132 MPH Birdie? 1963 Studebaker Super Lark R2

The Studebaker Lark was a compact car from a company struggling to compete with the big three. Upon first glance at the listing on eBay, you might be inclined to yawn. It’s shiny except on the top and hood where the sun got to it. You might wonder why the bidding is over $15,000 for an old Lark, even a 2 door hardtop. The supercharger and 4-speed transmission might get your attention.  With stock gears, the top speed is 123 MPH. Does that get your attention? It was the fastest compact car and some say the Super Lark was the first muscle car.

You’ll notice a clutch pedal and a floor shifter. This might have been the first time a compact car came equipped for speed. Otherwise, the interior appears useable but in need of some work. The dash pad has one split but it’s in much better shape than most. The front seats need either reupholstery or matching duct tape. The original red paint is visible in several areas, including the transmission tunnel. From this view, the floors look solid until you notice the floor on the far left side.

This is the view many eBay sellers try to hide. The rust damage to the floor and the rocker panel is shown very clearly here. Hopefully, the new owner has the skills to repair the rust damage properly or the money to fund a first-class restoration. There’s going to be a lot of rust repair necessary.

Here is the rocker panel on the right side. If the frame is solid and body mounts and suspension are in good shape this could be an easy repair for an experienced welder. The Stainless appears to be complete and in good condition. The seller is including a number of replacement parts. Hopefully, there’s not too much rust and filler under that repaint. The repaint doesn’t appear to have been done very well, so any of the body repair they did is suspect.

Here’s where the excitement starts. ThatPaxton centrifugal supercharger gives this 289 CID V8 289 HP will propel this Lark to 125 about MPH in stock form. Andy Granatelli drove a Super Lark to 132 MPH on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1963. The engine compartment appears complete but the supercharger is not connected to either the air intake or the carburetor. The chrome valve covers, carb bonnet, and air cleaner are stock. The engine runs smoothly and will move under its own power, but this Lark will need more mechanical attention before it can be driven.

This Lark is a very significant car for several reasons. It is one of three factory-built cars with the R2 high-performance package with a 4-speed. so I hope the new owner restores it completely. Studebaker was perhaps the most innovative car builder but they could not compete with the big three. Andy Granatelli, a name familiar to many, worked closely with Studebaker on the development of the “R” series cars and set class speed records in all of them. There is an interesting on the HotRod web page about an identical car, the “Stude Tomato” and the Superlarks. In the pure stock drags, the Super Lark beat the fastest muscle cars of the 1960s. It must have surprised a lot of people to this a stock Lark beat cars like a Chevelle SS454. These cars are too rare to really put a value on them so hopefully, there’s a devoted Studebaker fan who appreciates it and will restore this Super Lark to its former red glory.

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Comments

  1. jw454

    I’m very glad that there were buyers for offerings like this back then. With all the available choices for cars with high performance it would have been easy to skip over some of the more obscure ones. Of the comparatively few that were sold, it’s nice there are some left for us to see. The Standard Catalog of American Cars shows the R2 engine option was a $210.00 add on. They do not state how many were ordered.

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  2. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    That is one rare car. Nice find, David! This car is worth a museum-quality restoration.

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    • ken TILLY

      Jay Leno maybe?

      5
  3. Winterhawk

    Wow! I had a ’63 R1, black with red interior that I never had a chance to drive. It was a complete car, no rust that needed mechanical restoration. Sold it because a Studebaker fanantic had to have it and had cash in hand. I hope this R2 finds a great home and I’m so glad Studebaker made cars like this.

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  4. Kirk Hoffman

    Actually Studebaker produced a faster car 7 years earlier! The ’56 Golden Hawk was capable of 160 MPH in stock form, I have been over 200 in one that was warmed up a little! The real first Muscle car was the ’58 Mercury Marauder with 400 HP from the factory!

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    • Will Fox

      Close, but no cigar. Chryslers competition package on the 392 Hemi in the 300-C was ‘conservatively’ rated at 390HP, but afficianados will say it was actually closer to 425HP. VERY, VERY few built (18) of which only 3 are known survivors. Top speed was clocked at just shy of 140MPH on Chrysler’s Chelsea proving grounds.

      • Hairrip

        Studebaker was the same about under rating the horsepower ratings, in fact, for most of the model year, they refused to give horsepower figures at all, which in effect kept them out of the races. For example, the R-3 engine was factory rated at 330hp, but later dyno figures rated them at well over 400hp. There are many that never could understand why they were so shy about releasing HP figures, basically shooting themselves in the foot. They could have sold many more cars if they had. My R-2 Lark That I mentioned in an earlier post, made a believer out of many that laughed at my car. When I was in college in the late 70’s in Denver, I used to hunt down Corvettes with my Avanti R-2. Great fun, several tickets however.

        1
  5. Joe Haska

    Studebaker / Rudebaker , I love tis car, I could maybe afford to buy it, but this car deserves the best of the best restoration, and that I can’t afford!

    2
  6. Redwagon

    Two thoughts:

    1. Seriously? 125mph in that…..that…box?

    2. Someone is serious bc it’s bid to $15,100 with 8 hours left

    4
    • Will Fox

      Red, in its day, these R2 Larks could smoke L79 equipped `67 Novas, and nearly anything Chrysler built with a 383. “Sleeper” I think is a term these cars coined themselves. While the other guy laughs at you at a red light, you’re 3-4 storefront down the block laughing right back at em!!

  7. Johnmloghry

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    I worked with someone in Seattle back in the mid 70’s that owned one of these. His brag was he could beat any Corvette in stock form. I thought he was just bragging til he proved it. That thing really was fast; no one beat him in his class at the drag strip. For me enough said.

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  8. Wrong Way Member

    Good read! I always did like the Lark!

