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New to Studebaker - '59 Lark

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  • New to Studebaker - '59 Lark

    I am considering the purchase of a 1959 Studebaker Lark. What are some of the things I should be concerned with? It is a 6 cyl. three speed on the column with overdrive/hill holder. Thanks

  • #2
    Number one enemy to Studebakers (and all old cars for that matter) is this:

    First place rust will be visible is the rear of the front fenders, but floors, trunk, rear fenders, doors, frame, are all possible place to find...


    • #3
      Mike, welcome to the Studebaker forum "and hopefully the SDC" as 62champ says you'll want to check interior floors - mainly from the top side as Studebakers love to leak water.check rocker panels,door bottoms,trunk floor - again mainly from the top side,and certainly the frame - usually from the firewall back.and walk around the car and look at the four corners(fenders) hopefully those pics won't scare you off
      Joseph R. Zeiger


      • #4
        I would add the upper side braces inside the trunk to the list of rustworthy locations.
        Hope you've realized at this point, issues other than rust in these Larks are non-issues! Everything mechanical is available at mostly reasonable prices and easy to accomplish compared to modern vehicles. There are even patch panels reproduced for repair of the most common rust areas.
        With the six cylinder, the overdrive transmission is an essential blessing for highway use.
        If you have the opportunity to post photos of your prospective purchase we can supply even greater encouragement!
        "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

        Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
        Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
        sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"


        • #5
          Shop around. There are Larks of this vintage that are very nice, yet reasonably priced. Six cylinder cars are typically more affordable. Don't get involved in repairing a rust bucket Lark, as you will be "upside down" in it in a hurry. Find a solid car to start with. As mentioned, mechanical parts are available and affordable.
          Jim Bradley
          Lake Monticello, VA
          '78 Avanti II


          • #6
            Number one thing has already been mentioned. My 59 has no rust. The reason I bought this one and paid $3,500 was for that very reason. Of Course having under 30K original miles helped but having grown up in an area where every car I owned had rust I did not want this for my Lark. Rust is one of those things that never seems to be able to be rid of.


            • #7
              Welcome to the forum from a former Angola resident.


              • #8
                Good luck with your search, whether it is this car or another. We have a 60 Wagon with the 6cylinder, 3 spd OD and HH and for Indiana terrain, it will do you fine driving around. I have 52K on our car and it runs 60-65 just fine. There's no acceleration to speak of, but honestly, when I do drive it in town and there are cars that pass me when I take off from an intersection because I'm 'too slow', I find them just in front of me at the next intersection, so I'm not THAT slow intrinsically and I do out accelerate most diesel pickups and SUVs, so I'm far from the only slowpoke in traffic and I don't have cars pass me from the green light every time by any stretch. I do find that accelerating out of OD helps tremendously in keeping me closer to contemporary takeoff speeds. I just am mindful of freeway onramps and make sure I don't have to get on and into 65mph traffic at the end of the ramp and I do just fine.
                If you do get a car with HH, you'll LOVE it and wonder why it was never more widely used in manual trans cars.
                People are different, but if I were you, I'd make the effort to find any Studebaker owners near you, in a club or solo and ask for their help and advice.

                My daughter lived in Anderson for several years and just last year moved closer in to Fishers.


                • #9
                  Don't know if you saw this but might be the one for you!



                  • #10
                    To answer your question about what to concerned about. Depending on your car experience it is a basic car with simple mechanicles. Pretty much bulletproof if left original.

                    The body.

                    Look for rust, or repairs, down low and running up on the rear of the front fenders, bottoms of doors and if it is a 2 door car the front of the rear fenders. Roof drip rails can also hold water if left parked for year and rust through. The trunk area is a must to inspect for rust. The A pillar, B pillar and C pillar where they meet the floor is another area where rust occurs as well as under the drivers or passengers feet. On the top of the front fender next to the grille can had debris sit for years and rust through, again check for repairs. If you find rust in any location start checking the other locations well. Even the hood and trunk lid.


                    Over time and miles the synchros will wear giving you clashing gear shifts. It has no synchro in first so if you are not used to it you will soon learn to stop before changing down, that is unless you have it in overdrive, which will allow you to slow down to an almost stop but still allow you to shift without coming to a full stop. Sometimes the governor will go out or some of the wires might have a break so overdrive might not be working.


