Studebaker Super Hawk R2
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Born at Bonneville
The idea for the Studebaker Super Hawk was born at Bonneville in January 1963
when Andy Granatelli, 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. By comparison, a similarly equipped Lark was recorded as turning in a respectable 132.04 mph, and subsequently Studebaker decided to also market the Super Lark.
Carrying a price tag of US$581.70, the Bonneville-bred Super package consisted of 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
, manifold pressure gauge, 160 mph speedo
, front and rear carpeting and of course the obligatory identification badges.
Obviously near $600 in 1963
was a sizable wad of cash, but what it bought was definitely worth every cent. The same package with the supercharged R-1 engine retailed at $371.70. Bucket seats and front and rear safety belts were standard Hawk items. There was one catch, however. Either a four-speed stick or Power-shift automatic transmission had to be ordered with the Super package, and the cost was extra.
The Power-Shift Automatic
The Power-shift automatic was still a fairly new modification for the early 1960s, and retailed at US$272.50. And there were yet other options for the well-heeled, such as Halibrand mag wheels ($240 a set from Stude dealers), Firestone 6.70 x 15 four-ply Butylaire tires ($79.27), power steering ($80.50), and 3.73-to-1 rear axle ratio (no charge). Even the radio and heater were optional (although this was typical for cars from the era) and combined these added a further US$154.80 to the sticker price of the car.
A Studebaker Hawk had a basic list price of US$3095, and this could easily increase to over US$4500 with options. Displacing only 289 cubic inches, the Studebaker V8 was one of the smallest engines then offered in a full-sized car. It was rated, with its basic two-barrel carburettor 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 this basic form, it was up to road-testers and motoring journalists to estimate the actual output of the R-2 power-plant.
It was surmised that a half-point rise in compression yield a good five per cent increase, bringing the output up to 220 hp. The four-barrel carburettor add at least another 30 hp. The slightly wilder cam and the Paxton SN-60 centrifugal supercharger would easily mean another 50. Considering all these factors, it was not unreasonable to calculate that the engine would have been pumping out an honest 300 horses at around 5000-5200 rpm straight from the production line. And that, for 1963, was remarkable from a small 289-incher.
Studebaker Super Hawk Performance
The curb weight of of the Super Hawk was 3780 pounds in the old scale, and we figure a driver and passenger would have added another 300 or so (we are not too good at conversions, but the 3780 figure is accurate). Motor Trend magazine clocked 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 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 kick provided by the supercharger was, as decribed by several motoring magazines from the time. especially noticeable when cruising about 75 mph when the throttle is floored. From this point up to flat-out top speed, the rate of acceleration would feel almost constant - very strong - pulling all the way to 118 mph with the tachometer
reading of 5700 rpm - with plenty more on offer. Variously some magazines claimed 122, 127 and 130 mph respectively. With a few tweaks, it was likely even these could have been improved upon - which demonstrates just what a performance monster the Super Hawk was. Although the tachometer
was red-lined at 5000 rpm, the R-2 could safely be taken to 6000 rpm for shift points.
The standard Borg-Warner automatic transmission had undergone a few interesting modifications (mainly for the Avanti
) and was known as the Power-shift automatic in this form. It was controlled by a console-mounted shift lever and was extremely positive in its action. The Power-shift apparently 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 up-shift until the lever is moved manually. The 2 position worked in the same way - no automatic up-shift. With the lever in D, the transmission would start in second and automatically up-shift 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 it still wasn't the equal of a manual gearbox.
Considering the power output of the engine, fuel consumption wasn't too bad either. Road testers averaged just a touch over 10 mpg on average. Around town the figures varied between 9.3 and 11.6 mpg, while on the highway it was possible to achieve almost 15 mpg. With the 3.31 or 3.07 rear axle, fuel consumption would have 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 may have been a bit more expensive than the standard offering (and they also had a faster wear rate), but if you wanted something that stuck well on dry or wet pavement, they were definately the answer.
On the Road
On slow corners it's 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
, 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 available for 1963
. Power assist was a must with the discs because of the high pedal pressure required. Motor Trend magazine noted that, after several repeated maximum-effort stops from top speed, there was only a slight amount of noticeable fade. The brakes
weren't allowed any time to cool down before they started their actual braking tests, nor apparently did they need it. Quoting the magazine ... "All stops were quick and absolutely dead straight. All four wheels could be locked but not easily, and certainly not without warning".
Behind the Wheel
And the good news didn't stop there. It was unanimous by all motoring authorities that the overall quality of the Hawk was exceptional. Panels and doors fitted well, as did interior trim and finish moldings. The vinyl upholstery almost duplicated leather in its appearance and feel 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.
But there were a few minor points worthy of criticism. The bonnet did not have a spring-loaded counter balance system, and given its size it really needed one. The brake pedal height was considered by most to be set too high, making heel to toe operation very difficult. The boot space was compromised by the spare, but at least it was full-sized, unlike the space-saver versions used today.
Owners also claimed the rear muffler brackets seem prone to easy breakage. All things considered, these were very minor issues in an otherwise excellent car. So excellent in fact that, given the ultimate demise of Studebaker, it proves that having a brilliant product does not guarantee success.