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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Studebaker R2 Super Lark, and R-2 Super Hawk

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Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. Today’s feature is one of the last gasps of greatness from that great South Bend, Indiana car maker, Studebaker. This entry into the Garage isn’t just one model, it is actually two, powered by the same engine, that could be ordered directly from the factory in any Studebaker produced at that time. We are talking about the R-2 Super Lark, and the R-2 Super Hawk.

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Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert was having trouble getting his stunning new Avanti into full-scale production. So in order to capitalize on the high-performance components that had been developed for the Avanti under the supervision of Andy Granatelli, Egbert decided in early 1963 that some of this equipment should be made available to buyers of both the Gran Turismo Hawk and the Lark.

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There were two new engines, both derived from Studebaker’s respected 289-cubic inch V-8. Known as the R-l and R-2, both powerplants were fitted with special camshafts and extra stout bearings. There were two other engines produced later on, the 304.5-cubic-inch R-3 and R-4, but neither was produced in significant numbers.

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The R-1, fed by a four-barrel carburetor and boasting a compression ratio of 10.25:1, was rated at 240 horsepower. But it was the R-2 that we are concentrating on here. In this application, the compression ratio settled in at a more modest 9.0:1, but the engine boasted a Paxton centrifugal supercharger supplying between five-and-a-half and six pounds of pressure. This engine developed 289 horsepower from 289 cubic inches.

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Image Courtesy of Hemmings.Com

Other options included a Warner T-10 four-speed manual transmission (or a heavy-duty Borg-Warner three-speed automatic), heavy-duty suspension, rear stabilizer bar, limited-slip differential, and caliper-type front disc brakes. All of these items became available at mid-year in the “Super Lark” package, which was priced at $766.70.

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The result was an automobile unlike any previous Studebaker. Various buff books drove a Super Lark equipped with automatic, and clocked the 0-60-mph run in just 7.8 seconds. Another magazine testing a 1964 R-2 with a four-speed gearbox, shaved half a second off that figure. The standing quarter mile came up in just 15.8 seconds, with a trap speed of 90 miles per hour. Top speed was clocked at 123 mph. Andy Granatelli had already driven an R-2 with more favorable gearing to 132.04 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Beginning mid-1963, the R2 ‘Super Lark’ option turned a lowly 2-door Lark into the fastest compact car in the US. The Super Lark was popular with people who did not have the money to spend on an Avanti but still wanted a Studebaker with high performance. In 1964 Studebaker phased out the Lark name and changed to the names Challenger, Commander, Daytona, and Cruiser. They were still called ‘Larks’ by the public, and the hi-po versions were still officially ‘Super Larks’. Although the Studebaker’s Super Lark, known as possibly the first muscle car, was an impressive, high-performance automobile, it was produced a little too late to save the company. No more Super Larks were built after the closing of the South Bend plant in December of 1963.

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The R2 Super Hawk also debuted in mid-1963, and was capable of laying down a 0-60 times in 8.5 seconds with an automatic transmission. The Super Hawk package included the R-2 supercharged V-8, four-speed manual transmission, Avanti wheels with 6.50-15 tires, front anti-roll bar, rear track rods, front disc brakes and heavy-duty springs and shocks. During a series of USAC-timed endurance runs, a Super Hawk managed a top speed of 140 mph. The year was 1963, and the Pontiac GTO wasn’t produced yet. In its December 1963 issue, Motor Sport Illustrated tested an R-2 Gran Turismo Hawk with the four-speed transmission and 3.31 rear gears. Performance was blistering: 0-60 in 6.7, quarter-mile in 14.4 and a top speed estimated to be in the vicinity of 150 mph. All for less than $4,000.

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The Super Lark and the Super Hawk may have been too little, and it was too late, at least to help save Studebaker. But they were nonetheless impressive performers and stellar values for the type of no-holds-barred, high-performance machine that would later come to be known as the “Muscle Car.”

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So for the first time in this series, I am nominating two entries into the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage… The Studebaker R-2 Super Lark, and the Studebaker R-2 Super Hawk. This will be reflected in the voting, as you can vote for both, neither, or each one separately. All I have to add is this: Are they worthy entrants to the Garage?

Is either the R-2 Powered Studebaker Super Lark or the Studebaker Super Hawk worthy of the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

Currently there are "23 comments" on this Article:

  1. Matt Anderson says:

    Oh man, my old high school ride! A black on red '64 GT Hawk, minus the supercharger plus Plymouth Fury cop car wheels. I had the 289 4bbl NA version and my boss had a '64 R2 track pack car with the adjustable shocks, front and rear sway bars, and 3.73 Twin-Traction rear. They looked like 'before and after' cars. Mine was a shitbox and his was perfect. I sold that thing a few years back and I'm pretty sure that was a mistake.

