View Full Version : Former Studebaker employee and son rescue a 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk.

07-12-2010, 11:12 PM
Tribune Staff Writer

NORTH LIBERTY — Like all Studebaker employees, Cecil Klopfenstein drove a Lark. Or a President. Or a Champion.

Klopfenstein, who worked at Studebaker Corp. in the ’50s, owned seven different Studebakers over the years.

Until now, though, he’s never owned a Silver Hawk.

But the 80-year-old North Liberty resident and his son, Bryon, recently rescued a 1959 Silver Hawk from a workshop in LaPaz, where it was ingloriously buried in dirt and other stored items.

Turquoise in color — or sea mist green, as the company called it — the car had been stored since 1963 and has only 19,400 miles.

As soon as Cecil saw the car with its trademark fins and big whitewall tires — even in its unglamorous state — he knew he had to have it.

“It didn’t smell good but it sure looked good,” he said. “I was excited, to say the least.”

He said he was also “proud of the fact I was affiliated with building these cars.”

Cecil worked on the management side at Studebaker, mostly in accounting. It was his second job after graduating in 1948 from Greene Township High School.

His first job happened to be with a Studebaker dealer in Walkerton. Then he was hired at Studebaker Corp. in March 1949. Except for a two-year stint in the Army, he stayed there until December 1960, when he was laid off. That was three years before the company closed its operation here.

He then went to work at Wells Aluminum in his hometown of North Liberty, where he and his wife, Nancy, raised two children.

It was son, Bryon, an automotive technician, who learned about the availability of this Silver Hawk. He investigated first and determined the body and engine were in good shape.

After the Klopfensteins paid $7,000 for the Silver Hawk and a 1962 Studebaker pickup, they hauled the car to a shop, where Bryon installed a battery, cleaned the spark plugs and flushed the fuel system.

“Then the engine fired up the third time we turned it over,” Cecil said.

The car is a manual three-speed, dual exhaust with a 259-cubic-inch V-8 engine that roars to life when started.

“It will get out and go,” Cecil said, although he added that he’s been driving it cautiously because two of the tires are originals.

Cecil learned there were three prior owners, including a Niles couple who put the car in storage in 1963. It was then sold in the mid-’70s for $1,500 and moved to the LaPaz location.

The car was one of 7,700 Silver Hawks produced for the 1959 model year and the base price was $2,495, according to Andy Beckman, archivist for Studebaker National Museum.

That was the final year for the Silver Hawk. The following year’s version was just the Hawk.

“You could joke that they ran out of Silver nameplates and didn’t want to order any more,” Beckman said.

“The Silver Hawk was almost discontinued for 1959 but Studebaker dealers clamored to keep it because it helped pull customers into the dealership,” Beckman said.

Beckman said there are still “quite a few (Silver Hawks) around. It is considered the more collectible of that vintage.”

Cecil agrees, and so did the judges in the Potato Creek Festival car show last month who awarded him second place in the antique division (cars older than 50 years).

He acquired regular license plates for the car because he plans drive it regularly.

This Silver Hawk sat around enough the past half-century.

07-12-2010, 11:20 PM
I think I saw that car!!! It was in a july 4th parade.

07-13-2010, 08:26 AM
'Way cool, kids. Thanks for posting. Great story and a pretty car.

If it has duals (1959 only as domestic 289 Hawks all had duals), it should have a 4-bbl. With a stick, that would make it the highest-performance 1959 Hawk available, such as it was in 1959! BP

07-13-2010, 10:10 AM
I don't believe the 289 was available in the '59. This odd year it was the 259 v8 only, right? (not counting 6's)

07-13-2010, 10:58 AM
Nice story, beautiful car.


07-13-2010, 11:03 AM
I don't believe the 289 was available in the '59. This odd year it was the 259 v8 only, right? (not counting 6's)

Yep; the 259 was the only V-8 available in 1959 Silver Hawks. (I referenced 289s because 1957 and 1958 Silver Hawk 289s with the standard 2-bbl carburetor still had dual exhausts.) BP