Hawking for My High School ’64 Studebaker: Part 1

An ad posted last year that I somehow missed. Facebook Marketplace/Matthew Anderson

I keep a very detailed spreadsheet of all the cars I’ve owned. Every time I drag something home, I relish the “check-in” process—my ritual of recording the year, make, model, purchase price, cylinder count, and whether it drives. These go into a Microsoft Power BI data visualization model that offers a prediction of what I might buy next. Last time I checked, it forecasted a brown 1987 Volkswagen Quantum for the sum of $2300. While a Choco-Quantum indeed sounds appealing, in a sick sort of way, the model could not predict that I’d reunite with the 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk that I drove through high school. I sold that car in order to fund a semester abroad in Australia. When it popped back up on Facebook Marketplace, my brain registered pure joy right before what PowerBI would consider a whopper of a #DIV/0! error.

As soon as I saw the single-picture ad, the panic attack commenced. Regular readers of this column will recall that my hands have been rather full as of late, namely that I am focused on turning an old foundry into a place for car storage. But buying back your old high school ride is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The signficance of the moment hit me hard, so I did something that I rarely do: thought about it for a few days. (When I was 15 years old, all I could think about was how rad this car was.)

Please forgive the wheel choice. Matthew Anderson

About four days later, I realized what needed to be done. On my way to work, I called the Studebaker’s owner. I explained how I had purchased the very same car as a roller when I was 15 years old, got it on the road, and then drove it through high school and part of college.

“What makes you so sure it’s yours?” he asked. “Well…”, I said…

1. The matte black finish, tweaked fender, and perfectly straight hood

The new-old-stock hood and creased fender are the tell-tales. Matthew Anderson

When I bought the car for $2500, half of which was under a $5/hr work agreement, the hood was loosely attached and Bondo stalagmites hung from the underside of its bulge. It was also bent at the corners from what I diagnosed as a harrowing latch failure on the highway. When I had the hood off to remove the stuck 259 V-8, its abhorrent condition became apparent. I had a friend drive me out to Goldsboro, North Carolina, where we fished a dusty, matte black NOS hood out of a scorching attic. The old, bent hood was relegated to sled duty the two times it snowed that winter. (We were kids, after all.) The following half-dozen summers we used it as a campfire pit by the lake.

So yes, I know that matte NOS hood.

2. The creased front left fender

I would like to preface the text below with the following disclaimer: I did stupid things, because I was stupid, and it was stupid to do them.

I periodically competed in autocross events in my track-prepped Corolla, which was fun. For whatever reason, I decided it would be a good idea to compete in the Studebaker. Maybe I had become outclassed in the Toyota due to modifications, or maybe the thing was just broken. In any case, a few friends and I drove the Studebaker down to Laurinburg to compete with Tarheel Sports Car Club. With masking tape on the doors indicating our competition number, 85FSP, and a set of wheels from my dad’s Mustang, we set off.

The wheels didn’t fit right at all, not even with the 3/4-inch spacers. Each of the five lugs was barely biting on the stud, and checking their constantly lessening torque required the wheel to come off. So, we diligently retorqued the outer lugs after each run. The inners? Not a chance.

After a handful of rounds—all ending in poor times and cone picker-upperers later asking me about a certain buzzsaw-like noise they heard when I turned left (I didn’t know either)—it was time to head back to Raleigh. Whether it was the monotony of loblolly pine-lined US-1, the drone of the exhaust, the long day in the sun, wisps of carbon monoxide seeping into the cabin, or some combination of the aforementioned, my friend Kellen started nodding off in the passenger seat. The only thing keeping me awake was my car’s ever-worsening front-end shimmy.

Just as I was checking to make sure my copilot was breathing, the shimmy went away accompanied by a punting sound. I looked to the left, where a familiar-looking 17-inch wheel and spacer was rolling past us on the shoulder. Despite recognizing it as mine, I was dumb or panicked enough to hit the brakes, disrupting my Studebaker’s Citroën-esque balancing act and shoving the front left brake drum and bottom of the fender to the pavement in a shower of sparks.

