Thursday, July 5, 2012

1960 Studebaker Lark Regal VIII Convertible

"Look at the Lark convertible! Newest Lark under the sun and moon, pridefully styled and built for lovers of road and sky. Here at last is the means to enjoy The Lark's marvelous maneuverability and stable agility while reveling in the delight of refreshing breezes and warm sunshine. Beyond a doubt, this Lark is one of the world's most charming and distinctive cars. And, the power of its V-8 or six cylinder engine can propel it with sufficient verve to satisfy the most demanding motorist. This is a perfect blending of happy handling, scintillating styling, queenly comfort and a wonderful way to enjoy the weather."

This 1960 Lark Regal VIII convertible from Cienfuegos is just another of the "late arrivals" on the island, and opposed to it's much more common sedan sibling, it's a pretty rare sight.

There were quite a few ups and downs in the history of Studebaker, but fortunes changed really rapidly in the latter 50s. In the critical year of 1958, just four years after the optimistic merger with Packard, Studebaker had to stop building Packards, which by then were nothing but rebadged Studebakers, anyway. With an overall output of just 44.745 cars, the company was at the verge of bankruptcy. All bets were on the new "compact" Lark for 1959, to be launched already in the fall of 1958.

And indeed, the Lark changed Studebaker's fortune. Not that the car was so advanced (in fact, it was essentially an older Studebaker body with chopped front and rear ends), but the timing for the company's new saviour was just right: amidst a sharp economic recession, customers suddenly were looking for smaller and leaner cars, and no one else, except Rambler and some exotic imports, had their bases covered. The Lark had a stellar impact, and within one year, Studebaker's financial numbers changed from a bright red to a deep black.

Surfing the wave of sudden success, Studebaker introduced even a convertible for 1960, but it didn't do much for a long-lasting success of the Lark: meanwhile, the Big Three had reacted to the changed car market and introduced their own "compacts", such as the Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon, Dodge Dart or Plymouth Valiant. Life for Studebaker became increasingly difficult and sales plummeted in each consecutive year. In 1966, the brand ceased building cars, and the oldest American car manufacturer became history.

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