As seen in the November 20, 2008 Old Cars Weekly
’58 Studebaker remains a ‘Golden’ oldie
By Bill McCleery
Passion for Studebakers runs in Ed Reynolds’ blood. His father was an engineer at the automaker’s South Bend, Ind., headquarters until the company discontinued production at its Indiana plant in 1964.
Nowadays, the younger Reynolds runs a worldwide Studebaker parts business from his Greenfield, Ind., home. He also is president of the Studebaker Drivers Club. Once in a while, he’ll buy an old Studebaker — though at this stage, he says, it generally requires a special car to come along before he gets interested in buying it.
That happened last summer when Reynolds acquired a 1958 Golden Hawk he had first seen more than 30 years ago, when he was a schoolteacher near Pomona, Calif. Any ’58 Golden Hawk is a relatively rare car. Studebaker that year produced only 878 such cars, according to figures from the Studebaker Drivers Club.
During its three years of production, the Golden Hawk was literally one of the fastest cars on the road, according to club information. In its inaugural year of 1956, the Golden Hawk was powered by a 352-cubic-inch Packard engine with 275 horsepower. In 1957 and 1958, the Golden Hawk came with a 289-cubic-inch Studebaker engine — but with a centrifugal supercharger that made the small
V-8’s performance on par with much larger engines.
Advertisements in 1958 touted the Golden Hawk as “America’s first family-size sports car.”
The ’58 specimen purchased by Reynolds might be described as rough around the edges. After Reynolds got the car home to Indiana, he found about 20 dead mice burrowed into various crevices of the car, he said. And at some point in the life of the car, a bag of dry dog food apparently spilled.
“I found pieces of dog food everywhere,” Reynolds said.
The combination of dead mice, dog food and other possible contaminants left their mark.
“It still smells in there even though I’ve cleaned it out,” Reynolds said.
But the car is a solid, all-original survivor, right down to its faded gold paint. Despite the fact it had sat in a garage for much of the past decade without being started or driven, the car’s 289-cubic-inch engine performs just fine since a rebuild of its supercharger and carburetor. Reynolds also replaced the fuel pump and a badly dented gas tank.
Reynolds likes the fact his car is almost identical to a prototype 1958 Golden Hawk assigned to his father by Studebaker Corp. as a company car. “He probably had it nine months,” Reynolds recalled.
Since purchasing the Golden Hawk, Reynolds has wavered on his plans for the car.
“I bought it thinking I’d restore it,” Reynolds says. “It’s so nice and original, though, I almost hate to mess with it. And if you were going to restore it, it would need everything in order to be done right. It doesn’t just need a paint job. You’d need new chrome, new interior. You’d want to go ahead and rebuild the engine while you had it out for detailing. It would be endless.”
Reynolds is thinking he might just enjoy the car as-is for a few years.
He likes the car for its clean lines and smooth design. He believes its fins, for example, are tasteful – not gaudy or overdone like he thinks some other models became in the late 1950s.
“Sometimes I’ll just see it sitting in the garage and just look at it,” Reynolds said. “It’s a very pretty car.”
On Friday nights, Reynolds sometimes drives the car to a cruise-in held weekly in the parking lot of a shopping mall on the Eastside of Indianapolis. People seem drawn to the car amid the more common Fords, Chevys and MoPars. It’s something different from the usual 1960s muscle cars and shiny street rods.
“I almost always get comments,” Reynolds said. “Several people have told me it was their favorite car there.”
The car is equipped with dual radio antennas sprouting from its back fins and power windows. It lacks power seats, an option sold on some Golden Hawks.
Two other models of cars in 1958 were sisters to the Golden Hawk – the Packard Hawk and the Studebaker Silver Hawk. The Silver Hawk was a step beneath the Golden Hawk while the Packard version of the car was in many respects a top-of-the-line model in its own right.
The Studebaker-Packard Corp. — the company’s name after Studebaker’s 1954 marriage with Packard — produced even fewer Packard Hawks in 1958 than Studebaker Golden Hawks. A total of 588 Packard Hawks came off the assembly line that year, according to Studebaker Drivers Club information. The 1958 model year was the end of the line for the Packard name.
Reynolds remains open to the idea of someday restoring the Golden Hawk. Meanwhile, he has other projects to keep him busy. Besides operating his business — Studebaker International Inc. (www.studebaker-intl.com) — he’s finishing the restoration of a 1960 Studebaker Lark – a two-door sedan — and he’s trying to solve a few problems besetting his restored 1928 Studebaker Dictator Roadster.
“I’d drive the ’28 to the cruise-in if I could get it to stop overheating,” he said.
For more information about the Studebaker Drivers Club, log onto: www.studebakerdriversclub.com
Author’s Note: Most information cited in this article as coming from the Studebaker Drivers Club is taken from a September 2007 article by SDC member George Krem published in Turning Wheels, the club’s monthly publication.
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