There we were, stopped in the middle of US-1. My free wheel narrowly missed a van before taking out a picket fence. Friends convoying with us assisted in moving the Studabaker out of the road while I chased the wheel, its nuts fortunately still along for the ride between the rim and spacer.

So yes, I know that fender crease.

3. The 2-1/4″ Silvertone exhaust

Silvertone Exhaust Systems

The 2-1/4-inch Silvertone exhaust I chose to replace my Hawk’s heavily rusted 2-inch dual setup was not cheap, valued at 105 hours of labor at my modest $5/hr wage. Or 37 mowed lawns. (This was before my windfall $7/hr detailing at Saturn of Raleigh.) Ordering this set by phone from Stephen Allen’s, LLC, was my 15-year-old equivalent of buying a single-family home.

To minimize cost, I dug around my parents’ crawlspace and found a pair of Flowmaster 50-series mufflers that my father had rejected for being too quiet. He’d hacked off the mating interfaces with a Sawzall, so they weren’t exactly clean. I had no welding gear, either—that wouldn’t come into my life for another eight months, around the time I got my license.

Alas, I assembled this high-quality stainless steel exhaust with ill-fitting mufflers and hung it all solely with clamps and straps that required constant fettling to keep from asphyxiating my passengers.

So yes, I know that exhaust.

4. The floor shift Borg-Warner Overdrive

Many friends were exposed to exhaust fumes here. Matthew Anderson

When I was legally licensed to drive and could hit the road with the Hawk, it was equipped with the Studebaker Powershift automatic. The transmission shared a lot with the Ford FMX. At the time, the Powershift offered a high degree of manual control for a slushbox, but it was nevertheless heavy and slow.

I don’t remember if a failure or what prompted the changeover to a proper manual transmission, but I managed to pull the complete Borg-Warner three-speed overdrive setup out of a parts car. This particular donor was a desert tan ’62 GT Hawk that had practically rusted in half. In order to facilitate easier removal of the transmission with minimal exposure to snakes and wasps, I hooked the International 856 tractor to the rear of the car and pulled it several inches further away from the front. The floors simply fell away, yielding full access to the bell housing and linkage bolts.

Swapping in the manual ‘box was a bit more delicate. I positioned the car on cinder blocks at a cow lot. There were three Nubian goats running around at that time, and their dung balls mixed with ATF to create a horrifying slurry.

Amid the hot summer of 2002, I installed that transmission and three-pedals on my back. I decided to keep the floor shift rather than steal the column shift stuff from the parts car. That meant adapting a vintage JC Whitney kit that would break when driven aggressively, and I suffered some severe forearm burns on the Silvertone exhaust as I fiddled underneath the car, trying to find any gear to get home.

So yes, I know that transmission. I have the scars to remind me.


Needless to say, I convinced the seller that this was indeed my old Hawk. We made a deal.

Next weekend, my wife, Romanian street dog, and I are going to head “Down East” with a trailer. This time, when it’s back home, I won’t have to bother updating my spreadsheet.



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    I found my 1968 SS Chevelle that I had in school. I found it in a garage not more than a mile from my home. It is like it came home.

    It was driven little and it has a bit more wear and tear on it than when I had it. It would take some decent money to bring it back. As much as I would love to have the car back in prime condition it is not meant to be.

    Between the work and what he wants for it just are not realistic.

    Sometimes you just can’t go back.

    I’m 23, and I’ve still got my “First” car, I Hit a telephone pole with it, so the family wants to take it lemons racing, and I expect that to be its fate, I do hate to destroy it, but it was a bit of a POS, and I had already taken out most of the seats in it in pursuit of speed, I’m not quite sure what to think

    45 years and counting with my high school car – 68 chevelle malibu convertible in need of work that sat in parents driveway for 3 years with a huge rip in the top and non-running engine. Lots of JC Whitney and Montgomery Ward parts back then.

