Q: I always wondered why the Studebaker Golden Hawk was never classified as a muscle car. Considering it was powered by a 374-cubic-inch Packard twin four-barrel engine that produced 310 horsepower and 400 pound-foot of torque. -- Sincerely, Fred Durbano, Canandaigua, N.Y.
A: Let’s first visit the Golden Hawk you mention. I agree that a big engine with high horsepower in a lighter car equals “muscle car” status for sure. Since the words “muscle car” became popular in the 1970s, enthusiasts now use the term to describe just about any car from any era that meets the criteria. Surely, the Golden Hawk is one of them, and from this day forward, we’re giving it a Greg Zyla- and Fred Durbano-official “muscle car” proclamation.
In 1956, Studebaker’s Golden Hawk, indeed, used Packard’s engines: one a 352-inch, 275 horse design as standard fare, and the other was an optional 374, available as a 290 single four-barrel or the two-four barrel 310 horse version. Notable is just 4,071 units were delivered, total, making this ’56 Hawk a popular collector car.
In 1957, the Golden Hawk dropped the Packard V-8 and utilized its now famous 289-inch supercharged V-8, producing 275 horses. Both the 1956 and 1957 Golden Hawks still look great sitting next to any car and is arguably one of the best-looking designs of the entire decade.
In 1958, things stayed the same for the Golden Hawk, but in 1959, Studebaker dropped the “Golden” and utilized the Silver Hawk nomenclature with a non-supercharged 259 V-8. This engine decision came in the midst of a cash crunch for Studebaker/Packard, which merged in 1955.
In 1960, Studebaker introduced the Lark, which saved the company while the only other offering was a Hawk, again with the 289, but no supercharger. A GT Hawk appeared in 1962, and for 1963, a 290 supercharged “Avanti” 289 version became available again. Thanks to Andy Granatelli and Paxton Superchargers, several 289 Avanti engines were utilized for speed records and put out 575 horsepower with twin superchargers.
The end of the line for the Packard name came in 1958, while Studebaker, thanks to the Lark, persevered until 1966, when just 8,947 units were assembled. The Hawk’s last year was 1964, with a 289 or a 304 V-8 available, the latter of which developed 335 horses with the blower.
Thanks for your question, and I agree the Studebaker Hawk deserves all the credit it receives these days. I’d love to own one.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader comments at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email him at email@example.com.