  2. muthalovin says:

    At the Roswell dragstrip, you can bet on seeing a drag SuperHawk. It is a nice maroon, and sounds like hell. So, for me, its SuperHawk or GTFO.

  3. needthatcar says:

    Great write-up. Thanks for this!

  4. scroggzilla says:

    Incidentally, Studebaker Larks and Super Larks were raced in Australia throughout the 1960's.
    http://www.studebakercarclubnsw.com/heritage07.hthttp://www.studebakerracing.com/internat.html

    [youtube RGXgDtf0vjM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGXgDtf0vjM youtube]

  5. danleym says:

    I love the look of a Paxton supercharger.

  6. vroomsocko says:

    My dad always talked about the Studebaker Hawk being one of the earliest muscle cars. I thought he was talking about the Golden Hawk, which isn't exactly screaming fast. I had no idea these existed before now, on behalf of my dad let me proclaim: R-2 Powered Studebaker Grand Turismo Super Hawk FTW!

  7. Van_Sarockin says:

    And here I'd thought the line ended with the Golden Hawk. They're Hawt!

  8. Sjalabais says:

    I never seize to be amazed at what Americans could buy for comparably little money decades before the rest of the world. These beautiful Studes are still considerably quicker than anything I own today.

    …and a R2 Wagonair!? Good god!

    • danleym says:

      I wish we still had easy interchangeability like that. How cool would it be to be able to walk into a Dodge dealer and buy a Dart with a Hemi 392? Or go to Ford and get a Focus with a GT 500 engine under the hood? Go next door for a Malibu with a ZR1 engine?

      • Sjalabais says:

        Wonder what stops them from doing this? At times we backward Europeans were able to buy Renault Twingos with large engines churning out 200 hp, I guess this would be the equal product to a powerful Dart…

        • Paul Rain says:

          Another curse of front wheel drive (well, transverse mounted engines- though longitundinal front wheel drive cars are even sillier).

        • seguin says:

          Thanks to the NHTSA and EPA, now they have to retest (including crash testing) each combination of drivetrain, exhaust, transmission, and induction.

          It gets expensive.

          • hubba says:

            Crash testing isn't required. But the certification testing is valued at about half a mil of company time. That's why the optional diff ratio on a Corvette is several hundred bucks; it's expected to pay for itself.

  9. dukeisduke says:

    I've always loved that their car club is called the Studebaker Drivers Club.

  10. gessvt says:

    Hemmings Muscle Machines ran a story a few years back on a special order R3 Super Lark that somehow got approved and *just* made it to production before the company folded. I'm thinking it was the only R3 Lark produced. I'll have to go check the archives after work.

  11. CalculatedRisk says:

    Cool write up. When I was in middle school I lusted after a '63 Lark sedan at a local junk yard. The Stude lump was long gone and a 327 SBC was sitting in its place. No trim left, grey primer and rust….
    Hot Rod Tour rolled through my town for the lunch stop today. Saw a Lark sedan with mini tubs and dot slicks and couldnt help but giggle.

  12. nanoop says:

    Is there a picture of the inside somewhere? If it's about the driving experience, it's a Muscle Car. If it's about rishing in comfort, I'd call it a grand tourer.

    • Ate Up With Motor says:

      The interior trim depended on which model you ordered; I believe you could get the Super Lark package on any Lark series, but the Custom had snazzy two-tone vinyl upholstery and lots of shiny bits. You could also get buckets, which I believe were standard on the Daytona hardtops. Something a lot of them had was a glove box that swung down to form a sort of drive-in tray, with depressions for setting your drink cup. The tray also had a flip-up vanity mirror so you could check your makeup or make sure you didn't have pickle stuck in your teeth.

  13. mseoul says:

    Stude's had good seats, better than Big 3 usually. They had reclining seat backs on the driver's side! Something the Big 3 absolutely did not want to let consumers know existed in those days!

  14. facelvega says:

    Throw in an Avanti, and you have all three of my top American cars, and I think in time I'll probably own at least two of these three. For styling, I'll go for Brooks Stevens' updates for the GT Hawk and last, Lancia-like Lark series. But Loewy's Avanti holds up pretty well too. Performance at the time was clearly on the side of the Avanti, which could go around a track with vastly more poise than most of the now overvalued muscle cars of its day.

  15. JW Karch says:

    My dad won a lot of street drag's back when he bought hiS r2 super lark. I remember taking a 55 chevy with me and my younger brother standing on the back seat watching the 55 fade into the distance. PurchaSed from Shepard Studebaker here in Cincinnati.

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