Sleeper Potential: 1959 Studebaker Lark

Barn-Lark

For those of us who aren’t already Studebaker fans, swinging this barn’s doors open probably wouldn’t cause much excitement. However, once you take a closer look at this little Lark, you might just have a change of heart. Sure it was meant to be an economical car to save Studebaker from failure, but these unique birds have some serious sleeper potential. This light little two door 1959 Lark has a V8 under the hood and would make for a fun stop light sleeper. Take a look at this Barn Lark here on eBay  out of Salem, Virginia.

lark-motor

In factory form, this 259 cui V8 wasn’t terribly powerful, but it is known to be extremely durable. With only 195 horsepower, this car was still able to reach 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, which might not sound great by today’s standards but was impressive back in ’59 for an economy car. The seller claims the engine runs, but that the carburetor needs work. We are sure the engine could use a complete tune up and if you are planning on upgrading it, we would recommend rebuilding it. Even though Studebaker closed its doors just a few years after this car was built, parts support is still good. Finding replacement and performance parts shouldn’t prove to be difficult and most Studebaker owners are happy to share information and a helping hand.

lark-interior

Like the rest of the car, the interior is in sad shape. It looks complete, but has definitely seen better days. Given the overall condition of the car, we wouldn’t feel too bad modifying it, although we would want to keep as much of the car original as possible. The seller was planning on restoring it themselves, but health issues have gotten in the way, so they have decided to let it go. Hopefully the next owner will be more successful at getting back on the road.

lark-race-car

At one time the Lark was a popular option for racers. The low curb weight and factory V8 meant it could go through a turn as well as it went in a straight line. In ’63, Studebaker decided to capitalize on some of the Lark’s past success and they introduced their own performance tuned version. They went as far as to create the Super Lark, which came with a sport tuned suspension, limited slip differential, disc brakes, and most importantly a Supercharged version of the 289 V8. Turning this old Lark into an R2 Super Lark wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be expensive…

lark-grill

Whatever the next owner does with it, we are sure they will enjoy it. We would be sure to inspect this one very carefully though, as it may have rust issues and possible problems from not being started properly. Let’s just hope the seller didn’t do any serious damage when they started it up and that it is as simple as junk in the carburetor. If this was your Lark, would you modify it or restore it?

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Comments

  1. shawnmcgill

    This is actually a pretty rare bird….

  2. Brian

    Well equipt with power brakes, power steering, and air and appears to have been a 4bbl! I wonder if the carb and ultra rare air cleaner are in the trunk? This is about as close to a super lark (or at least a Daytona, its a hardtop too!) as you could get in ’59!

    Would look good sharing the garage with my ’63 Cruiser!

  3. Kristi Evans

    What a treat! I love these old Larks and have only seen a few equipped like this one. If money was limitless for me (and that will never happen, sadly), I’d love to see this restored. I hope that whoever buys it is familiar with this list and posts updates. That’d be awesome.

  4. Tom Lindmark

    The photo of the Stude’ race car brings back fond memories. My grand dad sold Studebakers from his shop in Crystal Lake IL. into the mid fifties when he passed away. My dad used to work for Pure Oil at their research center in CL before they merged with Union Oil in ’65. Love them old Studebakers.

  5. MikeH

    Absolutely restore it–there aren’t that many equipped like this. it looks to be a very restorable car. Of course you’ll never get your money out of it, but that’s not why you do it.

  6. That Guy

    Yes, this looks like a pretty highly-optioned, performance-oriented car straight from the factory. And I don’t recall that I’ve seen a pillarless 2-door Daytona hardtop in this early body style before. I don’t know how rare it is, but it seems like the kind of spec that would deserve restoration, not resto-modding.

  7. SETH

    I only see two holes in the intake manifold. That would make it a 2bl carb. Is that an a/c compressor that I see on the engine? Not many cars of that vintage had a/c. In 68 I remember that one of my high school friends has a Studebaker with a three on the tree which was the family beater car.

    • shawnmcgill

      I was looking at that A/C compressor, too… I’m thinking it was an add-on. Doesn’t look period-correct factory stock to me.

      • shawnmcgill

        And, looking at the interior shot, it looks like one of those add-on units under the dash…

    • shawnmcgill

      I think I can see the four holes in the intake… The heater hose is laying diagonally across the opening. I can pick out two ports behind it, and one in front. Which all makes this thing even rarer… There couldn’t be too many 4-bbl, V8 59 Lark two-door hardtops!

    • Brian

      Nope, it’a a four bbl. Look closely at the photo and you can see a third hole. Can’t see for sure, but factory and dealer air on the ’59 Studebaker was a cheap looking plastic box under the dash, made by a company out of Dallas, TX. Compresser looks very close to stock York, however, even if it came new with ac, chances are that the compresser has been replaced at least once in the last 54 years with a York that was close enough to work, which is pretty much any of the “big box” Yorks. Even if it’s aftermarket, who cares, as long as it’s period correct. My ’63 has period aftermarket air on it. Living in Savannah Ga, it’s matter of using and enjoying the car in the summer or leaving it in the garage until fall!

  8. Dave Barber

    4bbl, Power steering, Electric wipers when most were vacuum, unfortunately dealer dealer added A/C. I’d go Original…..and take it if I didn’t have the Essex from a few months ago…

  9. Andrew Minney

    I love the early Larks. And sometimes a basic stock model is almost as much fun as powerful one with all the toys!
    Andrew

  10. Jim-Bob

    The cool thing is that the carburator it came with when new is still made today. If memory serves, it should have a Carter AFB, which is now sold as the Edelbrock carb. It’s as easy to find as a trip to your local speed shop (or a rummage through the garage or self serve yard).

