1960s Studebaker Concept Cars' Mercedes Look
The 1960s Studebaker concept cars' Mercedes look was the creation of designer Brooks Stevens. This page focuses on Stevens' design ideas for the Studebaker concept cars.
As planned, the least radical of Stevens' proposals was the 1964 design, which was done as a station wagon with sliding rear roof panel a la Stevens' new-for-1963 Lark Wagonaire.
Grillework continued the "Mercedes look" from his 1962-model Lark facelift, but in a more exaggerated trapezoid tapered in toward the bottom. A broad chrome grille header bearing the Studebaker name was spread over to crown side-by-side quad headlamps.
Hood and deck were broader, flatter, and lower than on late Larks, while front fenders were sharper and thrust rakishly forward at the top. Mindful of Studebaker's threadbare budget, Stevens contrived to save money by using identical bumpers at each end and center-hinged doors that interchanged diagonally (right front to left rear, left front to right rear).
Opening those doors revealed a modest evolution of the 1963 Lark interior, which Stevens blessed with a nifty oblong gauge cluster containing round dials and rocker-switch minor controls. The 1964 proposal retained these items, but with gauges grouped in a three-element panel, as on the GT Hawk, instead of a flat one, with outer ends again angled in slightly to enhance legibility.
With the doors opened, the area around the gauges lit up as extra courtesy lighting. Those doors were quite thin, contributing to passenger space that was relatively colossal for a compact package. Equally generous glass areas added to the spacious feel inside and made for panoramic viewing to the outside.
Had all gone as planned, this design would have been replaced for 1965 by a slightly more advanced version. Stevens modeled it as a hardtop sedan with broad rear roof quarters, as on the GT Hawk and Ford Thunderbird.
An ultra-low beltline and glassy greenhouse were again on hand. So were diagonally interchangeable center-opening doors (complete with vent panes), but here they were cut into the roof for easier entry/exit. Equally predictive were hood and trunklid "cuts" that included the tops of the fenders, giving big openings and easy access to engine and luggage.
Up front was a narrower but still large grille of roughly squarish shape, filled with a mesh-and-bar latticework made convex at the horizontal centerline. Outboard were French Cibié rectangular headlights, though such things were then illegal in the U.S.
Predictably, the 1965 interior also took proposed 1964 concepts a step further. The driver again faced a large upright nacelle holding rocker switches and straightforward white-on-black gauges (a full set save tachometer), plus a couple of hefty levers. The rest of the dash was a slim, low-set padded shelf.
Concealed within was a slide-out "vanity," a drawer-type glovebox divided into big and bigger sections. Each part had its own lid, and the larger one lifted to reveal a makeup mirror. Stevens had first used these ideas on the 1963 Lark.
More novel yet were the radio and clock, which lived atop the dash in clear semi-spheres. Of course, these items would have been optional, and that was the beauty of this design: no unsightly dashboard "blanks" if you didn't order them.
Radio operation was clever: Push down on the bubble for on/off and volume, turn it to change stations. The clock bubble also rotated, allowing everyone to tell the time with equal ease, A final touch was a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, an uncommon feature at the time.
Stevens' wanted to introduce a whole new generation of Studebakers, starting with his prototype for 1966 -- the Sceptre. Continue on to the next page to learn more about this car.