studebaker vehicle production.

The Gran Turismo Super Hawk in Review

At launch the Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk had a decidedly masculine character, with some very handsome styling features. It was true that the basic lines were 10 years old, but for the first time in many years all the shiny chrome garnishes and fins had been removed so the true beauty of the basic design could be seen. And while the '62 model was good, the 1963 GT Hawk was even better. It too remained frill-less, but it did have several high-performance options which made the Super Hawk even more masculine.

The idea for the Super Hawk was born at Bonneville in January 1963 when Andy Granatelli, then Studebaker Corporation vice president in charge of the Paxton Products Division, put an R-2-powered GT Hawk through a series of high-speed runs over the salt that netted a top mark of 140.23 mph for the flying mile. A similarly equipped Lark turned 132.04 mph, so Studebaker also decided at that time to create the Super Lark. From that point on (and including the prototype cars), all Super Hawks with the R-2 supercharged engine were replicas of the Bonneville car.

The 1963 cost of the Bonneville-bred Super package was not small, at US$581.70, but for the money you got the R-2 engine, power-assisted disc brakes, front and rear heavy-duty shocks and springs, rear axle radius rods (traction bars), rear anti-roll bar, twin-traction rear axle, 6.70 x 15 four-ply tyres, tachometer, and front and rear carpeting. So people knew you had selected the HP Hawk, Studebaker added the mandatory identification badges, along with a manifold pressure gauge, and 160-mph speedo (replacing the stock 120 mph unit). So, while near $600 was a lot of money, Studebaker were giving you an awful lot for the money. The same package with the supercharged R-1 engine sold for US$371.70. And just in case you are wondering, bucket seats and front and rear safety belts were standard Hawk items, so there was no upgrade needed with either of the HP options.

Buyers could select either a four-speed stick or Power-shift automatic transmission - but you could not opt for the stock 3 speed unit if you went with the Super package. The four-speed unit was included in the extra cost, but you needed to add another US$272.50 to upgrade to the "Power-Shift" automatic. There were still other options on the list, including Halibrand magnesium wheels ($240 a set from Stude dealers), Firestone 6.70 x 15 four-ply Butylaire tyres ($79.27), power steering ($80.50), and 3.73-to-1 rear axle ratio (no charge). Add a radio and heater and you needed to find another US$154.80. As you can see, the standard price of the Hawk, at US$3095, could soon skyrocket to just shy of the 5K mark when all options were selected, and you had paid US state taxes.

Studebaker Super Hawk Performance

Displacing only 289 cubic inches, the Stude V-8 was one of the smallest engines offered in a full-sized car in the early 1960s. It was rated, with its basic two-barrel carburetor and 8.5-to-1 compression ratio, at 210 hp at 4500 rpm. Since Studebaker were very hesitant about making known any of the power ratings of their engines above the basic form, people were left to "estimate" the actual output of the R-2 powerplant. A half-point rise in compression probably yielded a five per cent increase, bringing the output up to 220 hp. The four-barrel carburetor would have added another 30 hp. The slightly wilder cam and the Paxton SN-60 centrifugal supercharger would easily have added another 50. Considering all these factors, it's not too hard to "estimate" the engine pumping out an honest 300 horses at around 5000-5200 rpm. And for the time, this would have been pretty good performance from the small 289-incher.

Road testers averaged the quarter-mile out at 85.2 mph and 16.8 seconds. The 0-30, 0-45, and 0-60-mph fractions averaged out to 3.5, 5.7, and 8.5 seconds. The belt-driven (at a ratio of 6 to 1) Paxton centrifugal blower didn't have near the lag in output that a turbo-driven unit from the era did. On this size engine, the unit delivered a maximum four pounds of boost at 4000 rpm (engine) and would hold this figure fairly constant up to around 5500 rpm. Above 4000 rpm, it delivered full rated pressure any time the throttle was opened wide,

The road testers at Motor Trend magazine found that the kick provided by the supercharger was especially noticeable when cruising about 75 mph when the throttle was floored. From this point up to flat-out top speed, the rate of acceleration, they found, was almost constant - very strong. On the Riverside Raceway backstretch, they clocked an honest 118 mph with a tachometer reading of 5700 rpm. Although the tachometer was red-lined at 5000 rpm, the R-2 could safely be taken to 6000 rpm for shift points. The engine loved to be wound up, doing so very quickly and willingly to 6000 rpm in every gear except high.

The standard Borg-Warner automatic transmission underwent a few interesting modifications (mainly for the Avanti) was then known as the Power-shift automatic. It was controlled by a console-mounted shift lever and was extremely positive in its action. Road-testers stated that the Power-shift felt like a completely different box from the standard version. With the lever in the 1 position, first gear only was engaged and the transmission would not upshift until the lever was moved manually. The 2 position worked in the same way - no automatic upshift. With the lever in D, the transmission would start in second and automatically upshift at 5000 rpm. Second was also available automatically as a passing gear when cruising in D below 65 mph. Passing gear was also available manually below 80 mph. The 1-2 and 2-3 shifts were accomplished in this transmission with much less slippage than in the stock unit, but as good as the auto-tranny was, it was not the equal of a manual gearbox.

On the Road

Considering the power output of the engine, fuel consumption wasn't too bad. Road and Track magazine found the overall average for 1300 miles was 10.1 mpg. Around town the figures varied between 9.3 and 11.6 mpg. Out on the road several tanks produced a high of 14.8 mpg. With the 3.31 or 3.07 rear axle, fuel consumption improved proportionately. Equally if not more impressive was the suspension system of the Super Hawk. With stiffer springs and shock absorbers all around, the front (standard) and rear anti-roll bars, and traction bars, the Super Hawk was a formidable opponent for any car on the road ... especially when the Hawk was equipped with Butylaire tyres. These were a bit more expensive than the standard offering and had a faster wear rate, but if you wanted something that stuck well on dry or wet pavement, they were the answer.

On slow corners it was apparent (but not excessively so) that the Super Hawk was a basic understeerer. At speed, the handling characteristics were more pleasingly neutral, with final oversteer as the end result. The front and rear anti-roll bars kept the car extremely flat in all types of corners. Still, even with the high-performance suspension, the ride was comfortable without undue harshness. The combination of Dunlop-licensed Bendix disc brakes at the front plus large finned drums at the rear was just about the best then available. Power assist was a must with the discs because of the high pedal pressure required. And as you can imagine, they performed brilliantly, particularly when compared to the standard drum set up, even if the drums had sintered metallic linings. You could experience a little fade if you abused them, but they would recover exceptionally quickly, and much faster than any drum setup.

Behind the Wheel

Car reviewers were unanimous in their praise with regard to the overall quality of the Hawk. The panels and doors fitted well, as did interior trim and finish moldings. The vinyl upholstery almost duplicated leather in its appearance and felt and added much to the richness of the interior. The bucket front seats were comfortable, being neither too hard nor too soft. Lateral support was also good. The separating console had a handy storage space for small items. One point that came in for criticism was the height of the brake pedal, most finding it much too high for comfort. Otherwise, the driving experience afforded by the Hawk was, for the time, damn near perfect. If you wanted to be nit-picking, the boot space was hampered somewhat by the location of the spare, but there was still plenty of room for your luggage.

All in all, the Super Hawk proved to be a very satisfying car to drive on all points. It was one of the best cars then rolling off any US production line. What a shame it did not last.

Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

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