Studebaker Lark - Anything but.

I don't know what's happening to me. I don't want to like old cars. Guys who like old cars wear cargo shorts and aloha shirts and say things like "The trouble with cars today...". Oh, I know what's happening to me. It's called "getting old". Nice Studebaker, by the way.

The Lark was what passed for a "compact" in 1961, so that's kind of funny. I like this car. It kind of looks like the cars they drove around in Japanese monster movies when characters pulled over to the curb (with dubbed in tire screech) in order to leap out of the car and gasp "Godzilla!" at something off camera, presumably Godzilla.

Previously on Phil Are GO!, Knowledgeable  Reader Steve Miller contributed a little information about where the Lark fit into Studebaker's lineup at the end of it's life. The Lark was anything but, it was a temporary shot in the arm for the dying company. We hereby reproduce his words for your informationalization: Thanks again, Steve!

Studebaker, after its 1957-58 success* with the no-frills Scotsman series (single sun visor, no door arm rests, choice of three homely paint colors, painted trim instead of chrome), whacked off the front and back of their standard-sized sedans to produce... the Lark!

Upshot of the surgery? Studebaker's sales of 44,759 units in 1958 was almost trebled for 1959. The Lark enabled Studebaker to hang on to breath long enough to produce the astounding Avanti. But the moving finger had written -- the board diversified corporate holdings, and Studebaker stumbled to the curb -- in Hamilton, Ontario -- by 1966, ending 114 years in transportation and 64 in the auto industry.

Lastly, the photo in this ad is downright artsy, which is not always the case with car ads. The grid of windows and the sunset form a graphical background behind the Lark.

If you simply must have one, you can have this, uuh, "example" of a Lark for a going price of 2,000 rusty dollars. Bleah. That's not encouraging. What a bummer. I'm gonna scroll up and look at the ad some more.

Click for big.


Michael Leddy said...

Lark, a car and a cigarette? How did our ancestors tell them apart? The car was the one with brakes.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Yeah, and they both had that cool, refreshing flavor.


Richard Mahler said...

Studebaker started life building farm wagons before Ford had the guts to build an automobile that you could actually use on the rutted dirt roads Studebaker wagons were made for. The Stude was a good machine but not a design standout for decades until after the second great 20th c. war (still trying to figure what was so great about it) when they came up with those sedans that made you think of a small airplane with four wheels. But by the short-lived Lark era they were into the shoebox design like all of Detroit, you know, sort of like something a five year old would make out of Legos (had they been invented then). By the time the Avanti was introduced, while it had slightly better lines than a farm wagon, it rode like one, and after a short ride you were convinced that going deaf was also a built-in feature. It was basically an engine, transmission and wheels with only enough body to keep your butt from dragging on the road, and, I suppose, to meet whatever current requirements there were to qualify as an automobile.

I notice that Ford and Nissan have both opted for the retro shoebox design in their current vans. As one who was young in the 50s and 60s, all I can say is YUCK.

Steve Miller said...

RIchard's contention that there were no stand-out designs for Studebaker might bear up, except for evidence of the in the form of the 1933 Piece Silver Arrow (Yes, Studebaker owned Pierce at the time...) or the 1934 Studebaker line with its swept-back grille and, in particular, the Land Cruiser models. Surprise, the Land Cruiser designer was this guy named Loewy...

Now, not to disparage Mr. Mahler, but one must question whether he's ridden in an Avanti. It was essentially "a Lark in drag," based on a convertible's frame and given a hotted-up engine. As such it did suffer from aging suspension design and wasn't the best-handling car that adequate engineering money could have made it become.

But as long as the Avanti was headed in a straight line, it went like hell, establishing 119 speed records at Bonneville. Some still stand 50 years later.

Would I want one now? No. Love the design but a modern vehicle starts, turns, stops (most importantly), and gets better gas mileage of lower octane fuel. Design may be what pays my wages, but it ain't everything.

Happy motoring!

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