Tuesday, January 28, 2014

1964 Studebaker Cruiser - A Cool, Rare Stude

I've always been fascinated by Studebaker. They started out - not building cars, of course - in the mid-1800s. They produced their first automobile (electric) in 1902. They were wildly successful in the 1920s, with plants in the US and Canada. They almost went under during the Great Depression. They built trucks for the armed services during WWII. The cars they introduced right after the war were more modern and more radically designed than those of the Big 3. In the 1950s, they almost became part of the merger that created American Motors. They merged with Packard instead.

Unable to compete on price with the Big 3, sales declined dramatically in the late 1950s / early 1960s. In 1963 they closed their US plant, but continued to build cars in Canada. In 1966 they closed their Canadian plant (even though it was marginally profitable) and left the automobile manufacturing business altogether. They continued to operate their other companies which included Paxton, manufacturers of superchargers, and STP, the maker of oil goo and great stickers. After a series of mergers, the Studebaker name disappeared in 1979.

Trivia: The wagons pulled by the Budweiser Clydesdales are Studebaker wagons modified to carry beer. They were originally manufactured around 1900.

With a tiny (read: almost non-existent) development budget, Studebaker, in the 1960s, did the best they could with what they had.

In this case, what they had was their R1 engine (used in the spectacular Avanti) and their "compact" Lark. The R1 engine was based on Studebaker's 289 ci V8. According to a post on studebaker-info.org, "The R1 is from a standard 289, uses standard heads, and gets its higher compression from flattop pistons instead of the standard dished pistons. It has a hotter, but still fairly mild, cam formerly referred to as a 3/4 race cam. It has an aluminum timing gear. It has a heavier vibration dampener."

The Cruiser was meant to be a more luxurious Lark, although it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to look at this one, with the R1 engine, as sort of a "Lark SS." (A bit of a stretch, but not too much.)

According to the seller, this Cruiser is just 1 of 38 built in 1964 with the R1 engine. It looks to be in decent overall condition. It's been semi-restored once, but could use another restoration. The doors have some rust, the paint is tired and the interior needs a little help. Mechanically, it is said to be in good shape. It wouldn't take much to turn this into a nice show car or an above average driver.

Studebaker Larks and Lark based cars have no real value as collector cars. It will be interesting how much this car, given how rare and cool it is, will sell for. If I had the extra cash and space, I'd bid on this. Just because. No real reason, just because it would be cool to own.

Located in Bellingham, WA, click here to see the eBay listing.

This is a cool, old dealer promo film for the Cruiser. It's just a little sexist... ;-)


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1 comment:

David Gelineau said...

I remember seeing one of these at Douglas Auctions in Deerfield, Ma before leaving the Pioneer Valley in 1993. I don't remember what the selling price was but I remember the car. It really was a nice looking car.