Studebaker Silver Hawk
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
To this day the Studebaker Hawk series has intrigued car enthusiasts. Are they really sports cars, or did the beautiful Continental lines cover just another sloppy old Detroiter? The Silver Hawk was a simplified version of its Golden cousin. Externally the car featured the then popular fins and wrap-around details, but they were subtly blended into a shapely whole. We think it remains one of the best looking classics from just about any era you would care to choose.
The Silver Hawk was the replacement for the two lower models in the four-model Hawk range in 1956
, the Flight Hawk which carried the Champion 185 cu. in., six-cylinder 101 hp (75 kW) power-plant and the Power Hawk with the Commander's 259ci 4.2 litre V8. Both of these models were two-door pillared coupes in the U.S. market (based on the 1953
"Starlight" coupe body), and therefore, so was the Silver Hawk, which came in two differently-engined models with either the aforementioned Champion six or the 289 cu. in. 4.7 litre President V8 engine- delivering 210 HP from the two-barrel, 225 HP from the four-barrel with dual exhaust
The Commander V8 was not offered in U.S. models; it was, however, the largest engine available in most overseas markets. In appearance, the Silver Hawk was somewhat plainer in appearance than the Golden Hawk, the senior of the two Hawk models in 1957
. There was a little bit less chrome, no supercharger or bulge in the hood, and a simpler two-tone paint scheme was adopted - simply one colour below the chrome belt line and another above, but unlike the Golden Hawk, the lower colour included the fin.
Some dealers painted the fin only, and sometimes the deck lid recess and or the left and right "side grills" were painted in a contrasting Studebaker colour. These usually matched the interior, some were Blue, Gold, Red or Black and were actually better looking according to many owners than the factory two-tone paint scheme. In the midst of a financial crisis at Studebaker after a disastrous recession-year performance in 1958
, the Golden Hawk was dropped; the Silver Hawk, which had sold somewhat better, was retained in the lineup.
The 1959 Silver Hawk
, the Silver Hawk became the only Hawk model in production, largely because Studebaker dealers wanted a glamorous flagship model as a dealership draw. Those customers would more than likely walk out with Studebaker's last-ditch hope, the new Lark compact. In fact, the Silver Hawk was the only non-Lark model kept. Changes for 1959
included new tailfins, with the "Silver Hawk" script moved to the fins instead of on the trunk lid (where new individual block letters spelling out STUDEBAKER were placed), with a new Hawk badge in between the two words.
The parking lights moved to the side grilles from the front fenders, chrome moldings around the windows (from the '53-'54 models) similar to the Golden Hawk were added, and the interior was somewhere in between the two former models' levels of luxury. Two-tone paint was discontinued for all US orders, though it was still available for export. Power came from a big 4248cc V8 on an 8.8 to 1 compression. Bore/stroke ratio was well oversquare at 90.4 by 82.5 mm. Maximum power was a reasonable 180 developed at 4500 rpm. The engine did not have the Golden Hawk's supercharger - a simplified device which used to pressurise cold air before feeding it to the carburettor.
The Silver Hawk had two doors, both of them wide enough to make entry to a full-size (well, almost) back seat easy even for the aged and the elongated. The front seat was an unsporting bench, slightly more sensibly shaped than most. Headroom in front was generous in spite of the car's small overall height. In the back things were not quite so good, with leg-room best described as adequate. Cotton link carpet covered the floor. The dashboard was quietly trimmed in simulated coined aluminium. The instruments were well lettered in white on round black dials with simple chromium bezels. The Silver Hawk had a huge clock opposite the speedometer instead of a tachometer.
Behind the Wheel
The driving position of the Silver Hawk was good, with the reservation that backward seat adjustment had to be limited out of consideration for rear passengers. The wheel was set high, destroying any sports car pretensions – but at the time it seemed most makers liked to have their wheels set too high. Around town the silky smooth V8 would burble like a thoroughbred through its twin exhausts and engine noise even at the driver's seat was considerable – a joy to lovers of V8’s.
If you optioned the auto, you simply sat back, selected Drive on the column sector and pushed gingerly on the big organ throttle pedal, and the lusty V8 would grumble into life. For a split second the back wheels would struggle to find purchase on the bitumen, then the limited-slip differential system would get the better of all that torque and the sleek American would charge away.
The Studebaker Silver Hawk accelerated hard. It may not have had the cubic inches of some of its American cousins, but it was much, much lighter than they and the result was a power to weight ratio approaching the magical 200 b.h.p./ton. Cornering was very good by American standards. The car wouldn’t lean excessively. Its tyres
would not even squeal beyond reasonable limits. Unfortunately low gearing (four and a half turns) and an objectionable lack of self-centring took the keen edge off the pleasure of driving the Hawk quickly.
Braking, too, was a little disappointing. Soft linings helped to give good initial retardation, but a series of quick dabs at the pedal from fairly high speeds were enough to produce fade and often this was accompanied by pulling to the left or right. Surprisingly the Hawk also cost much less than many of its competitors. It was also cheaper to run and in lots of ways more satisfying. In Australia the list price at release was £2,801 including tax. Good value. And it remains one of our favourite classics here at Unique Cars and Parts
1960 Studebaker Hawk
Under the hood (at least for U.S. models), buyers could choose the newly-shrunken (to pre-1955
size) 90 HP 169.6 cu. in. 2.8 litre six or the 259 cu. in. 4.2 litre V8 of 180 or 195 HP (depending on the choice of carburetor). The 289 was no longer available. The 1959
model year was Studebaker's first profitable year in six years, thanks mostly to the Lark, and the rising tide of sales lifted the Silver Hawk, which sold 7,788 examples. For 1960
, Studebaker dropped the Silver part of the name, leaving "just plain" Hawk. Largely unchanged externally from the 1959
, internally, the major change was the return of the 289 cubic inch 4.7 litre V8 last used in 1958
This was the only engine available for U.S. orders in both 1960
, the last year of the finned Hawk. Some 6-cylinder and 259ci 4.2 litre V8 models were built for export markets. The 1961
models saw the limited return of a second paint colour, beige, in a stripe along the base of the fin between the two lower moldings. Interiors gained the option of wide, comfortable bucket seats; customers could opt to team their 289 V8 with a new four-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission, the same model used in the Chevrolet Corvette. The Hawk was replaced for 1962
by the stunningly-restyled (by Brooks Stevens) Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk