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One Year Only: 1956 Studebaker Sky Hawk

One and done might be an apt description for this 1956 Studebaker Sky Hawk as it was offered that year only. A member of Studebaker’s “Hawk” line-up, there were only about 3K Sky Hawks built so this clean, oh-so-fifties appearing hardtop should be an interesting review. Located in Chico, California, this Sky Hawk can be found, here on eBay for a current bid of $12,000, reserve not yet met.

Talk about some Hawks, Studebaker offered four for the ’56 model year, the Golden Hawk in the top nest, then the Sky Hawk on a lower limb, the Power Hawk closer to the ground, and finally, the ironically named Flight Hawk at the lowest altitude. The pictures are going to have to do the talking in the case of this Sky Hawk as the listing for details reads: “Studebaker“. That’s helpful.  The listing was later edited to state, “Front wheel disc brakes. Rebuilt motor and trans new interior. No rust“. OK, so there’s no reported rust and the images aren’t indicative of any. The two-tone finish is rich and deep, the chrome possesses a nice luster and all of the trim shines. It is truly a beautiful automobile – and that’s not just due to its condition, it’s also the inimitable lines of Studebaker’s Hawk series.

Well, you’ve heard of a matching number engine, how about a matching color engine? In this case, it’s a 210 gross HP, 289 CI V8 with an air cleaner housing and valve covers that match the exterior’s Daybreak Blue below the beltline hue. As previously stated, the engine is claimed to have been rebuilt but there’s no other detail provided. The mileage is stated as being 74K miles but there’s no claim to that reading. Assuming that the engine was maintained and not abused, a rebuild shouldn’t have been needed at that mileage but then 74K may not be the true mileage – and a “rebuild” can be subjective. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a “Flight0matic” automatic transmission.

The interior is claimed to be new and it certainly appears so. The vinyl and cloth combination upholstery mimics the two-tone character of the exterior and it is very smart looking. A beautiful offset, however, is the black dash and machine-turned instrument panel. And speaking of the instrument panel, the simplicity of the circular black and white gauges illustrates perfectly how less can be more. It’s safe to say that the interior of this Sky Hawk needs no attention.

With all of the character of the Hawk series going for Studebaker, not to mention the yet-to-come Avanti, it’s surprising that Studebaker ran out of steam just a few years later. Of course, big volume commodity cars are what makes automobile fortunes, not sporty or specialty two-door hardtops. There’s no telling where the reserve has been set on this Sky Hawk but considering this car’s excellent condition, this will be one to watch – it could prove to be quite a deal.



    Nice looking car, too bad that the AMT model kit number 668 is a Big Foot Monster truck.

    Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Never was a big fan of the big grill cars but this is the best looking of the run in my mind. After this one they just kept piling junk on a body that held it’s own in the good looks department. Really nice car here.

    Like 8
  3. Sam Shive

    Lived above a Studebaker dealer for a few years growing up then we moved across the street and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since. Looks to be a Sweet Ride.

    Like 8
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    The color scheme is so 50’s…love it!

    Like 9
  5. deadmanrising Member

    When I was five years old, went to the Studebaker dealer with my dad so he could buy his third and last Studebaker. His prior two Studebakers were Champion Starlight coupes. I so wanted him to buy a hawk as the successor ti the Starlight coupes, but he bought a Champion four sedan. Said my older brother and sister were too old to climb in and out of a Hawk. I still think he was wrong-should have bought the Hawk.

    Like 13
    • Jimbosidecar

      I have a ’51 Champion Starlight Coupe myself

      Like 3
  6. Vince H

    Side grilles are incorrect for 56. The chrome on the gauges must have been bad since they are now black. The engine does not look right in these colors. He should keep kept it stock. Nice Sky Hawks bring 25k or better.

    Like 5
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      Hi my friend, you are correct, the side grill inserts didn’t come out until 1958 if memory is still good. The grill emblem appears to be one of the Dan Webber reproductions, they weather better than the originals! Also correct is your comments about the gauges and engine color.

      I question the engine rebuild, as the heads and block appear to be untouched and unpainted in the new lighter color, like the valve covers, intake manifold, crank pulley and water pump. The exhaust manifolds don’t appear to have been removed from the heads in a VERY long time, if ever. Who does an engine rebuild and doesn’t clean & paint the heads and/or block?

      Take a close look at the underside of the trunk lid, it appears to have been whacked hard on the right side, note the 5 small missing stress relief holes that suggest new metal has been welded in, and plenty of other metal damage to the inner trunk lid. Let’s hope this trunk lid came off a different car.

      And Vince, if I recall, the firewall was always painted the color of the main body upper shell, not the body side color, so this firewall should have been painted white.

      I had an almost identical Sky Hawk, and when I first saw the photo, I thought it must be my car, at least until I saw it was an automatic transmission car. Mine was stick shift and OD vehicle, with the optional 4 barrel & dual exhaust system. My car came from southwest Texas, and had only 54,000 miles showing, and no rust!

      I once raced my Sky Hawk against a 1956 Golden Hawk, and while the Golden Hawk had that big 352 Packard V8, It was no match on the track for the Sky Hawk with the optional [and much lighter] Studebaker 289 V8 engine and stick shift with OD. While it was a TT rear, I never did find out what numerical gears it had, but I could shift out of 2nd overdrive at over 50, floor it and go back to 3rd gear, then let off for 3rd OD around 80.

      Like 4
      • Poppy

        Not sure if the holes on the inner deck lid stamping are supposed to be on both sides. I think the LH holes were originally for running wiring to the decklid-mounted backup lights and trunk light. My ’54 (slightly different lid) has holes only on the LH side.

