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Unique Studebaker That is Hiding a Real Secret
It was a rare opportunity to see this 1960 Studebaker Lark when it showed up at the 2011 “Cruisin’ the Coast.”
You don’t see that many Larks these days unless you go to a Studebaker show. This car wouldn’t be one of them anyway since it is not entered in car show competition. It is simply a pleasure car for the owners.
Don and Sophie Baker are the current owners of the car. The Five Points, Alabama, couple just had to have it when they saw it for sale. “The car was purchased at the Barrett-Jackson auction in West Palm Beach, Florida,” Don explained. “After seeing the beautiful customization work, my wife and I had to have it.” They ended up getting an online auto insurance quote and drove it home.
The work was done by Marsh Hansen and this car is as much art form as automobile. Despite its looks, it is still driven about twice a month by the Bakers, but they don’t have a trophy room nor a desire to get one. “We enjoy driving it to different events and it does attract attention,” stated Don. It is not taken to events for the competitive side of things, but just to allow the Bakers to enjoy the car and activities that surround it.
Whenever the car makes an appearance, there are the inevitable questions. For many, the curiosity starts under the hood. Those in the know in the Studebaker world would be curious to see if it had the small 2.8L inline six or if it is the 4.2L V-8 in there. The answer is neither and you can hear the gasps when the hood is opened.
This car features a 1995 LT1 engine that is capable of punching out 400 horsepower with 390 lbs-ft on the torque scale. Using a stock bottom end, there’s a TPIS hydraulic roller cam, ported LT1 heads, Manley valves and ARP fasteners for starters. A set of COMP roller rockers do the work under the covers. A stock LT1 intake features a 52mm throttle body. There was some fabrication work done with a custom-made airbox housing a K & N filter. The headers were custom built, leading to a set of Edelbrock RPM mufflers. The juice is controlled by a Howell fuel management system.
The driveline starts with the4L60-E electronic four-speed overdrive transmission and stock converter, hooked up to an IRS rearend from a ’95 Corvette with 3.55 gears. Some alteration was needed to shorten the driveshaft 3½ inches to make it all work.
The suspension draws from the ’95 Corvette with a front clip from the car fabricated to get the framerails in proper placement. A set of C4 control arms and spindles add to the Corvette donor parts. Then there’s a set of coilover shocks and Progressive Automotive crossmember. Ford even got in on the act as the steering came from a ’96 Thunderbird.
At the rear, custom frame rails were pinched together to give the right angle. A one-inch custom anti-roll bar stabilizes the ride with coilover shocks in the mix. The owner built frame crossmembers to add to structural strength.
A close inspection of the brakes will yield more of the Corvette flavor of this ride. Front brakes are the 13-inch caliper rotors seen on a C4 with PBR two-piston calipers. On the backside, the C4 Corvette 12-inch models reside with PBR calipers. To complete the picture, Sumitomo tires are mounted on wheels taken from the ’95 Corvette donor. Tire size is P235/45R17 (front) and P255/45R17 (rear).
There had to be some body modification, but the idea was to keep the car looking as much like a Studebaker as humanly possible. The wheel wells were raised two inches and the transmission tunnel came up an additional inch. The stock gas tank was chucked out in favor of a 25-gallon fuel cell. The stainless steel cell is contained within a crumple zone that was specially designed and built. Chris Brunner and Gary Beaupre of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, handled the work. Chris Brunner’s Body Shop applied the combination of PPG GMC Pewter and House of Kolor Galaxy Gray to create the hue that gets the initial attention.
While the engine compartment and exterior hold the attention, the interior is an element that deserves view in its own way. Skin & Bone in Manitowoc covered the front buckets and rear bench in leather. The stock headliner is gone with a tweed gray headliner now above the driver and passengers. Don wraps his hands on a LeCarra steering wheel and looks into the story told by the Auto Meter Phantom gauges.
The scratchy ’60s sound doesn’t emanate from the speakers, thanks to the addition of Blaupunkt CD head unit with amps and Pioneer speakers. The whole comes together with the help of American Autowire’s best products.
Oh, and the odometer? It had 4,000 miles showing on it when the Bakers picked it up. They have added another 1,500, but this is far from a high-mileage car on this engine.
It may be a car that purists would avoid by walking across the street, but the clear majority just can’t take their eyes off it. More than $60,000 was invested to get the car the way you see it, an investment into getting exactly what the owner (and subsequent buyer) wanted. Getting what you want is seldom achieved, so it’s clear that the value rests with the beholder.
Definitely different, this is a car built to enjoy and the new owners do just that.