Introduction to the 1959-1964 Studebaker Lark

Features of the 1960 Studebaker Lark
The Regal VIII ragtop was the priciest Lark model offered in 1960.
The Regal VIII ragtop was the priciest Lark model offered in 1960.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In 1960, the Studebaker Lark received various stylistic changes. Read on to learn about the new features of the 1960 Studebaker Lark.

The V-8 was the 259.2-cubic inch overhead-valve job, inherited from the 1958 Commander. Rated at 180 horsepower -- 195 with four-barrel carb and dual exhausts -- it was too heavy to be ideal for small-car use. Yet, it had an excellent reputation for being tough, reliable, lively, and remarkably economical.

Three transmissions were offered with either engine, starting with the standard three-speed manual with column-mounted control. Stick-plus-overdrive was a popular option bought by the economy minded.

Because of its numerically higher axle ratio, it did good things for the car's performance -- particularly for the weaker six-cylinder engine. For those who preferred the shiftless life, Studebaker offered Flight-O-Matic, a Borg-Warner three-speed automatic coupled to a torque converter.

Trim levels consisted of DeLuxe (meaning "Standard") and Regal (meaning "DeLuxe"). The difference between them was about $180. Lark body-style offerings numbered four. The four-door sedan and two-door station wagon models came in both DeLuxe and Regal guise, while the two-door sedan was confined to the DeLuxe series and the hardtop was supplied only as a Regal.

In addition, a heavy-duty four-door model known as the Econ-O-Miler set its sights primarily on the taxicab market. The station wagons, incidentally, rode a wheelbase of 113 inches, since chopping them off at the rear would have destroyed much of their cargo area.

The Lark Regal VIII ragtop was the only compact convertible in 1960.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Lark's ride was remarkably comfortable. Speed Age, in fact, called it "excellent." The secret, in large measure, lay in the fact that -- in contrast to the Rambler American -- Studebaker cradled all of its passengers between the axles.

Construction, for a non-unitized light car, rated as very solid. Reviewers from Speed Age found "very little body shake and no rattles or vibration." Handling, reasonably good on the six, was even better on the V-8, thanks to a more efficient steering box, but the extra weight of the engine produced a pronounced tendency to under-steer when pushed hard through curves.

Most observers felt that the performance of the six-cylinder model was quite adequate. Tom McCahill, in a roadtest for Mechanix Illustrated, covered the 0-60 run in 16.8 seconds, just slightly faster than other reviewers recorded. The eight, on the other hand, could get up and go. The same 0-60 run, according to the Speed Age crew, took just 9.9 seconds in the 180-horsepower V-8.

The Lark found instant success, pacing Studebaker to a sales increase of more than 250 percent. Remarkably few teething problems arose, although the six-cylinder cars delivered disappointing fuel mileage at first. A new carburetor, redesigned combustion chamber, and revised axle ratio attended to this problem for 1960, resulting in a quieter, better performing, and more economical machine.

The V-8, however, distinguished itself an economy champion from the start; in fact, it yielded better mileage than the original six when the going got rough. Dick Griffith, driving a V-8 with automatic in the 1959 Mobilgas Economy Run, averaged 22.28 mpg from Kansas City to Los Angeles. In the process, he bested the other 37 V-8s entered.

A look underneath the 1960 Lark Regal VIII's hood.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Two new body styles joined the Lark lineup for its second season. A four-door wagon proved far more popular with buyers than the original two-door version, and the convertible added a bit of glamour to the line. "Here at last is the means to enjoy the Lark's marvelous maneuverability and stable agility while reveling in the light of refreshing breezes and warm sunshine," cooed Studebaker. Further, it was the only compact American ragtop on the market at the time.

Styling changes for 1960 consisted mainly of a new grille texture, which was also carried over into the side grilles. The Lark emblem now rested in the lower center of the grille, rather than to the left. Both the V-8 and the six received minor updates, among them new engine mounts and air cleaners.

The 1961 Studebaker Lark received a major change -- a new engine. Keep reading to find out more about this exciting change.

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