Studebaker Lark (Generation 3)

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Studebaker Lark

Studebaker Lark (Generation 3)

1964 - 1966
Country:
USA
Engine:
L6 or V8
Capacity:
170 cu in
259 / 289 cu in
Power:
210 - 335 bhp (V8)
Transmission:
3 speed auto
Top Speed:
n/a
Number Built:
1962 90,000+
1963 77,000+
Collectability:
3 star
Studebaker Lark Generation 3
Studebaker's senior managdment allowed Brooks Stevens to continue the process of modernizing main line vehicles that resulted in a more extensive (but still inexpensive) restyling for 1964. What resulted was the most mainstream looking Studebaker's since 1946.

The Mercedes-like grille of 1962-63 gave way to a full-width, stamped aluminum grille and squared-off headlamp surrounds. Stevens flattened the hood, roofline and bootlid, and reworked the tail panel to incorporate new horizontal taillights, all the while ingeniously retaining the sculpted quarter panels introduced in 1962, which still suited the new look and reduced by a considerable amount the cost of tooling.

The new look debuted along with the company's plan to phase out the Lark name entirely. The lowest-priced models were renamed Challenger (replacing the 1963-1/2 Standard), while the Commander name replaced the Regal trim level. The Daytona series added a four-door sedan (replacing the 1963 Custom four-door), and the Cruiser continued at the top of the line. All models except the Cruiser offered a Wagonaire.

Challenger and Commander models came standard with single headlights which was the first time since 1961 that a Lark-based vehicle offered them. Dual lamps were an extra-cost option. Inside, the cars were only slightly modified, with minor changes made in upholstery, glovebox opening, and gauge position. The speedometer, which in 1963 had resided in the right-hand "hole" in the gauge cluster, was moved to the center position, with the optional clock or tachometer placed on the right.

A purpose-built Marshal model in three body styles was marketed to police. Brochures claimed that "130 mph is merely incidental", the Marshal was available in "Pursuit", "Patrol", and "City" versions.

Closure of South Bend Facility, December, 1963



Studebaker worked very hard to establish a high-performance image for the 1964 lineup, sending a number of them to the Bonneville Salt Flats to set new production-car speed records. Advertisements played up the powerful R-series engines, disc brakes and the company's position that Studebakers were "different...by design" from other American cars.

Magazine road test reviews of the new cars were generally positive. One of the more-popular automotive magazines of the day even got to help build the car they would test. Gene Booth, the editor of Car Life magazine, went to South Bend and assisted in building a Daytona hardtop with the full R4 Super Performance Package. This car was the only Studebaker from the factory with the optional 304.5 cubic-inch, dual-quad "R4" engine.

But it all came to nothing as it rapidly became apparent that despite the dramatic styling change, innovative models like the Wagonaire, the high-performance R-series engines and Super Performance Packages, nothing could increase Studebaker's sales. By the early autumn of 1963, Studebaker's board of directors knew the writing was on the wall.

The first hint of what was to come involved the slowing of the South Bend assembly lines. At the start of the model year, the company was building 60 cars per hour. By late October 1963, some 2,500 workers were laid off and the line speed was reduced.
November 1963 presented a "perfect storm" of events that would seal South Bend's fate, from the illness of the company's president to falling sales which only got worse following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Rumors were spreading in the media that the board of directors and the company's president, Sherwood Egbert, were at odds over the future of the automotive division. The board's opinion was that it was finally time to find a way out of the auto business. Lending strength to the board's argument were the undeniable facts that Studebaker's subsidiary companies were profitable, while the growing losses at the Automotive Division were seen as  bleeding the corporation dry.

Despite being terminally ill with cancer, Egbert fought the directors tooth and nail in his efforts to continue auto operations. However, when he had to undergo further cancer surgery the board took the opportunity to force Egbert out and execute their plan to wind up automotive product
The directors quickly put their plan into action. Meeting with the leaders of UAW Local 5, which represented Studebaker's assembly workers, the decision was made to close the South Bend plant and continue production at the company's small Canadian factory in Hamilton, Ontario, which could, which, it was believed, could be operated at a profit.

The closure of the South Bend plant was announced on December 9, 1963, and the final Lark-type car, a Bordeaux Red 1964 Daytona two-door hardtop rolled off the assembly line on December 20. This car is now housed at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend.

Type
Size
Horsepower
Years
L6
194 cid
95
1964 - 1966
OHV V-8
230 cid
120
1964 - 1966
OHV V-8
283 cid
210-335
1964 - 1966
Assembly: South Bend, Indiana (through December 1963 only) Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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