        Like 0
  7. Kurt Member

    Beautiful car. I just read another ad for a similar Studebaker that had been “resto-modded” with a (gasp) SBC under the hood. Travesty. This car is so much more attractive, particularly to fans of the marque.

    Like 7
  8. Gig Harbor Car Nut

    Lovely looking car! I’ve never seen a 1956 Studebaker Hawk before. I’ve seen pics of them, but I’ve never seen one in person.

    Like 0
  9. Terry J

    There’s more reasons to rebuild an engine than just “worn out through high mileage” . 1956? 74,000 miles? We can assume that this cool car spent most of 50 plus years in storage. Seals become hard, rust forms on cylinder walls because a number of intake and exhaust valves are open, head gaskets can begin to leak coolant often into the cylinders, lifters and valves freeze up, etc.
    Any valuable car is worth going through the drive train/ brakes etc BEFORE starting/driving it. I would. :-) Terry J

    Like 2
    • Kurt Member

      Just driving it what, once a week? That’s all it would take ime.

      Like 1
  10. Chuck Simons

    There has to be rust, maybe around the fender vent doors, the bottom of the fenders, and the area of the rocker panels.
    While I don’t see the typical bent hood of, the hood is out of alignment. The decklid lines are lower than the rear fender line.
    Valve covers should be black https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/general-studebaker-specific-discussion/106177-correct-engine-color

    Like 0
    • Johnny C.

      Attn; Nit-Pickers; we found something to Nit-Pick.

      Like 8
  11. Wayne

    Remember people, back in the day 30,000 mile valve jobs were not unusual and 100,000 mile worn out cars were the norm. With high sulfur oils and fuel and leaded fuel and zinc laden oils. The sludge and and crud build up were very high with lower engine temps and vapor/moisture condensation from draft tubes. (to those younger in attendance, Draft tubes were there to vent the crankcase from pressure buildup. The crankcases have been sealed/semi-sealed since 1963 when PVC systems were introduced. So a rebuild at 74,000 miles for this vintage of car is not out of line.
    I have often wondered about the longevity of ’50s cars with current day oils, (Zinc provided for cam life naturally) lead free fuel (hardened valve seats naturally) solid state ignition system and fuel injection with O2 sensor controls. Many of these cars would get 15-20 MPG back then, what would be possible with for mentioned upgrades? Also through in radial tires.
    Anyone been there?

    Like 4
    • Old Beach Guy

      The two biggest contributors to engine longevity are overdrive transmissions and electronic fuel management systems.

      Like 1
    • Gary

      Wayne is correct, with the oils, fuels and roads of the 20’s through the late 50’s the cars were worn out, not to mention the abuse some of them were subjected to. I remember seeing 55-57 Chevies in the mid 60’s that were worn out with 60,000 miles on them. Modern fuels, oils and fuel injection would do wonders for them. Years ago Hot Rod? Did a test on a dead stock 50 Ford V8 coupe and a Pro Street GTO Judge with a blown big block Chebbie. They super tuned both cars and took them for emissions checks. This was in 93? and California set the emissions standards out 10 years, so they were testing for 2003 year emissions. They both passed with flying colors, but the DMV wanted to fail the Judge because the blowers was through the hood. Any car, if in proper repair, will pass emissions.

      Like 3
    • chrlsful

      we use rotella (diesel) for the zddp. T4 (white jug) is non syn, inexpensive, readily avail (“T4”) 10/30 winter, 10/40 summer.

      Like 2
  12. charlie Member

    My father’s 1950 Studebaker, bought new, had an engine replacement at 40,000 miles and 5 years, it was burning a quart of oil with every tank of gas, and he had it serviced by the book (he was an engineer) at the dealership. I saw a Honda giving out big blue smoke today – hardly ever happens now with better metals, better oil, better ignition, better timing, so engines routinely go 200,000 or more miles, some over 300,000 without a rebuild. This is a great car – compare price wise with a ’56 Ford, or Chevy hardtop in similar condition. VW’s routinely had valve jobs at 40,000 miles back in the ’60’s. If we measured used by RPM’s the VW’s probably had 3 x what a contemporary American, low rev, car, had at the time at 40,000 miles.

    Like 2
  13. Gary

    My uncle’s had Studebakers back in the 50’s and 60’s, because they said they were the only cars that would survive running on “Drip” gasoline syphoned from the gas pipelines in rural WVa. They would burn up engines in 15-20k miles, the rest would only go 5-10k before they blew up.

    Like 2
  14. bigbird

    The 50’s car were pretty good, but had to due the oil changes in the 2-3 K range. I always wondered why there were so few early 1930-40 cars out west where I live. The simple truth is they could not make the trip. The maybe 55-65 mph top speeds wore them out. I can remember my Dad and uncle talking about getting a valve job 1/2 way on a trip to Florida, 1955 Ford V8. If you due all the old school maintenance, you are good. This one looks nice…..

    Like 1
  15. Rob Sack

    Spin on oil filter in 1956?

    Like 0
  16. chrlsful

    the single cheveron on rear 1/4 = “Sky” hawk?
    I like manya studie’s style. All ways something to offer, a coupla even w/a SC.

    Y go under? Not ‘modern enuff looking’ in the day? Poor managment? Mom’s aunt did her own wrenchin… she loved ’em. As said, all looked great to me~

    Like 0
  17. Michael Member

    As a long time Hawk owner I recall that the disks didn’t come out until 61, I had a 56 GH stick/od/4:27 Rear end Still have a 57GH and a fully optioned 62 Hawk, Go to the vintage road races at Goodwood.com there’s a hawk and a lark that trophy over the Jags and such!

    Like 1

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