On occasion, notable cars have been born of dire circumstances. And though the styling of the 1958 Packard Hawk is revered by some and reviled by others, given Studebaker-Packard's mid-century era business catastrophes, it's a wonder that it was greenlighted for production at all.Management missteps, the price wars waged by Ford and GM in 1953 and other factors contributed to the precarious financial positions of some independents like Studebaker.

In 1954, a merger between Studebaker and the smaller but more solvent and stable Packard Motor Car Company provided temporary hope, but once the depth of Studebaker's woes was fully realized by its new owners, it was too late.By 1956, Studebaker-Packard needed immediate assistance if it was to survive, and the Eisenhower administration suggested the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. A deal that was lucrative for C-W and was supposed to rescue S-P was approved. Part of it stipulated that C-W would help run S-P, which put its president, Roy Hurley, in a consultant position that wielded substantial power.

Sweeping restructuring came quickly via Hurley. Among the changes, Packard production ended, the Los Angeles (Vernon) Studebaker plant was closed and "Packardbakers"--Studebakers fitted with Packard styling cues--were introduced for the 1957 model year. Hurley also brought Mercedes-Benz cars to Studebaker-Packard showrooms.The Packard Hawk was born of Hurley's desire to be seen in a Packard that emulated one of his favorite European models. It doesn't sound like an economically prudent project to be involved in for a company that couldn't even afford to actually build the new line of cars it had already designed. Nevertheless, it happened.

Designer Duncan McRae, who would later add the Lark to his résumé, was tasked with designing this car for Hurley's personal use. He began with a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk 400 and formed a new front end and hood from fiberglass that eliminated the upright grille and small side inlets and instead provided a low and wide air intake. Hood clearance was required for the supercharger, so, like the Studebaker, the hood featured a (closed) scoop, but due to the new lower front end, the scoop was taller on the Packard. The normally chromed headlamp trim was painted body color, and a unique feature added to the doors was vinyl-covered armrests outside of the windows. The decklid was replaced with that of the 1953-'55 style coupes and hardtops and a faux spare tire cover was added to it, which differentiated the rear view from the Studebaker Hawk.Gold "PACKARD" lettering was added just above the grille opening with a Hawk emblem above it, and gold script was on each rear fin and on the lower passenger-side rear of the deck lid. Hawk emblems also adorned the fins and trunk, and the wheel covers were new.

The 1957 Golden Hawk 400's handsome interior design was employed in the Packard Hawk, with tan (two cars had white) leather upholstery covering the seats and combinations of color-matched vinyl and leather employed for other surfaces. Within the thickly padded dashboard was the same engine-turned instrument panel found in the Golden Hawk, festooned with Stewart Warner gauges. Under the hood was the "Jet Stream Supercharged" 289-cu.in. V-8 from the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk, the model with which the rest of the drivetrain and chassis were shared.

A tach and manifold vacuum/pressure gauge were included, since this is a supercharged model.

Reportedly, Hurley was so pleased with his new executive toy that he ordered it into production for the 1958 model year, much to the surprise of its creator, McRae.The Flightomatic automatic transmission and power steering and brakes were all listed as standard, and the base price was $3,995. With the Golden Hawk at $3,282 and the even less well-equipped Silver Hawk at $2,352, there was some lower-priced competition from within.

Add in 1958's recession and swirling reports of Studebaker-Packard's business issues and you have a recipe for diminished sales, especially of higher priced models. Consequently, only 588 Packard Hawks were built.For 1959, there were no new Packard-branded models at Studebaker-Packard.

In 1962, the Packard name was dropped and a few years later, Studebaker would close its doors as well.Bill Burcher of Brookville, Pennsylvania, checks in on the revered side of the Packard Hawk love/hate equation. He purchased this Midnight Black model from a friend back in 2008. "I'm usually more into muscle cars and street rods," he explains, "but I also owned a few Studebakers years ago, so the rarity and design of this one really caught my attention." The 73,000-mile luxury/sportster would require a full restoration, but was mostly complete, save the front seat and the jack.