                    One of those engines that never really stops working. If maintained it will run for many years. Was used with only slight changes from 1939 to 1960 and then with an OHV change for the rest of US production in the 1964 model year. In the Flathead side valve configuration once setup it will give many years of service. If it's been sitting the freeze plugs might be rusted through so watch for that. Also a good flush of all the crud over the years from the block and cooling system will be in order. The 59 Lark Champion six did not come with a integrated full flow oil filter but could be ordered with a partial flow filter that was bolted to the cylinder head via a bracket and if so check the lines for cracks. If it doesn't have one don't worry. The engine was designed to work with the oils of it's day and so the system was meant to have the oil transport the crud to the oil pan where it was left for later disposal. Sounds like a good idea and it does work to some degree and if the right oil was used the pan could be dropped and the crud removed. If using modern detergent oil then a filter is a must. The topic of oils has come up many times and someone else might post a link for you to read about what oil to use for your older engine. Not many problems with the Flathead so I can't give you any more to look out for except regular engine stuff.


                    The wind-lacing, the half inch piping running around the door is by now hard or broken up, unless it has been replaced. Your headliner should be a woven material, not vinyl, and if in good condition it's a bonus. It can be replaced with original type material but you can do what some have, such as myself, and put an easy to care for vinyl one that looks right and only a Studebaker person would know it's not original. If it's a Deluxe model, base, it will not have a dash pad but the Regals, the only upgrade, do. Plus some other fancier trim but they are essentially the same car. If it has a clock and it's working you scored. If it has a radio and it's working you scored again. A/C very rare for a Flathead six but they are out there. Plastic escutcheons for the window winders and doors can be missing or on some not included. I'm not sure if all cars had them on all doors.


                    Adequate, or inadequate for some. If you want to drive it a lot and don't mind a modification then put a front disc brake kit on it. Then you can stop as fast, or almost as fast, as the cars in front of you. The hill-holder if working is a great gizmo but some don't like it.


                    The 59 Lark IV dose not handle well. It is not a bad design it just lacks a few things. Putting a Studebaker V8 sway bar up front will change it dramatically. Putting a matching one on the back even more so. Putting newer wider wheels and tires bumps it up again. An example is my Lark, it has 235/65/15's on alloy rims with matching Pontiac Firebird sway bars front and rear and it goes as fast as my 2001 BMW 325i on every ramp and curve on the freeway.


                    Check for rust and damage. Salted road areas usually have rusted chassis, if the cars were taken out in winter. Six cylinder cars usually don't have chassis fatigue of the front cross-member like the V8 cars.

                    Other Things.

                    Door catches/latches. Many of the end part on the body side brake off. Having all four, or two for a 2 door, is the goal.
                    Gauge numbers and words etc... can peal off or move around over time, as they are on the back of the glass.

                    So many other little things but this is a start and someone else can continue as I'm sure I have left out something important.

                    The main thing is we are here to help in any way we can.



                    • #11

                      The 59 Lark IV dose not handle well. It is not a bad design it just lacks a few things. Putting a Studebaker V8 sway bar up front will change it dramatically..."

                      Thread that a Hawk V8 sway bar, or did the Lark VIII also have them? Is there a thread about retrofitting/installing a V8 sway bar on a VI car somewhere? I'd be interested in doing that.


                      • #12
                        Thanks for all of the information. I am still contemplating purchasing the car. I have some friends in the area of the car taking lots more pictures and inspections.
                        I really do not need another vehicle but Lark's have always fascinated me, especially since they were built in South Bend, IN. I live 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LeoH View Post

                          The 59 Lark IV dose not handle well. It is not a bad design it just lacks a few things. Putting a Studebaker V8 sway bar up front will change it dramatically..."
                          Thread that a Hawk V8 sway bar, or did the Lark VIII also have them? Is there a thread about retrofitting/installing a V8 sway bar on a VI car somewhere? I'd be interested in doing that.

                          I don't know where you saw this "Hawk" Stabilizer Bar, but all V8's have the Front Bar, also the later Lark VI's have the '57 and earlier "A" Arm only, mounted Front Bar.

                          The Frame & A Arm mounted drop down "Link" type started in '58 on V8's to reduce braking "Dive".
                          In 1963 they finally got it right with a "A" shaped Bracket Mounting, instead of a Rod subject to breaking.
                          Second Generation Stude Driver,
                          Proud '54 Starliner Owner


                          • #14
                            I'll check out another club members' '64s to see what these suspension supports look like. I said Hawk because I assumed that this sway bar came to the V8 Larks from the Hawks.


                            • #15
                              We are getting a bit away from the original post but here is a link
                              Scroll down to the Sway Bar section and there will be a few different way to go about using different ones.

                              Studebaker sway bars will fit Studebakers. Either a straight out bolt on job if using ones from the same year or model or minor fabrication to make other years fit.