    The car itself seems like a good entry level classic for someone who doesn’t have a lot to spend. You could easily pop out the dents, do some basic body work (and take the trim off yourself) and have it shot at your local Maaco for a few hundred bucks and have a decent looking little car for not a lot of money. Have the seats done in pleated vinyl and install a reproduction carpet set and you could do the interior cheaply too. The rest of it all seems to be there and ready to shine up with a little elbow grease. The trim is stainless, so some time with sandpaper and a stainless polishing kit on your drill should make it look like new.

    • shawnmcgill

      I agree completely! This could be a terrific driver that you could have a lot of fun with!

      My only concern would be to check very carefully for rust in the frame. That would be a nightmare, and very expensive to fix…

  11. Alan

    The eBay lister has me feeling slightly confused… Not hard to do, I know! But in the photos the car looks like it has been sitting for decades, yet the father of the seller “drove the car out of the barn”? The photos show no carburetor. If parked that way it would be bad, with moisture and rodents getting into the engine. But if the carb was on it, and taken off to be cleaned, that would indicate that perhaps a total rebuild might not be necessary.

    One of the older guys in the neighborhood had a Lark, and fuzzy memory thinks it had a flat-head 6. Even in the bigger car, this 8 would be much better motivation.

    • Brian

      ’59 and ’60 were flat head sixes. 1961 to ’64 were “re-engineered” with OHV to be more modern. Give me the flat head any day over the OHV! Both V8s 259 and 289 were great! Early OHV sixes had problems with head cracks around the valves, later (63-64s) suffered from cheap Carter one bbl carbs.

    • Josh Staff

      I was a bit confused by that comment as well, but from the way it sounds the father drove it out of the barn and then junk clogged up the carb. Any car parked for an extended period of time with gas in the tank and lines is going to have problems. I would assume they then pushed it back into the barn and removed the carb to see what was going on. Granted this is just my theory.

      • Brian

        Sounds typical. Hope the project didn’t end when they tore the carb apart and realized they couldn’t put it back together! But, as somebody said, you can still get repros of this carb, so I would be more worried about having the original 4 bbl air cleaner than the carb.

        It’s really something how so many old cars end up in barn, garages, or fields because of simple repair that the owner can’t do or just don’t care enough to carry out.

  12. TuckerTorpedo

    I can’t get over the utter simplicity of that dashboard.

  13. jim s

    this would need a PI first. would make a great driver but i can not tell enough from listing to know how much time/money it would take. and it is an automatic. if i was going with a stubebaker i might try this instead
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Studebaker-LARK-TAN-1960-studebaker-lark-2-dr-nice-trans-needs-installed-4670-00-/221336367203?forcerrptr=true&hash=item3388acf063&item=221336367203&pt=US_Cars_Trucks .

  14. Brian

    This one looks nicer but it’s a sedan rather than a hardtop. This model is more common and doesn’t have the appear of the HT. Also depends on which ocean you live nearest! Calf vs. VA.

  15. Foxxy

    When I was 16 my father and I were out looking for my first car. I had a few adds out of the paper and we were checking them out. I think it was about 66 or 67 not sure. The first one was a little Lark, I think it was in the sixties. I wasn’t real crazy about getting a stud, but we got out and checked it out. I walked over and looked in the window and about flipped. It had a 4 speed with a hurst shifter, and it looked stock. When the guy came out he fired it up and it sounded sweet. He opened the hood for us and it had a Paxton blower on. I fell in love with this little thing. We talked to the guy and he was asking a couple hundred dollars more that I had, and I couldn’t get him to just hold it till I got the rest, but it just didn’t work out. I wasn’t until about 35 years later that I found out it was a “R” and it was all factory. That car has been lurking in my mind ever since. I have actually tracked down stories looking for one but never had any luck. Every time I see a lark in an add still today I check it out to see if it is an R, but no luck.

  16. Charles F Member

    In 1960 a college friend (who had money and whose family lived in Texas) special ordered a Lark convertible with A/C which the dealer found to be absurd, the dealer had never heard of a convertible with A/C, but it made sense to my friend and now A/C is standard on convertibles. It was very fast. He could have afforded a Hawk but he wanted to put the top down in the evenings in the Texas summers and be cool in the daytime.

  17. Paul B

    The ’59 and ’60 two-door hardtops with V8s are little rockets! Light, fast, small and agile. A friend had one and I used to really enjoy driving it. Someone buy this unusual fully equipped Lark and figure out how to restore it stock. It’ll take time and money but would be worth it.

  18. Joey K

    I’m torn on this one…. the 259 V8 is the little brother to the 289 that gets all the glory – and the hop up parts and the following from the Avanti crowd. It wouldn’t be that hard to find a 289 and make it into an Avanti-clone engine – R1 would be a four barrel carb – R2 with a Paxton supercharger. One could also go ‘retro mod’ and wedge a modern Turbo or fuel injection system in there. On the other hand – there are a serious number of 289 converted Studes out there – trucks – Larks – it might be nice to have one that was a stocker. Either way – not going to happen on my budget. :-(

  19. Brian

    It’s a good plan, but I would look for a good 63 or 64 lark body to put the new “R” engine into, since they were only orginally available for those two years.

    I’ve always also thought it would be cool to get my hands on an early 60s Perkins 4 cylinder diesel and a 63 2 door lark body and make a copy of the ultra rare lark diesel and run it on biofuel. But I guess that’s another story!

    Just dreamin…

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