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What happened to Gordon Williams 63 Lark Drag Car?

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  • #16
    Bob Palma and I saw Gordon's Standard when it was new, probably early June, 1963. We were on one of our summertime South Bend adventures to see our favorite cars being built, and we always looked at the shipping/storage lots where new Studebakers were temporarily parked before being shipped. This particular car really caught our attention because even then, we knew an Avanti-powered Standard was rare.

    The car was in a lot along the South side of Sample Street, West of SASCO's present location. It was factory-built as an R1, with HD column shift Flight O Matic, Twin Traction 4.09 rear end, Super Red and the rare #333 option, which consisted of rear "Radius rods and stabilizer bar". It even came with 5" Avanti wheels, a very rare occurrence. Most Avanti-powered Larks & Hawks came with the standard 4 1/2" wheels. The production order said "SOLD RUSH" and #92: "Service for retail delivery". Destination was San Bernardino, California. We spent quite a while looking at it.

    Only four 1963 Standards were made with Avanti engines, and Gordon's was the lone R1, the other three being R2s. Gordon picked it up at the factory and drove it back to CA, an adventure in itself with the 4.09 axle ratio. At least the engine was broken in by the time he got home.

    George

    george krem
    george krem

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    • #17
      Thanks George for the R1 Standard update, I am very aware of Bob's Turning Wheels Story about your and his adventures at the Drive-away lot, that was the first time I realized the connection between you two and this rarest of rare special ordered drag car that I knew about way out in Calif.! [:0]

      The car went on to become an R2, and later I hear an R3! When I knew Gordon, he was running the R2 version and I watched him win the 1963 (AHRA I think) Winternationals at Pomona with that configuration beating a Mustang High Perfomance 289.

      StudeRich
      StudeRich
      Second Generation Stude Driver,
      Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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      • #18
        I can add a humorous update/tidbit to George's writing.

        When my High-Performance Studebakers article was published in the February 2009 Collectible Automobile, I was contacted by a friend of Ron Williams, Gordon Williams' son. Friend had many stories about running around with Ron and Gordon 'way back when, drag-racing the car.

        But the funniest story was this real "groaner." Gordon Williams of course ordered the R1 Standard, and the dealership ordered a new Cruiser at the same time, possibly for Gordon's wife.

        The idea was to go to South Bend and drive both cars back. As George said, the R1 with 4.09:1 axle would have been well broken in by the time it got to southern CA!

        Well, Gordon Williams knew he was going to drag-race the car, so he wanted it as light as possible. Undercoating was optional on the cheapie Standards, but a more-or-less delete option on the higher-priced cars. So Gordon didn't mention undercoating. Had the car been thus built as ordered, it would not have had undercoating.

        But the factory was so happy to be building two sold cars for the dealership to pick up that they thoughtfully "threw in" (or on, I guess the case would be) undercoating for Gordon's Standard at no charge. How appreciative, eh?

        Gordon was distinctly unhappy about that. Ron and Gordon and friend spent a lot of time scraping the "free" undercoating off the Standard, being truly anal about weight-removal long before anal was used to describe such fanaticism. BP
        We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

        Ayn Rand:
        "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

        G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

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        • #19
          Yes, the Tomato has the R 3 headers on it. If anyone saw Gordon's Lark when he was running an R 3 in it, I would like to know if he kept the supercharger set up as an R 2 top mount with a bonnet on the carb rather than the typical R 3 side mount with the carb in an enclosure.

          Reason I'd like to know is the '63 Lark is shorter in the front than the '64 and I would think it would take a lot of work to use a side mount supercharger. I would like to put an R 3 in the Tomato eventually.

          Ted


          quote:Originally posted by clonelark

          Dont have any info on Gordon Williams, or his car, but Ted Harbit would probablly be pushing 11s in the Red Tomato with headers and slicks and all the other tricks Stockers were allowed in the 60s.Plus we had a lot better gas back in the 60s.
          Does the Red Tomato have R3 cast iron headers on it?

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          • #20
            Gordon cut a 4-inch round hole in the firewall just to the left of the wiper motor, put a dryer outlet in it for the ducting to clamp to, and picked up the high pressure air from the cowl vent. Don't believe he ever used the R3 pressure box, but can't remember why he liked it better. Haven't found Ron yet but am now in contact with a family member so we'll see. The last time I saw Gordon alive, he had already sold the '63 and was working on the '60 that Jon Meyer ended up with{and put an SOB motor in} Wonder if Jon knows who got the '63?

            Ken Pyle

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            • #21
              quote:Wonder if Jon knows who got the '63?
              I found the 63 Standard and talked to the owner. I don't know how thrilled he was about getting a call out of the blue about a car that he doesn't list in the roster. The car is alive and well and in storage. He said he hasn't raced it in a few years, but would like to rebuild the engine.