The supercharger blows through a two-barrel carburetor in a sealed chamber to help produce 275 horsepower.

One of the unique aspects of the Hawk's 289-cu.in. V-8 engine is its induction system. On the cast-iron intake manifold, a Stromberg two-barrel carburetor contained in a cast-aluminum housing is fed compressed air from a McCulloch supercharger at a maximum of 5psi of boost.

The exhaust then exits through a two-inch stainless steel dual system with twin mufflers and aftermarket chrome tips.An estimated 26 Packard Hawks were equipped with the no-cost, optional Borg-Warner T85 three-speed manual transmission with overdrive at the factory. To be clear, this Hawk isn't one of those.

It was originally fitted with the Flightomatic, but a previous owner preferred to shift for himself, so it was removed and a 1958 T85 with overdrive was installed instead. An aftermarket Hurst floor-shifter was also added.Though this Packard is mostly stock, save the transmission and shifter, Bill added wire wheels with American Classic Radials, halogen head-lamps, signal-seeking radio with a rear speaker and the longer-lasting stainless steel exhaust to make it a more pleasurable and durable driver. Regarding driving, a few days after the photoshoot, Bill and I met again for my turn behind the wheel.

After settling into the luxurious leather upholstered bench seat, with one foot on the clutch and the other on the brake, I turned the ignition key and the V-8 engine fired right up. The needles on the cluster of Stewart Warner dials jumped to attention, reminding me how informative, elegant in their simplicity and easy to read they are.After a twist and push of the handle to release the emergency brake, we eased out of the driveway in search of a few country backroads. Peering out over the hood scoop, I had an ever-present reminder that I was driving a supercharged Hawk. Planting my foot in the carpet confirmed it.

The engine revs picked up, the boost was building on the pressure gauge and the Hawk pushed forward with a familiar muted whine from under the hood. Acceleration was brisk for a car of its age and class, but not muscle-car-like, spine-compressingly so. The transmission shifted smoothly via its non-stock Hurst handle and linkage, the clutch action wasn't too heavy, and the exhaust note wasn't obtrusive at any speed.

The Hawk felt much smaller and nimbler from the driver's seat than its outward appearance would suggest. In the curves, there was moderate body lean, conceding to the luxury side of its sumptuous, yet sporty persona. Handling was stable, and the suspension absorbed road imperfections well. Its radial tires may provide somewhat different ride and handling characteristics than reproduction bias-ply tires would. Braking was adequate.Power assist made steering nearly effortless, and the wheel, though large with a thin grip, was actually at a comfortable angle for me. The Hawk did wander a bit on center, but it was easily controllable. Visibility was ample in all directions from the driver's seat, due to the roof design. For parking, each of the four corners could be seen, thanks to the fender-mounted parking lamps up front and the rear fins.

Before we concluded the evaluation, I wanted to try the overdrive. As Studebaker expert and HCC contributor Bob Palma explains, "It can be engaged (that is, made available for engagement when the proper road speed is attained) by pushing the overdrive handle in, against the dash bracket stop. This can be done when the car is stopped or moving.

It should only be disengaged (i.e., pulling the overdrive handle out) when the car is stopped or is accelerating in straight third gear, out of overdrive."When activated, the effective overall gear ratio is reduced substantially. Since the rear gears are still the 3.31s that were factory installed for use with the automatic transmission and not the 4.09 gears that were standard with the three-speed manual with overdrive, the RPM on the highway is even lower. Bill says, "Cruising at 70 MPH, the tach only reads about 2,000 RPM.

"Blending sporty-for-its-era performance with luxury trimmings, the Packard Hawk was satisfying to drive and comfortable. Its styling is dramatic today, but let's not forget how far a car would have to go in 1958 to stand out from the rest of the finned, heavily chrome-trimmed automobiles it competed with.Though the Packard Hawk seemed to garner little respect when new, nostalgic retrospection has provided it more recognition today as a collectible specialty vehicle from a bygone era. Though it may never eclipse the worth of some of those Mercedes models that were sold alongside it or some of its American contemporaries, the Packard Hawk has been gaining a following, and with it, perhaps some long-overdue respect.