    Congrats. I have the enough rusty bits of my original 69 GMC to “ship of Theseus” my high school ride back together –in theory anyways. So I get wanting your ride back.

    If you don’t know about the Studebaker Drivers Club you should look into. It was started before Studebaker went out of business and there is good parts availability and information sharing.

    Looks like quite a journey lies ahead for you, Matthew. But I’m already envisioning it sitting in that new shop, with you and your friends sitting around, coffee mugs in hand, while you regale them with more tales of the adventures you and the Stude’ shared in those days. Maybe some of those tales aren’t publishable in a family forum, but if you think of some that are, please share them with us along with updates of bringing your old Hawk-pal back.

    Sometimes it is a story book ending. You got the girl, and now you have the car back. This is great.

    I know my high school 78 Oldsmobile Regency is long gone but Never forgotten.

    It’s not likely I’m going to find any of my old cars unless they relocate to Texas. Congrats on finding yours!

    Never let “her” go!
    I was not allowed to own a car until I graduated high school in 1975. Literally, the day after graduation I became the second owner of a “true” Red/Black Striped, 1970 Chevelle SS, 396/350 with a 4-speed, Vinyl Top, and a bench seat interior. I busted many a knuckle changing clutches on my back in those days. In the early ’80’s I told my eventual wife that a lot would change over the years, but the Chevelle will always be “mine”. Since 1986 both are still by my side! Since then, I have had every nut and bolt of the Chevelle in my hands through a never ending rebuild/upgrade effort and I still, occasionally, get a “hug” from my wife.

    Now, if I could only find that Black ’69 El Camino I had back in ’78 …

    No forgiveness for those wheels will be forthcoming as none is necessary, they look great to me. And I have that same exact forearm scar, from the same exact procedure!

    Although I think the story points out that they don’t look very great at all when one of them passes you on the highway. 😒

    What a great story!

    I’ve found an old car of mine that I had restored years previously. I had it painted, but did everything else myself. I had completely dismantled it short of pulling the body from the chassis, done the interior, suspension, fixed the convertible top structure, replaced the wood (in the convertible frame), built the engine, and had made some upgrades and custom touches. I found it 20 years later and was considering buying it back, but I would’ve had to have sold my car, which I loved. Since after 20 years my old car needed literally all of those things again I decided to pass on the project. C’est la vie. I still have the “new” old car, so I’m okay with that. If I had room for more I certainly would’ve gotten it, but it was not to be.

    My keeper was not a car, but a boat!

    In 1963 while still single I purchased a 14 foot sport boat called a Glastron JetFlite. It had bucket seats, a console, and covers over the rear area so it looked like a 2 seat sports car and was quite stylish.

    Long story short – I used it a lot early on, then life got in the way and I used it less, the last time being 1995. In 2012 I decided to try to sell it with no success, so decided to restore/rebuild it. During the process I learned that it was a one year only design, had limited production, and I was only able to find five others on the internet, none of which were being restored.

    Also, during the restoration I realized that I had always wanted to live near water, which led to the purchase of our final home overlooking Table Rock Lake in S.W. Missouri.

    The process is ongoing due to other projects and life issues but the plan is to get back to it soon, get it completed, and enjoy it again.

    Although I didn’t understand what had happened at the time, I blew a head gasket in my first car 2 hours from home. I did not have the funds to take it to a garage or tow it 2 hours back to my house, so it was consigned to one of their local boneyards. If anyone ever runs across a 78 Fleetwood Brougham with pink primer showing through worn silver paint… mmm nevermind

    I have owned two cars that I had previously owned twice .. A 79 280zx 2+2 and a 1952 Buick special… Currently though I own a 1963 Mercury comet s22 convertible just like my first car… Who says you can’t go back, oh yeah. Eddie Money did…!!!

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