              The reason this all began is because I may have some parts from the car and I want to verify it with the owner. I don't know if he would appreciate it if he started getting a dozen calls a night about the car. Next time I talk to him I'll ask him some more specific questions about the car and see if he would like to do a story for Turning Wheels.

              Nick

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              • #22
                Cool! KP

                Ken Pyle

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                • #23
                  quote:Originally posted by 61Lark

                  quote:Wonder if Jon knows who got the '63?
                  I found the 63 Standard and talked to the owner. I don't know how thrilled he was about getting a call out of the blue about a car that he doesn't list in the roster. The car is alive and well and in storage. He said he hasn't raced it in a few years, but would like to rebuild the engine.

                  The reason this all began is because I may have some parts from the car and I want to verify it with the owner. I don't know if he would appreciate it if he started getting a dozen calls a night about the car. Next time I talk to him I'll ask him some more specific questions about the car and see if he would like to do a story for Turning Wheels.

                  Nick
                  Great job of detective work. Does the car still look like it did in the picture you posted? An article on that car would be great, so would a few pictures here (hint, hint).

                  Joe Roberts
                  '61 R1 Champ
                  '65 Cruiser
                  Editor of "The Down Easterner"
                  Eastern North Carolina Chapter
                  Joe Roberts
                  '61 R1 Champ
                  '65 Cruiser
                  Eastern North Carolina Chapter

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                  • #24

                    I believe that my 1963 Cruiser may have been Gordon Williams wife's car. This is the car that I owned and then sold 20+ years ago in California. I bought it back off of ebay last year. The car originally went to San Bernardino, California and was Blue Mist with blue interior. It has an R-1 engine, HD column automatic, power steering, disc brakes, rear suspension package and Avanti wheels. Air conditioning isn't on the production ticket but it was evidently added later. This car also has a hole cut in the firewall to the left of the wiper motor evidently for better cooling.

                    Ed Reynolds

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                    • #25
                      This is the reason I'm looking for the car. I talked to the owner and he has owned the car since 1970 when he bought it in California. I figured that he pulled the fenders off the car at some point, but he said that he has never seen these before. So I don't have any idea how they made it half way across the country.





                      Nick

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                      • #26
                        Ed, your Cruiser IS Mrs. Williams Car. In the "Ship To" area on the Drive-Away Shipper it says South Bend, Indiana Cust Mrs Gordon Williams
                        The same area on the shipper for the Standard reads South Bend, Indiana Cust Gordon Williams. His car notes Service For Retail Delivery June 17, hers is for the 16th.

                        R2Andy
                        R2Andrea

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                        • #27
                          quote:Originally posted by R2Andy

                          Ed, your Cruiser IS Mrs. Williams Car. In the "Ship To" area on the Drive-Away Shipper it says South Bend, Indiana Cust Mrs Gordon Williams
                          The same area on the shipper for the Standard reads South Bend, Indiana Cust Gordon Williams. His car notes Service For Retail Delivery June 17, hers is for the 16th.

                          R2Andy
                          Andy,

                          Do you have the build sheet for the Standard? I was wondering if the car came with disc brakes or drum.

                          Nick

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                          • #28
                            Yes I do. Since nothing else was specified, the Standard had regular drum brakes. It also was ordered with the #333 Radius Rods and Stabilizer Bar. It was special ordered with the # 348 Avanti wheels (5" wide) instead of the normal 4 1/2" wide ones and the 35 amp alternator( #150) instead of the 40 amp alternator which came with the R1 engine in the Larks.
                            Mrs. Williams Cruiser was also ordered with the #333 and #348 options.

                            R2Andy
                            R2Andrea

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                            • #29
                              Those fenders ARE the real deal all right, you can see the '56-'61 type "Studebaker" nameplate holes used on the left side of Standards, not sure about the Rt. side, but if not, Gordon would have added it. I think he had added the flagged V-8's or Avanti Powered or Avanti Supercharged Emblems below them, and those holes are there.

                              StudeRich
                              StudeRich
                              Second Generation Stude Driver,
                              Proud '54 Starliner Owner

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                There were Avanti badges on the fenders towards the bottom where they should be. Below the Studebaker script there was Ford 289 badges. The outlines are still visible on the fenders but don't show up too good in the pictures. You can also see the putty knife marks where the undercoating was scraped off. I'm probably going to hang these fenders from the ceiling in my garage, but I'll put the emblems back on them before I do.

                                I talked to the gentleman who owns the car last night. He said he removed the fenders after he got it because the inners were cut up, that would have been in the early 70's in California.

                                Nick

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