A wing, a prayer, and perhaps some emergency road flares. That encapsulated where Studebaker was by 1962 with their standard passenger car line. Where the innovation of cropping the circa ’53 standard Studebaker down to the Lark in 1959 was a stroke of genius, by 1962 many manufacturers crowded around the special bird to make a feast. No longer was it the only downsized dowager with the pride of a potent V8 engine.
A nip and a tuck of plastic surgery, some new features and a fretting over where to go next signified where the Lark was in 1962. Emphasis on the blossoming of the specialized small American car seen elsewhere creeped in too. How much of the old bird was new in ’62.
To take it from the sponsored horse’s mouth, as Studebaker was the sponsor brand of the sitcom Mr. Ed, there was plenty. Across the board the 4 headlamp visage became standard, lending the Mercedes-like look to even the cheapest of cuts.
Out back new rump implants, more stylized taillights and character lines gave a little more definition for those eyes that like to look at what follows. The rooflines also got a bit of attention as well, as they became more graceful and flowing. As all sedans moved to the 113 “Cruiser” wheelbase, gone was the reverse slant C-pillar that harkened back to the early 1950’s.
Underneath though, down to the kingpins where most manufacturers had switched to Ball joints, was the massaged 1953 Champion/Commander on a diet. While the mechanicals proved durable in places, the Lark found itself outclassed in innovations offered elsewhere in the competition. Budget constraints lead to a less than durable Overhead Valve conversion of the 1939 Champion era Inline six. Where there was 112 horsepower competitive with many in the field, there were head gasket woes. As in previous years you could skip being saddled with the economical six and pair yourself with either the 259 or 289 V8. While there were new competitors in the form of the 215 cube Aluminum V8’s from the B-O-P Luxury compacts, none of their V8’s came as close as the top 289 available in Larks without forced induction and pricetags well into the heart of the medium priced market.
The combination of updates and still sizeable performance upgrades kept the Lark from giving up too many of the worms of being one of the compact early birds of the late 50’s. Had it not been for a strike that curtailed production in the early part of the model year.
Indeed the more than 49,000 examples of the mid-grade Lark Regal sedan like this one compromised the majority of the over 89,000 Studebakers that found buyers for 1962. That proved a substantial increase and an answered prayer over the disastrous sales year of 1961, but it proved to be only a momentary blessing. Soon we’d see see the savior of South Bend retreat to the great white north to surrender to eventual demise. Sometimes it takes more than a wing and a prayer to find salvation.