Owner's View I have been told by people that my Studebaker-Packard Hawk is the ugliest car that they have ever seen, and I have been told by others that it's the sexiest car that they have ever seen. I purchased it with the intent to restore it, and one of the main reasons I wanted it was for its rarity, which can be a double-edged sword. It became a challenge to restore because some of its parts were difficult to find, and their cost was high.

As expected, parts shared with the Studebaker Hawk of the same era were cheaper and easier to find than those that were Packard Hawk specific.

1958 PACKARD HAWK SPECIFICATIONS PRICE Base price: $3,995 Price as optioned: $4,157.85 Price as profiled: Dual rear antenna, $11.95; Climatizer, $71; Pushbutton Radio, $79.90

ENGINE Type: OHV V-8, cast-iron block and cylinder heads Displacement: 289 cubic inches Bore x Stroke: 3.56 x 3.63 inches Compression ratio: 7.5:1 (7.8:1 claimed by the advertising dept.) Horsepower @ RPM: 275 @ 4,800 Torque @ RPM: 333-lb.ft. @ 3,200 Valvetrain: Mechanical valve lifters Main bearings: Five Fuel system: McCulloch supercharger, Stromberg two-barrel carburetor, mechanical pump Lubrication system: Pressure, gear-type pump Electrical system: 12-volt Exhaust system: Dual pipes and mufflers

TRANSMISSION Type: Column-shift three-speed automatic (currently floor-shift three-speed manual with overdrive) Ratios: Manual Auto 1st: 2.49:1 2.40:1 2nd: 1.59:1 1.47:1 3rd: 1.00:1 1.00:1 O.D.: .722:1 Reverse 3.15:1 2.00:1

DIFFERENTIAL Type: Hypoid drive gears, open Ratio: 3.31:1

STEERING Type: Saginaw recirculating ball, power assisted Ratio: 20.1 Turns to Lock: 4.5 Turning circle: 41 feet

BRAKES Type: Hydraulic, 4-wheel drum, power assisted Front: 11 x 2.25-inch finned drum Rear: 10 x 2-inch finned drum

CHASSIS & BODY Construction: Steel body, fiberglass nose and hood, separate box-section steel frame with cross members Body style: Two-door hardtop Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

SUSPENSION Front: Independent; unequal-length upper and lower control arms; variable-rate coil springs; telescoping double-acting hydraulic shocks, anti-roll bar Rear: Solid axle; semi-elliptical five-leaf springs; full-length flanged plastic spring liners; double-acting hydraulic shocks

WHEELS & TIRES Wheels: Steel with full covers (currently wire) Front/rear: 14 x 5 inches (currently 14 x 5.5) Tires: Bias-ply wide whitewalls (currently radials) Front/rear: 8.00-14 factory (currently 205/75R14)

WEIGHTS & MEASURES Wheelbase: 120.5 inches Overall length: 205.2 inches Overall width: 71.3 inches Overall height: 54.75 inches Front track: 57.1 inches Rear track: 56.1 inches Shipping weight: 3,500 pounds

CAPACITIES Crankcase: 5 quarts Cooling system: 18 quarts with Climatizer Fuel tank: 18 gallons

CALCULATED DATA Bhp per cu.in.: 0.951 Weight per bhp: 12.72 pounds Weight per cu.in.: 12.11-pounds

PERFORMANCE* 0-60 MPH: 9.2 seconds ¼ mile: 17.5 seconds Top Speed: 108 MPH Fuel Mileage: 14.1 Highway *Courtesy of May 1958 Hot Rod

PRODUCTION Total: 588 Includes 42 export models, although some sources report 46.

PROS & CONS + Unique appearance and style + Distinctive upscale model + Matchless blend of luxury and sports car themes - Love-it-or-hate-it styling - Collector value not that high - Packard-specific parts are scarce

WHAT TO PAY LOW: $9,000-$20,000 AVERAGE: $30,000-$40,000 HIGH: $60,000-$80,000

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