Rare Retractable Roof: 1964 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire

Merriam-Webster defines a Lark as either: A chiefly Old World ground-dwelling songbird or, A source of, or quest for amusement or adventure. My thought is Studebaker’s intention was the latter definition and not the former. Especially when you consider this 1964 Studebaker Lark Waonaire station wagon’s rear retractable roof; it’s a go-anywhere, take-everybody, go have fun, kind of vehicle. I haven’t come across one of these in years and it is definitely worth a closer look. Located in Scotts Valley, California, it is available here on craigslist for $6,850. Thanks to local_sheriff for this tip!

The propellers were starting to show at Studebaker in 1964 as it was lined up for a final plunge, at least in the U.S. In late ’63, their South Bend, Indiana plant closed and what was left of Studebaker continued on at Hamilton, Ontario. By March of 1966, it was finito for good for this storied marque. Studebaker’s exit from the car business was unfortunate, they were a bit quirky but they produced memorable cars like this Wagonaire.

The premise here is that the rear portion of the roof slides forward so you can load up with bamboo fishing poles, surfboards, and Scotch coolers. You can also just drive around with the top panel slid forward, stand up, and make embarrassing gestures at other drivers as my 15-year-old self did with some friends in a ’64 blue Wagonaire that belonged to one of my friend’s mothers. (We got stopped twice in the same night, by the same cop; nice the first time, more stern the second and it was decided to not go for a hat-trick). GMC tried a similar set-up with the 2004 Envoy XUV but it didn’t sell well and was discontinued the following year.

The seller states that this Studebaker, “has the usual lower rust spots in doors and quarter panels but very repairable.” And it would make a “good, driveable project car.” The body looks pretty fair and I assume the retractable top still retracts – it’s a manual affair as I recall but it moves smoothly back and forth. There is some rust evident in various places but it doesn’t appear to be serious. The body is still straight, though the finish and chrome aren’t too hot, not unexpected, however on a car of this age. Agreed, it would make a good project car.

The seller claims that it needs interior work but from what can be spied, even that doesn’t look too challenged. There is black vinyl upholstery in place along with add-on gauges that have been installed on the steering column. The instrument panel is a bit worn looking as is the steering wheel. The door cards seem to have suffered the indignity of having tape deck speakers cut into them at some point in the past while a rubber mat adorns the floor. One would have to get a look in total, at the interior, which is not available with the included images, to make a complete judgment call.

For power, this Studebaker is booking a 289 CI V8 that is South Bend all the way; it’s not to be confused with FoMoCo’s Windsor V8 of the same displacement. It’s good for either 210 or 225 gross HP depending on the carburetor/compression ratio employed. It looks like the seller has snagged a dual-inlet air cleaner from something in GM’s line-up and has added a NASCAR style dual exhaust system that exits in front of the rear wheels. The seller’s only statement regarding this Lark’s motivation is that “it runs and drives” – open to interpretation I suppose. Gear shifting is handled by a Borg-Warner derived automatic transmission.

Old station wagons, like old pick up trucks,  have been undergoing a renaissance of sorts for the last several years. That coupled with an avid interest on the part of Studebaker’s dedicated followers should make this Wagonaire a pretty hot ticket for quick resale. As to value, it’s hard to say, these aren’t common so the comparison method of valuation will be sketchy and the seller claims, “… but I am not desperate to sell it either. So don’t waste your time or mine in tire kicking and lowball offers.” Show of hands, please, has anyone ever owned a Studebaker? Also, are there any concerns about owning a vehicle from a long-ago discontinued brand?

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Comments

  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    I was born the same year that this car was made. Unfortunately, I was still wearing the same style of shorts as the kid in the vintage picture until about 1990.

    Like 14
  2. alphasud Member

    I think it’s a good price and I was in the market for another project this would be the one. You would be the only one at car shows and cars and coffee to have one.

    Like 9
  3. DualJetfire

    The sliding roof is such a great idea I’m surprised that no other car company stole it. It turns your station wagon into a truck. Perhaps that’s the problem, though. My mom did not like station wagons because they became dad’s truck. So he got a truck, and problem solved! Stude s problem was that their interiors were always spartan, except in the high dollar lines. I’d love to have a Wagonaire. And no, I can’t think up any way to mention you know what!

    Like 3
    • alphasud Member

      GM offered the same concept for a couple years for their SUV’s but it was dropped I think for the same issues as Studebaker.

