Developing the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
To regain lost market share, Studebaker's president Sherwood Egbert developed three proposals on which he would stake the future of the company. One was an updated Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. He called on his old friend, Brooks Stevens, whom he knew through McCullough. Stevens had designed McCullough's new plant when the business moved to California from Wisconsin, and all of the company's products -- everything from chain saws to superchargers -- had been designed by Stevens.
A graduate of Cornell University's architecture school, Stevens was a respected master designer of three decades. Among his credits were Evinrude outboard motors, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, radios, tractors, trains, planes, and cars. Stevens collected cars, wrote about them, raced them. He had designed them for Frazer, Willys, Paxton, and had penned many specialty vehicles. Today, he is probably best known for designing and, with his sons, producing the Excalibur.
Egbert knew the Hawk was old and degraded by too much chrome and awful fins -- it needed fixing. That would be Stevens' job. When Stevens arrived in South Bend, Egbert was in Germany checking to be sure Studebaker was making the best of its arrangement for marketing Mercedes-Benz automobiles in the U.S. But Stevens quickly set about determining how much money was available for retooling the Hawk and how much time there was to do it. There was too little of both.
Seven million dollars for a model change (for both the Hawk and Lark) was practically nothing, and the car had to be in production in only a few months. Companies like GM and Ford worked on lead times of three years and spent many tens of millions. If Stevens was to succeed, he had to be clever and fast.
He took what was left of the Starliner design with him to his Milwaukee studios, where he and his staff rendered dozens of proposals. They then applied cardboard cut-outs of the changes directly to the car, sometimes trying one design theme on one side, another on the other side. Some automotive writers of the period said the final design was derived from the Packard Predictor, but it wasn't; Stevens' design grew out of his clear vision of what the car should be.
One of Stevens' personal cars then was an Alfa Romeo Gran Turismo. The name "Gran Turismo Hawk" alluded to the blend of European style and American comfort that he wanted to create in his design. For him, no other name for the car was ever in the running.
Studebaker's liaison with Mercedes-Benz is seen in the prominent radiator grille of the 1962 Gran Turismo. Although the idea was present in earlier Hawks, Stevens squared the grille and framed it in classic Mercedes fashion with an upside down chrome horse collar. An embossed minor bulge was added to the hood, serving to stiffen it. The concave scallop on the doors of the Starliner was replaced by smooth slab sides. As an accent, a stainless steel strip ran the full length of the rocker panel, merging into the chrome surrounds of the wheelwells.
Early on, this strip had been limited to the area immediately below the door, but Stevens said this had produced quizzical looks. A narrow strip of stainless steel, with a small accent fin just be hind the headlights, ran the full length of the top of the fenderline to the taillights, much as on the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Stevens specified painted headlight rims to replace the gaudier chrome ones (they showed up in 1963).
Continue reading about the newly updated design of the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk on the next page.
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