Sunday, November 25, 2012

1956 Studebaker Sky Hawk

"Presenting the newest, most distinguished hardtop convertible of the year."

The ad sounds pretty promising, but in 1956 the Studebaker Sky Hawk wasn't the newest anymore. How the Hawk inherited its "new" design and name, however, is an interesting story: right after the merger between Studebaker and Packard in 1954, it became evident that none of the joining companies was financially sound. New president James Nance, desperately looking for ways to cut costs, had to make some unpopular choices, such as using Studebaker bodies as the base for future Packards. Certainly a easier decision was cancelling the design contract with Raymond Loewy Associates which did cost Studebaker around $ 1 Million yearly. As a farewell gift, Nance commissioned Loewy Associates to redesign the "Loewy Coupes" one more time for 1956.

It turned out to be a challenging job, because the available budget was really, really tight. Robert Bourke, Chief designer at Loewy's Studebaker studio, decided that a redesigned bonnet with an upright front grille would have the most visual impact. Hence, the Studebaker Coupe was essentially a 1953 Loewy Coupe, with its skin ironed out. Incidentally, although the trunk was a bit more bulged on the outside too, the load volume didn't change at all, because all structural parts underneath the skin had remained the same. Yet, Studebaker's marketing people insisted on a new name, hoping that the customers would assume that the car was all-new, too.

James Nance would have been happy to ditch the Loewy coupe in his cost-saving efforts, too, as it was costly to produce. But then, it was the only body in Studebaker's lineup that technically allowed for a hardtop version in a time when hardtops a were all the rage. Thus, the beautiful Loewy Coupe finally "survived" in production until 1963, much longer than ever expected.

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