Though not rare, you're far less likely to see a Golden Hawk on the road than a Thunderbird or Corvette, making the Studebaker a good choice for those collectors who aspire to be both unique and on a budget

Studebaker's Golden Hawk was the product of an era when sports cars were unfamiliar to most Americans. Like its contemporaries, the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette, the Hawk began as an awkward attempt at filling this void with a new type of American car, one with sporting pretensions and a European look.
While the T-Bird and 'Vette went on to become icons, defining opposite ends of the luxury sports car continuum, the sports coupe from South Bend, Indiana, never got the chance to evolve. But today Golden Hawks offer plenty of style and power for significantly less money than either of the two classics from Detroit.
The Golden Hawk's genesis began in 1953, when Studebaker debuted a striking new coupe with minimal chrome, a hidden radiator, and a lower stance. The Starliner was designed by Raymond Loewy and Bob Bourke, and Studebaker could justifiably claim it was the only domestic vehicle at the time that was on par with the Europeans in styling. In fact, it was the only American car picked by the Museum of Modern Art to appear in its 1953 exhibition, "Ten Automobiles."
The Hawk was a further development of the Starliner, landing in 1956 as a series of pillared and hardtop coupes. You could purchase a Flight Hawk, a Power Hawk, a Sky Hawk, or a Golden Hawk, each model representing a different trim level, with the Golden Hawk the most luxurious and powerful. Like the larger Chrysler 300 series, the Hawk came with a backseat, making it a more practical "sports car" for customers just awakening to the genre. The car sat low like the Starliner, with jaunty fins and an aggressive vertical radiator, and a long list of standard equipment that included dual exhaust and full instrumentation.
The Golden Hawk was originally powered by a Packard 352-ci V8. (Studebaker and Packard had joined forces in an attempt to save themselves amidst the post-war industry consolidation.) This iron beast was capable of producing 275 hp at 4,600 rpm, and 380 lb-ft at just 2,800 rpm, giving the car some mighty straight-line acceleration, with either a three-speed manual or two-speed automatic transmission. Zero to sixty came in 8.7 seconds-not bad for 1956. Weighing 3,360 pounds, the Golden Hawk had one of the best power-to-weight ratios on the market, though weight distribution was by no means perfect, with the heavy Packard mill contributing to a 58-42 split, front-to-rear.
The following year saw the Packard motor abandoned for Studebaker's own 289-ci V8, but fitted with a belt-driven supercharger; power remained at 275 hp.
Hawks were largely unchanged for '58, though, in a fit of brand jealousy, Packard demanded that a Hawk be built according to its own styling themes, resulting in the "Packard Hawk." This was essentially a Golden Hawk with a fiberglass nose-less Hawk, more catfish.
The Golden Hawk did not make it to 1959, a victim of Studebaker's ongoing corporate turmoil that saw the new compact Lark take sales priority and Packard disappear entirely. Though Hawks of various sorts (including the 1962 Gran Turismo Hawk designed by Brooks Stevens) would be built until production in South Bend ended in 1964, these cars were hopelessly eclipsed by the competition and lacked the immediacy of the original models.
Though they are not rare, you're far less likely to see a Studebaker Golden Hawk on the road or at most car shows than a Thunderbird, Corvette, or Chrysler 300, making them a good choice for those collectors who aspire to be both unique and on a budget. (Prepare yourself for the inevitable, "What is that?" when driving a Golden Hawk.) The Hawk's rear seat is a double-edged sword: For many collectors, two "extra" seats make any car less desirable than a "true" sports car, but the rear seat provides versatility you won't get in a Corvette or early T-Bird.
If you are considering a Golden Hawk, watch for rust, as these cars were notoriously leaky. Check the floors and rear footwells carefully, as rust most often starts on the inside. If you do find a car showing rust in these areas, it's not the end of the world-use it as a negotiating point-as patch panels are readily available.
If you're looking for a '56 with the Packard motor, find a car with power steering, or start eating your spinach. The Studebaker 289s are easier to find parts for, but make sure the supercharger is in good condition. Keep in mind when sourcing both body and trim parts that, though similar, parts from the Packard-powered 1956 models don't always interchange with the later cars. (For more information, see the 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk Owners Register at
Golden Hawks are bringing fair money right now with good restored cars valued by most price guides in the mid-twenties, though auction sales of restored cars seem to bring a few thousand less. A car needing minor work, bought in the mid-teens, might show a return, but Hawk restoration is a labor of love-Studebaker, Edsel and Corvair owners are all cut from the same cloth. Best to just buy a nicely restored car in the low twenties and enjoy driving it, while hoping that as the mainstream cars of the '50s start to top out, some of the more singular vehicles of that era might see a small bump.
Orphan cars always breed devoted followers, and the Golden Hawk is no exception. There are many Studebaker Club chapters around the world, and a great deal of literature documenting technical details and development history of the cars is made available by these organizations. And in this respect, Golden Hawks are exactly like their better regarded period competitors-all are fun collector cars, loved by their owners precisely because they are a breed apart.

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