    2
  9. RoughDiamond Member

    This Studebaker Super Lark R2 is so rare and deserving of a rotisserie restoration. I hope someone with deep pockets buys it and starts the restoration soon.

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  10. stillrunners

    jw454 not many – says 3 were made and I know 1964 4 speed cars are rare as well owning one…

    Own a factory 1963 R1 more door Cruiser – with factory disk brakes mind you… I would be kinda prejudiced in my opinion….holding out for a 64 R2 Daytona

    • Hairrip

      There were actually many more made than 3, as the R-1 and R-2 engine option was available in all of their cars starting in the 63 model year. I owned an almost clone of the one for sale except mine had a red interior. I loved that car above almost any I have owned in the last 50 years except for the R-2 Avanti I bought when I was 17 years old. Yes, they were extremely fast cars although I thought the handling could’ve been a little better as the steering was slow. Unfortunately, a wife and 3 kids and just buying my first house necessitated me having to sell it, but I have kept track of it for the last 35 years and am going to try and get it back from the owners widow after a respectful length of time. Its been in dry storage for the last 25 years. They were great cars.

  11. redwagon

    SOLD!!!
    at $16,101 and I think it’s a steal.

    3
  12. Carey Hill

    Having worked on many Larks- that rust is not so bad… floors are near flat and easily accessible from above and beneath and the rocker panels below the doors are not structural- and just “attached” for visual appeal (and somewhere for the bottom door rubber to sit against)
    All Larks flex a fair bit at speed… and 132mph would need a brave volunteer… 100mph is interesting…. the Australians raced Larks with reasonable enthusiasm in the 60’s and one of the drivers described the gap beneath the door and the rocker panel at 120mph opening up sufficient to see the road…. all part of the charm of having a separate and fairly old chassis design!!
    Love it- well worth the money..

    1
  13. Howard A Member

    Hardly a car I’d go 132 mph with, and that’s a bit optimistic. Going over 100 in a square box is challenging enough. If you think for a minute Mr. Granatelli’s Studebaker was stock to get that speed, I’ve got some land in Florida you may be interested in ( bring your hip waders) He was in cahoots to sell Studebakers, you know. I don’t mean to blow David’s claims here, but I highly doubt this would dust a 454 Chevelle. It just didn’t have enough cubes. Besides, early muscle cars go in this order, ’49 Olds Rocket 88, the ’57 Rambler Rebel, and some Chryslers, of course the GTO, but a Studebaker, even a supercharged one, was pretty far down the list.

    1
    • Hairrip

      When the cars went to Bonneville, they were under the watchful eye of the USAC, and all of the cars were bone stock. The USAC even sealed the oil fill caps to even check the amount of oil used. The Avanti wad over 170 mph, the Hawk went over 140 mph and then the Lark was as mentioned, 132. They even took a poor Lark with the small 170cid 6 cylinder to Bonneville. Many records were set. I believe the main article was printed in Hot Rod Magazine, but I could be mistaken thete. There was a short film made called ” Bonneville Record Breaker” which might be on you tube. Why couldn’t you believe this possible? Have you ever looked into it? The only experimental Studebaker that was run at that time was an Avanti with an experimental R-5 engine. Thei Studebaker engine was 304.5cid, 2 Paxton superchargers, and fuel injection. It also had streamlining panels at strategic places to help with streamlining. This Avanti went 196mph. According to Granatelli, the can was spinning the rear wheels as it couldn’t get traction. Also, the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags are inspected quite heavily, even to an engine tear down. The results speak for themselves.

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    • WayneC

      Look in you tube. The Bonneville film of the runs that Studebaker made are listed by searching “Studebaker Bonneville Record Breaker”. Also the same for “Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags, Studebaker”. There are several films to choose from for disbelievers.

    • Kenny

      Howard– You sound like many of the “unbelievers” I have run into :) I own a ’64 R2 4-speed Lark, and I promise you, these are fast cars. You can go to youtube and look for the Stude Tomato that regularly dusts off big-block contenders, as well as “The Plain Brown Wrapper”, a ’64 R3 Lark. They are quite famous in Studebaker circles, and run in the Showroom Stock classes. Bring on your 454 Chevelle!

  14. Scott Tait

    So is it 123 or 132mph ….as both are mentioned lol … does anyone proof read anynore

    • ken TILLY

      Read the article again, slowly, where it mentions that Studebaker said 123 mph and Andy Granatelli did 132 mph. Proof readers are o.k. it’s some of the readers that are a bit off the track.

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  15. Doug

    I recall a couple of brothers who got their hands on their Dad’s ex-company car, which was a 4dr Lark….( Dad worked for the Feds. ) The car was butt -ugly, kind of chocolate brown & beige. They’d go out cruising on Friday or Saturday night and wait for some bozo in a Hi-Po Mustang or whatever to tease them about driving Mommy’s car, and then race them for $. It was a hoot seeing the look on the Mustang ( or Camaro, Nova SS, Chevelle, GTO ) drivers face when they got blown off by the Studebaker and had to pay up ! For whatever reason, there seemed to be a mutual respect between them and the Mopar guys – never saw a challenge there from either side.

  16. Joe Flannery

    I have one of these cars, although it is a clone. I had an R-2 and changed the Lark to Avanti power and a 4 speed. I can drive my car to the Pure Stock Drags in Michigan from N.J. . That is about 12 hours and 750 miles, each way. I get around 14-15 MPG. The best E.T. so far with 3.07 gears and a set of 225-70-15 was 14.2 @ 99 MPH at the 2014 event . This year it was only 14.6 at 96. The car was paired up against a 1969 Cougar Eliminator with a 428 . The 2 other times the car ran it was matched against a 1970 T/A Challenger 340 6 barrel and a 1965 GTO 389 tri power, the other cars were trailered to the event.

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