The era of Australian-assembled Studebakers was relatively brief, from 1960 to 1966, but it made its mark on the nation and the vehicles were familiar figures on local roads, especially when they were in use as police cars and ambulances.
Initially, all Studebakers sold in Australia were fully imported, but the 1959 Studebaker Lark sold so well in Australia that the Studebaker Corporation contracted the Canada Cycle and Car Company to assemble Complete Knock Down kits in the Melbourne suburb Tottenham. The vehicle was well-suited to Australian conditions, and most were being sold with a V8, giving it plenty of power compared to its competitors.
On show at Maffra’s Gippsland Vehicle Collection (GVC), as part of its current feature exhibition First and Last, you can see a two-door 1960 Studebaker Hawk, which was originally purchased by Frank Pierina, owner of Andy’s Drycleaners in Mildura. Frank was drawn to the vehicle by its styling, performance and reliability, and he was familiar with the marque, as he had been driving his father’s 1923 Studebaker on the family’s orchard, and was trading in his own 1953, coral-red Studebaker Champion to make the purchase.
Frank had regularly driven his 1953 Stude to Melbourne, but when his children started boarding school, he didn’t need the large four-door car anymore and chose the more compact 2-door Hawk, making his trips to Melbourne quicker and more comfortable.
When Frank upgraded again, he kept the Hawk, and it was garaged until 1990 when it was passed to his son, Peter, who later passed it on to his own son, Paris, the current owner. Paris believes with ongoing care and maintenance he will have his Studebaker Hawk on the road for many years to come. It is powered by a 4244cc 4.2 litre V8OHV, which produces 4500rpm with a top-speed of 170km/h. Power is transferred to a three-speed auto.
Also on show is a 1965 Studebaker Lark, the last of the models assembled in Australia. Although the vehicles were still being assembled in 1966, Australia did not receive any true 1966 models and continued assembling 1965-specification cars.
While the vehicle is mostly standard, its current owner Graeme Schubert has upgraded slightly with an engine and gearbox transplant. The engine is now a 350 Chevrolet, mated to a GM Power-Glide auto transmission. The wheels have been changed to 6-inch width on the front and 7-inch width on the back, and the styling elements were given a slight tidy up.
1966 was the last official year of Australian-based production for Studebaker. Thirteen “leftovers” were sold in 1967, including two ambulance-bodied wagons, which were unique to Australia, and two were sold in 1968. The last Australian-assembled Studebaker, in 1965-specifications, was purchased and registered in October 1968.
These classy Studebakers will be on show until our First and Last exhibition closes on Friday, June 25 2021. Don’t miss your chance to see these impressive vehicles.