      Like 3
  4. Mr.BZ

    Dad had a 62 Lark convertible with the 289 and BW trans. in the mid 60s to early 70s, rock solid car that was fun to ride in as a kid but looked like the tired, old design that it was. I was born in 1960 and my older brother in 55, and when he was looking for his first car Dad thought for sure he would love the Studey. He was wrong! Neighbors down the street had a Wagonaire, don’t remember seeing it with the top open though. Very unique car, GLWTS!!

    Like 2
  5. Joe Haska

    Didn’t, I see one of these on Barn finds in the last month or two, maybe it was somewhere else. I think this would be a very desireable car and the price seems very fair. I wish, I had the time and money, this could be a great project and would really be a fun car. It does break my 4-door rule, but it would be worth it!

    Like 2
  6. Matt Toni

    Wagonaire designed by Brooks Stevens who also designed- wait for it- the Jeep wagoneer.

    I actually followed this exact car up Highway 17 to Santa Cruz last summer. Tried to get a picture of it.

    Like 4
  7. Connecticut Mark

    Why is front end sagging

    Like 8
  8. Fred W

    If I recall correctly, there was a huge, predictable problem with the sliding roof leaking. And that’s when they were brand new!

    Like 4
    • local_sheriff

      Some vehicles or their features seem to be designed with Cali climate only in mind – this is one of them …

      Like 4
  9. gbvette62

    I’ve loved the sliding roof Wagonaire’s since I was a kid, when I got one made Matchbox, that even featured the sliding roof.

    For years, there was a green one of these sitting by a barn on a farm, about a mile from me. I rode by there a few times every day, and always looked to see if it was there, but never stopped to inquire about it. This was mainly because it was sitting there with the roof open in ’92 when I moved here, and was still sitting there with it open 20 years later. It disappeared about 5 years ago, likely scrapped, when the farm was sold and the old barn torn down.

    I do still have my Matchbox Wagonaire though!

    Like 4
  10. SULLY

    My friend had one w 3 on the tree and overdrive. The column shift linkage would jam and we’d have to open the hood and align the dogs at neutral to resume.

  11. Vince H

    I have owned many Studebakers. Even a 64 Daytona hardtop sedan. Yes that is what they were called. Most people call them coupes. Never had a Wagonaire but would not mind having one.

    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Me too…still one of my faves is my 64 Daytona factory 4sp hardtop.

  12. Chuck

    The sliding roof leaked (just like the ‘f’ body GM t-tops)
    Yet, us Studebaker fans ‘…would rather fix than switch’

    THe value? Not much. Personally, I think he is a tad high. THere is rust in that hard to find tailgate. Rust in the lower front corner of the front doors, lower rear of the fenders, lower rear fenders, all the usual places for Studes to rust. This body style also had a windshield leak around the seal, which led to water running down the inside of the A post/door jamb. At least the roof is not rusted around the drip rail.

    Like 2
  13. John

    Something seriously wrong with the front suspension. Even the rear looks too low. Might need all new springs or there is structural rust.

    Like 2
  14. Tom White

    My Step dad has 2 SB Lark IV wagons/ project cars
    1- 1960 and 1 -1961 .
    Hes been working on the 60 for over a year now, not restoring but fixer upper type work. Spiratically over time.
    Is a running/ drivable project with the quiet& smooth running orig. flathead inline 6 ,3spd manual colum shifted trans)
    It’s going to be his Beach cruiser eventually.
    The 61 is a non running(seized block) parts swapper donor car, (seats and inner trim pieces pulled from).and he is willing to sell it when the Work on the 60 is finnshed

  15. carey Hill

    love studebakers- still drive a 63 sedan- looks as though front coils have been cut – would love to give it a home- although the rust will inevitably have journeyed further inland than the bubbles suggest.
    But all fixable and a cool end product

  16. Alexander Kress Member

    My dad had one of these. He was in the local Lions Club with the Studebaker dealer, and we always had whatever kind of car he sold. My dad had Studebaker trucks with 14 ft. boxes on the back. He laid one up for a year and a contractor friend of his needed something to store equipment. They put a new battery in it and it started on the first try.
    After Studebaker went out of business dad’s friend became an Edsel dealer, and we had an Edsel. I used to take it to college and it got 6 to 8 MPG.

  17. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    These are not rare – I’ve said it before – and not that desirable. This one looks priced right…good luck with it………..

    Like 1

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