By Dave Weber Matchbox Photos by Zach Morecraft and 1:55 Lark from Shrock Brothers
The Studebaker Lark; a new compact car first appeared in 1959. This was over 100 years after the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company began producing commercial wagons.
Since the company began, it had on occasion suffered numerous financial setbacks. The most recent resulted in the merger into Studebaker- Packard Corporation in 1954. This new series of Lark cars subsequently resulted in production of sedans, convertibles, station wagons and hardtop convertibles before the company ceased operations in 1966. The mid body sections were unchanged from the larger products manufactured in 1958. But the new grillework design that was introduced resembled the Raymond Loewy designed Hawks that were already in production. They had a squarish appearance similar to the Mercedes-Benz radiator shell design of that era. In addition the Larks received a shortened front and rearend design. The midsections remained basically the same as the larger cars from the previous year. The blending of new and old designs presented an entirely new appearance to the consumer.
Yearly design changes were minimal until 1962. That year dual headlights were introduced. In 1963, the Lark styling was adapted to resemble the recently introduced companion Gran Turismo Hawks in both body and grille design. In 1964 the Lark name began to be deemphasized and by 1966 , this former name was no longer used, although the Lark body styling was basically retained. But with the absence of the name , the former Lark grille was also discontinued after 1964. The new grille featured horizontal crossbars that connected to both sets of dual headlights .
As noted above Studebaker discontinued automobile production in 1966. But the company having previously diversified, did continue in other business ventures not related to automobile manufacture .
In searching for small scale diecast models in the1:64 to1:55 scale range, I was able to locate five representative replicas.
Corgi Jr/ Husky (Mettoy) produced a 1965 Lark Wagonaire Camera Car and civilian wagon # 15-B and Ambulance # 30-A The Rear roof area had a sliding panel and the rear taigate was hinged on this 1965 replica. Models were made from 1966 to 1976. This model was given a new brand name in 1970 when the Husky name was discontinued and Corgi Jr was introduced.
Matchbox also produced the 1965 Lark Wagonaire #42-B from 1965-1969 . This model also featured a sliding partial rear roof as was used on the real car.
Shrock Brothers previously produced various models of the 1960 Lark in pewter in 1:55 scale in different body styles. Unfortunately, these are no longer available.
Tootsietoy produced a stylized convertible model of the 1960 Lark. The casting is a one piece body with four posts underneath to support the wheels and axles .
Resource materials were obtained from the following:
"Collectors Guide to Tootsietoys "' by David Richter : Collector Books , 2004
"Corgi Toys" by Ed Force : Schiffer Publishing, 1984
"Hemmings Classic Car Magazine" , "Studebaker The Final Years", by Patrick Foster , March 2010
"Matchbox Toys" by Nancy Schiffer: Schiffer Publishing, 1983
"Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975 " edited by John Gunnell: Krause Publishing , 1987
Matchbox Lark pictures courtesy of Zach Morecraft