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My FIRST Studebaker - The LARKETTE

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  • My FIRST Studebaker - The LARKETTE

    Hi, I thought you might like to see a photo of one of the Larkette originals. Taken back in the day.

    To me, the reproductions are not like the originals. They try to add taillights etc.
    Funny when I found some photos on the Web, I didn't remember the Larkette appearing in the Grille. But, there it is, in my photo.

    The originals had 2 round holes in back trying to act as taillights & one hole in the middle of the trunk lid. Two served a purpose. They were surrounded by chrome rings, screwed into the fiberglass.
    It was hard for my small hand to pass through the holes, so I'm not sure how adults did it. That was how you gained access to the recoil rope to start it. Through the right rear hole. The trunk hole provided access to the spark plug, allowing you to ground the plug against a metal strap, to kill the motor.
    For another design difference, look at the original factory prototype photo. The turn signal vent grilles never made it to production. The Larkette script is different too.

    This is the first time the photo has been shared outside of the family. It was rediscovered when my parents were transferring some of the family slides onto CDs to share with the "kids". The photo was taken around 1964, in our backyard at a birthday party. The two kids were from the neighborhood. The older boy was my age, so you can see my size, at the time. Funny, we have no photos of the real owners with the vehicle, my brother & myself. Today, I would have photographed all kinds of detail shots, showing what I am trying to describe, taken from the 'pictures' within my brain. This is the only photo we ever took of our Larkette.

    I do have a Polaroid photo of my cousin, setting in one of the Larkettes new on the showroom floor. It was taken at my Grandfather's Studebaker / Mercedes dealership. When they would open the showroom for the annual public viewing of the new models. However I can not find it, but I know it is around here. Once I find it, I'll scan it and post it, but it won't be anytime soon. I'll find it when I am not really looking for it. That's the way it always works for me.

    Larkette History:
    My Grandfather had a Studebaker dealership in St. Petersburg FL. Stewart Jones Motors located @ 925 - 5th Ave. No.
    In 1959 he purchase 2 Larkettes. Blue & Red I am guessing it was in 1959, probably in time for the new 1960 models. This is based on the photo of my cousin during an open house. He had them on display in the showroom for a year or so. He never sold one, but I don't think he tried. We are not sure why he bought them. Probably just "Lark Fever", which was pretty big at that time.

    In 1963 there was a small fire above the showroom. This is where the Larkettes were being stored.
    My Grandfather decided it was time to give them to his sons. So, he gave the Blue one to my Uncle Sonny - 2 cousins both girls. One of the girls who was in the showroom photo. The Red one was given to my Dad. At that time, I was 5 my brother was 7. SO...we were not allowed to drive it.

    These Larketts were the HD deluxe versions, as they had knobby tires in back. All the photos I see on the web, show some pretty skinny tires in back.
    However, our front tires were skinny.

    What happened to them? Well my Cousins crashed theirs. They said they turned the wheel one way, but it went the other. I never believed them, but that was their story. It was probably just junked by my Uncle. I'm sure today, parts of it could have been saved. However no one wanted a wrecked Larkette laying around. That is why things are rare today. Moms & Dads threw things out.
    In the 70's, my Dad gave ours to someone he knew with a young son. Years later my Dad said the guy could never get it running. So who knows what happened to it.

    What I remember. It was very well made. Sturdy frame. Solid seat, even being fiberglass. The body was a thinner fiberglass and flexible, when removed from the frame.
    The only weak point was the side trim. It was a foil type of tape. You can see in the photo much of it was fairly gone even by 1964.
    The engine was Tecumseh brand. I don't remember the horsepower.
    It was a solid axle. Twin Traction I called it. No suspension, just like a typical go-cart.
    The only brake was a solid round bar, pressed against both rear tires. The brake pedal came out of the floor & had a round metal disk welded to it.
    The gas pedal was an upside down "L" shaped item. Both were offset to one side, for the driver. The choke was higher up, between the seat & the top of the body. The inside of the body was not finished, but raw fiberglass. The Wheels/rims were dished, not like the lawn mower wheels you sometime see in the reproduction photos. The factory photo does show the same style wheels, but no knobby rear tire.

    The drive assembly was kind of complicated (from a kid's prospective).
    The centrifugal clutch was on the motor's side drive shaft. It engaged a belt, when not at idle.
    The belt drove another pulley, which have a sprocket attached on the other side.
    The sprocket drove a chain, which in turn drove the larger sprocket mounted to the rear axle.

    This is what stopped us from using the Larkette's motor. Ours threw the chain early in life. I think my Dad wasn't anxious to fix it, since it kept us out of the street.
    When he gave it away, I was old enough to look at the situation and know how it could be fixed. But by then it was too late for my enjoyment. That was another thing about the seating for adults. They had to sit on the top of the seat back, work the pedals & steer. It would be hard to actually sit inside the body and be able to work the pedals to drive it.

    In the early years, with the chain off, it was easy to push. Most of our rides were in the backyard, taking turns with a friend, one of us pushing in back.

    Boy I miss that old go-cart. I am a '60 Lark owner today & it would go nicely at car shows.

    We didn't like it much back then, because you sat up so high. The cool go-carts were the ones where your seat was on the floor pan, right above the road.
    Those are my memories. Documented before I forget. haha

    FYI: Below is my Larkette, along with a factory prototype photo. The factory photo was found on the web.
    Click image for larger version

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    Thanks for reading.

    Last edited by Stude-Preferred; 05-21-2016, 04:39 PM. Reason: Attach Photos

  • #2
    Great post!
    Thanks for sharing, Kenneth!
    HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)


    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

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