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January 30, 2009

CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot: The 1963 Studebaker R2 Super Lark and Super Hawk

By Jim Brennan


Welcome to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, 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 carmaker, Studebaker. This entry into the Parking Lot 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, including the Lark, the Gran Turismo Hawk, and the new Avanti. Continue reading…

The 1963 Studebaker R2 Super Lark and Super Hawk

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Unfortunately, there are no Super Hawk or Super Lark owners who are posting their rides on CarDomain right now, however, here’s a 1963 Lark, from New Zealand, right hand drive, and fully built. Check out Cruis63 ‘s Lark, and see if you agree that the Super Lark, and the Super Hawk belong in Car Domain’s Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot. Comments are always welcome!


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Feb 20, 2009 at 2:39 pm

It had GTO-esque performance before a GTO? It has the early 60′s softer looks, but it belongs

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Frank F
Feb 3, 2009 at 11:27 am

Avanti Motors wasn’t a sham, yes the President and Owner is up on charges but he’s the same guy that Owned Avanti in 1987 and then sold it to the Cafaro’s. He repurchased the company a number of years ago and was producing Avanti’s in this decade, it’s only recently that he got into legal trouble. A very sad ending.

Feb 2, 2009 at 11:17 am


to bad the president was a sham. This would have gone into production had he not have gotten busted stealing $400 million.

Feb 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

did they go on to make wagner power painters?

Joe F.
Feb 2, 2009 at 8:36 am

That’s part of the Power Brakes system. My 1957 Checker has one just like it. Studebaker and Checker used a wagner power brake setup.

Feb 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I kinda wonder what their cars would be like if Studebaker was still in existence today.

Jan 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

In the 1st picture, does anyone know what the big contraption is just in front of the battery with the small grate on it? I was thinking its some sort of electric brake booster since its got the super.

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