Introduction to the 1959-1964 Studebaker Lark

The 1962 and 1963 Studebaker Lark
The 1962 Lark received a new grille, roofline, rear window, rear fenders, decklid, and taillights.
The 1962 Lark received a new grille, roofline, rear window, rear fenders, decklid, and taillights.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Turning his attention to the upcoming 1962 and 1963 Studebaker Lark models, Stevens -- sensing that the public had tired of the car's stubby appearance -- stretched the wheelbase of all four-door cars to 113 inches.

This seemed a good move since the 1961 Cruiser had outsold the Regal VIII sedan by a margin of five to three. Front and rear overhang increased, and all non-wagons featured extended rear fenders with new round taillights. Thus, overall length of the sedans stretched an additional 9-13 inches. Wagons, which received only the front-end modifications, grew by 2.5 inches.

The new grille, with a heavy wraparound chrome band, was subtly reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz, then being distributed in the U.S. by Studebaker. And a sporty new series called the Daytona was added to the line. Available only as a convertible or a hardtop and priced just $90 above corresponding Regal models, the Daytona featured bucket seats and upgraded trim, plus the option of a Borg-Warner floor-mounted T-10 four-speed transmission.

Complementing Studebaker's efforts, a Daytona was selected to pace the 1962 Indy 500. As a further nod toward a performance image, the 289 V-8 was made available on all models.

The four-door Six featured fancy Regal trim and was listed at $2,190.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Side trim on the 1962s moved back down to the contour line, quad headlights were standardized for all models, and a bolder grille mesh adorned the front end. Studebaker also dropped the VI and VIII Lark designations, calling them Six and Eight, and now used block letters to spell out LARK.

Altogether, the 1962 Studebaker line represented a marvelously effective facelift, accomplished on a budget of just $7 million (including Hawk) -- pocket change by Detroit standards. And despite Stevens' misgivings, the job was completed on schedule. His restyle helped push Lark model year sales back to 93,000 units despite a 38-day strike early in the year, and the company went on to earn $2.56 million.

Some welcome changes showed up for 1963. The 289-cubic inch V-8 became the Cruiser's standard powerplant. The once-fashionable windshield "dogleg" was eliminated and thinner door window frames gave the greenhouse a much lighter look.

An array of performance options became available, no doubt due to Egbert's association with Paxton. And Stevens cooked up the Wagonaire, a station wagon with a sliding roof panel, a feature that provided a rear sunroof while enhancing the vehicle's utility as a cargo carrier. Unfortunately, the open air feature proved to be a mixed blessing, for it tended to leak during heavy rain.

Series names were shuffled about for 1963. The Standard now held down the bottom rung. Regal became the first step upwards, followed by a new Custom Series, followed by the Daytona. The Cruiser continued as the premium four-door sedan.

The Wagonaire featured a novel -- and useful -- sliding rear roof panel.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Meanwhile, the Lark name was being progressively downplayed, evidently in the hope of creating a new image for Studebaker. The name, in fact, didn't appear at all on the 1963 Cruiser or a midyear Standard model, and it saw less and less use in the company's advertising program.

It wasn't enough. Lark's 40-percent sales gain in 1962 over the discouraging 1961 figure still left it far below the results of 1959-1960, and 1963 witnessed the start of a free-fall from which Studebaker would never recover.

The 1964 Studebaker models went through more changes, and the company billed them as "Different by Design." Continue on to the next page to learn more about Studebaker's new models.

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