Friday, July 12, 2013

Ahh, A Bear in His Natural Habitat

Last weekend, we were in Denver visiting family. As I mentioned, one of the highlights of the trip was tagging along with my Dad at the Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet, hosted this year in Colorado Springs from July 1-6.

Until this past weekend, I had no clue that a subculture of rabid Studebaker enthusiasts existed out there. I quickly found out that Studebakering is a lifestyle choice, complete with layers of strata within. Like, those who completely restore their cars but rarely drive them, known as trailer queens, to those who modify them into a trick car, complete with a 5.0 Ford Mustang engine shoe-horned beneath the hood. But whether a purist or a tinkerer, or a simpleton like me, the trip alone was worth gawking at them for an afternoon.

If you're like me, you probably don't know much about Studebaker automobiles. My first recollection of a Studebaker was Fozzie Bear's 1951 Bullet Nose Commander in the Muppet Movie (1979). The quirky Studebaker brand was spot on for the Muppets. So much so that a bear driving a Studebaker across the country with a frog bent on reuniting with his pig girlfriend almost seemed plausible.

"A bear in his natural habitat, a Studebaker" -- Fozzie Bear
Moving right along, that scene from the Muppet Movie came to mind a couple years back when my Dad announced quite suddenly in an email that he had purchased a vintage 1963 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk off of eBay. A Studebaker? Dad had always talked of one day owning a Studebaker. But my Dad is a conservative. Dreams seldom come true for conservatives.
1963 Gran Turismo Hawk
But there it was, his dream had come true: a Misty Rose GT Hawk, complete with lots of chrome trim and whitewall tires. When he picked it up , it had 53,000 original miles on it from its two previous owners. The body and paint were in nearly perfect condition, having been garaged all these years. It still has most of its original stock parts and doesn't leak oil, nor any other fluids. The best part is firing it up and hearing that throaty growl emanating from its two chrome-capped tail pipes fluting out from the rear.

With 50K miles on it, his GT Hawk was no trailer queen. To prove it, Dad let me take it out on the open road. Though Studebaker made automatics, this one had a three speed stick mounted on the steering column, three-on-the tree, as they say. Driving it took a little getting used to, the shifting pattern, no power steering nor power brakes, etc. But once I got settled in, I opened up the throttle and got up to highway speeds quickly. It was a hoot to drive.

While the car has a lot of distinct features, it's the Misty Rose paint job that makes Dad's Hawk stand out among the others. The color was an original option, but apparently not many chose it. Dad has since found out that the color appeals to women. Mom liked it right from the beginning. And at conventions, the Misty Rose paint scheme draws plenty of comments from females.

While Dad's Hawk was drawing its share of oglers, I took a tour of the parking lot to see what else was on hand at this year's International Studebakers Driving Club Convention. Now I'm certainly no expert or anything on these cars. Dad tried to bring me up to speed on the subtle differences among the various Studebaker models, but it was way too much to take in. That's okay; the visual appeal of these cars were more than enough.

For instance, take a look at the fine details of these Studebaker hood ornaments:

Does your vehicle(s) have a hood ornament like that? Let me reset that: Does it even have a hood ornament?

Indeed, the Studebaker represents much of the essence of the Golden Age of the automobile.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Fred reminds me of Charlie Burton's favorite Warren Zevon song.