The Studebaker Silver Hawk was an automobile produced between 1957 and 1959 by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The Hawk was also produced in 1956. There were four versions, pillared Flight Hawk and Power Hawk, and hardtop Sky Hawk and Golden Hawk. The Silver Hawk model was not produced in 1956, the first year of the Hawks. The same basic car was produced for two more years (1960 and 1961) as simply the Studebaker Hawk, since from 1959 onward no other Hawk models were being sold.
The Silver Hawk was the replacement for the two lower models in the four-model Hawk range in 1956, the Flight Hawk which carried the Champion 185 cu. in., six-cylinder 101 hp (75 kW) powerplant and the Power Hawk with the Commander's 259 in³ (4.2L) V8. Both of these models were two-door pillared coupes in the US market (based on the 1953 "Starlight" coupe body), and therefore, so was the Silver Hawk, which came in two differently-engined models with either the aforementioned Champion six or the 289 cu. in. (4.7L) President V8 engine (delivering 210 HP from the two-barrel, 225 HP from the four-barrel with dual exhaust). The Commander V8 was not offered in U.S. models; it was, however, the largest engine available in most overseas markets.
In appearance, the Silver Hawk was somewhat plainer in appearance than the Golden Hawk, the senior of the two Hawk models in 1957-58. There was a little bit less chrome, no supercharger or bulge in the hood, and a simpler two-tone paint scheme was adopted - simply one color below the chrome belt line and another above, but unlike the Golden Hawk, the lower color included the fin. Some dealers painted the fin only, and sometimes the deck lid recess and or the left and right "side grills" were painted in a contrasting Studebaker color. These usually matched the interior, some were Blue, Gold, Red or Black and were actually better looking according to many owners than the factory two-tone paint scheme.
In the midst of a financial crisis at Studebaker after a disastrous recession-year performance in 1958, the Golden Hawk was dropped; the Silver Hawk, which had sold somewhat better, was retained in the lineup.
For 1959, the Silver Hawk became the only Hawk model in production, largely because Studebaker dealers wanted a glamorous flagship model as a dealership draw. Those customers would more than likely walk out with Studebaker's last-ditch hope, the new Lark compact. In fact, the Silver Hawk was the only non-Lark model kept.
Changes for 1959 included new tailfins, with the "Silver Hawk" script moved to the fins instead of on the trunk lid (where new individual block letters spelling out STUDEBAKER were placed), with a new Hawk badge in between the two words. The parking lights moved to the side grilles from the front fenders, chrome moldings around the windows (from the '53-'54 models) similar to the Golden Hawk were added, and the interior was somewhere in between the two former models' levels of luxury. Two-tone paint was discontinued for all US orders, though it was still available for export.
Under the hood (at least for U.S. models), buyers could choose the newly-shrunken (to pre-'55 size) 90 HP 169.6 cu. in. (2.8L) six or the 259 cu. in. (4.2L) V8 of 180 or 195 HP (depending on the choice of carburetor). The 289 was no longer available.
The 1959 model year was Studebaker's first profitable year in six years, thanks mostly to the Lark, and the rising tide of sales lifted the Silver Hawk, which sold 7,788 examples.
For 1960, Studebaker dropped the Silver part of the name, leaving "just plain" Hawk. Largely unchanged externally from the '59, internally, the major change was the return of the 289 cubic inch (4.7 L) V8 last used in 1958. This was the only engine available for U.S. orders in both 1960 and 1961, the last year of the finned Hawk. Some 6-cylinder and 259 in³ (4.2 L) V8 models were built for export markets.
The 1961 models saw the limited return of a second paint color, beige, in a stripe along the base of the fin between the two lower moldings. Interiors gained the option of wide, comfortable bucket seats; customers could opt to team their 289 V8 with a new four-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission, the same model used in the Chevrolet Corvette.
The Hawk was replaced for 1962 by the stunningly-restyled (by Brooks Stevens) Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk.
Almost the end of the line?
When the 1960 model year began, U.S. automakers were in the throes of a steel strike, and the shortage of steel hit Studebaker, which was a much smaller company than AMC or the Big Three, particularly hard.
Studebaker had a proven sales winner in the 1959 Lark, which was continued into 1960 with little change. With steel in short supply, the company chose to focus on building as many Larks as possible to ensure an adequate supply for the company's dealers. This meant that Silver Hawk production for 1960, which had been scheduled to begin in November or December 1959, was delayed.
Unfortunately for Studebaker—but fortunately for Hawk buyers—sales of the Lark began to fall off in the closing months of 1959. By the beginning of February 1960, Hawks finally began to roll from the South Bend assembly line.
It isn't known what might have happened had Lark sales continued at their 1959 levels, but speculation has been advanced that the company might not have produced any Hawks. The lengthy delay between new-model announcement time and the start of Hawk production in 1960 shows just how close Studebaker came to not producing a model that they had at least halfheartedly promoted in print advertising and showroom brochures.
Fortunately, though, the Hawk lived on, and later that year a stock production model won its class in the 1960 Mobil Economy Run, delivering 22.9 miles per gallon.