The Studebaker Lark was produced from 1959 through 1964, which was the same year that Studebaker went out of business. The Lark was a compact car that was hoped to continue the Studebaker name and provide competition for the Big Three Automobile Manufacturers. At the time of its introduction, there was little competition in the compact car market. Within a few years, this changed and the sales of the Studebaker Lark began to decline.
In 1959 and 1960 the Lark was available with either a six or eight-cylinder engine. The six-cylinder 170 cubic-inch unit produced around 90 horsepower while the 259 cubic-inch V8 produced an impressive 180 horsepower. By 1962 the other automakers had caught up with Studebaker and were offering more-modern versions of the compact vehicle offered with more amenities at an affordable price. In comparison, the Lark looked very dated. In 1962 Brooks Stevens modernized the interior of the Lark and increased the overall length. Sales began to improve until a strike by the United Auto Workers Local 5 at the South Bend Plant slowed production considerably.
Throughout the following year, minor improvements were made in an effort to keep the Studebaker Lark looking modern. The wrap-around windshield was eliminated in 1963. The door and roof pillars became thinner. A stripped-down version of the Lark, called the Standard Series, was introduced in 1963 and offered as a low-cost version of the Lark. It was intended as a fleet vehicle with the interior being void of any non-essential amenities. On the exterior, the vehicle bore no nameplates, just the 'Studebaker' name could be found on the fenders. It carried a sticker price of just $1,935 making it affordable to most buyers.
Even with all the changes for 1963, it was not a good year for the Lark with only 77,000 examples being sold. The prior year had seen 90,000 Larks produced even with the strike. In 1964, the changes to the Lark were even more drastic. The new design featured aluminum grilles and squared-off headlamp surrounds. The rear end of the vehicle incorporated horizontal tail lamps and backup lamps. The hood was flattened, along with the trunk-lid and roofline. Despite this effort, the Lark was phased out the following year, leaving the Challenger, Commander, and Daytona to carry on the Studebaker name. Sadly, Studebaker production would cease, ending production of one of the oldest American Automobile Manufacturers. The Studebaker Company had incorporated in 1868 and entered the automotive business in 1902. Their first vehicles were electric. Gas-powered machines were introduced by Studebaker in 1904. They continued in business until 1966.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2006