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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Greg Zyla: Studebaker Golden Hawk – a true muscle car

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  • Q: Greg, in your article on the Studebaker Golden Hawk muscle car recently, you failed to mention a car that I had back in 1958, namely a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk straight-drive with factory overdrive.
    This car had a 352-cubic-inch Packard engine, and it was absolutely amazing. It would run 110-mph in second gear overdrive! (I realize how foolish I was at 21 years old.)
    I’m sure I didn’t have the only one made. Thanks much, Bob Herndon, Liberty, N.C.
    A: Bob, first and foremost, thanks for reading my columns. In my past articles, including the one I sent out this year, I informed the readers of the two Packard engines that powered the 1956 Golden Hawk, specifically the 352-cubic-inch V-8 producing 275 horses and a 374-incher developing 310 ponies with dual fours.
    You are correct, however, that I failed to mention the “straight-drive” overdrive manual transmission. Specifically, two transmissions were available in 1956, including the manual Borg Warner T85 three-speed with overdrive you refer to or Packard’s “Twin Ultramatic” automatic transmission.
    The Ultramatic mated to a 3.07 rear gear, while the owners of the manual had high-performance 3.92 rear axle ratios to contend with thanks to the overdrive. You will be surprised to know that of the 4,071 Golden Hawks built in 1956, only 786 came with the overdrive manual T85 transmission, as all others were automatics. Thus, few actually owned what you drove back in 1958.
    Overall, your Golden Hawk/Packard was one of the very fastest cars of the year, thanks to its great power-to-weight ratio. The Golden Hawk could accelerate quicker than a Chevy Corvette and Ford Thunderbird and went from zero to 60 in less than seven seconds.
    Studebaker didn’t use the Packard engine in 1957, relying on a supercharged 289-cubic-inch V-8 to arrive at the same 275 horses as the single four-barrel 352 Packard. For history buffs out there, Studebaker was purchased by Packard in 1954 and eventually utilized the stronger dealer network of Studebaker for future marketing.
    In ending, I’d love to park a ‘56 or ‘57 Golden Hawk in my garage, as I wouldn’t be choosy. But the one you owned in 1956, complete with the manual straight-drive overdrive transmission and that peppy 3.92 gear, is perhaps the rarest of all.
    Thanks for the letter.
    Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia or old-time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at greg@gregzyla.com.
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