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The Studebaker Lark with a Corvette Heart

Marsh Hansen's beautifully engineered LT1-fired 1960 Studebaker Lark

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It has been said that things happen in your life for a reason. So it wasthat Marsh Hansen happened to run across a concept drawing by SteveStanford of a road-going early Studebaker Lark. The image of that squatlittle car on big tires with a healthy small-block and a greatcorner-burning suspension remained with Marsh for several years until heran across the perfect candidate languishing in Phoenix, an aridlandscape perfect for minimizing rust. This was particularly importantto Marsh, since he lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where the winters arebrutal on cars.

So it wasn't long before a little bit of the Arizona sunshine ended upin Marsh's shop, where he began his quest to transform Stanford'sillustration into a three-dimensional reality. The other thing thatMarsh has going for him is a rather substantial shop in which to work.He built this shop after he sold his Harley dealership, and now he justbuilds cars. But even a big shop isn't much help without a plan. Marshwanted to deliver more than just a dare-to-be-different look--the Studehad to deliver the goods on the road as well. The plan included acomplete C4 Corvette independent front and rear suspension along with a'95 Corvette LT1 small-block backed by a '95 4L60-E four-speedautomatic. The idea was to build a car that had a factory look to it sothat when you popped the hood or glanced in the interior, it wouldappear as if this was something Studebaker would have done.

The Corvette front and rear independent suspensions posed a minorchallenge that required a custom front clip to mount everything,including the rack-and-pinion steering and the upper control arms. Therear suspension was not as difficult, and Marsh added a couple ofadditional crossmembers to maintain body stiffness. We can attest thatthe ride is smooth and taut and downright enjoyable. Another importantpart of the design included a 25-gallon stainless steel fuel cell thatwas integrated into the trunk while allowing sufficient room for luggageand other travel necessities.

One of the biggest hurdles was finding room for the exhaust system oncethe chassis was squared away. Marsh achieved the proper look and a lowerride height by tucking a very precise exhaust system in between theframerails and crossmembers. Doing this demanded the use of EdelbrockPerformer RPM mufflers because they are thinner and fit the spaceallowed.

The interior looks more European than domestic, but it retains theproper performance flavor with Teas seats, black leather, and a brace ofAuto Meter Phantom gauges. Vintage Air supplied the A/C, while Spal fanskeep the heat managed with help from the Be Cool aluminum radiator.Tunes are courtesy of a Blaupunkt stereo. As for the outside envelope,Marsh did little to the stock visage besides adding the PPG GMC Pewterand House of Kolor Galaxy Gray hue applied by the Chris Brunner BodyShop.

The Lark reflects its owner in that it's not flashy, and far fromostentatious while delivering everything it promises. The best part ofthis car is that it's a blast to drive--like any time you want to hitthe road--on a lark.

Car Craft Q&A

Car Craft: What was the biggest challenge you faced when buildingthe Lark?

Marsh Hansen: The biggest challenge was making everything worktogether. I wanted the whole package, from the interior, body,drivetrain, and even the wheels and tires, to look like it came from thefactory rather than just throwing a bunch of billet parts at it.Actually, during the last couple of years Studebaker was in business, itused Chevy 283s in its cars.

CC: What would you do differently?

MH: More horsepower! The motor makes about 400 right now, butyou're never satisfied--even if it made 500 hp I'd probably want more. Ithought about turbocharging, but there would have been packagingproblems finding a place for those turbos.

CC: What do you enjoy most about the car?

MH: The ride and the interior, mainly because the car is drivenfrequently. It's spacious and comfortable--it's a real driver's car. Iwanted it to be spacious, so it has a small shifter console instead of alarge one. I look at what other people are doing, and then go dosomething else. I also like the car because it's different--it'soff-beat.

CC: What's next?

MH: I have a '61 Corvette that I'm starting on. It has a badframe, so I'll probably build my own frame and I'm thinking ofincorporating the new C5 transaxle package--or possibly using just theC4 front suspension and then using a four-link in the rear. I think thiscar should be more old school, like a high-revving 302 and a manualtrans. That would be fun.

The Details

Car: '60 Studebaker Lark

Owner: Marsh Hansen, Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Power: '95 LT1 350, 400 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, stock bottomend, TPIS hydraulic-roller cam (212/226 degrees @ 0.050,0.483/0.520-inch lift), ported LT1 heads 2.00/1.56-inch Manley valves,ARP fasteners, Comp Cams roller rockers, stock LT1 intake with 52mmthrottle-body, custom airbox with K&N filter, Howell fuel management,owner-built 15/8-inch headers, Edelbrock RPM mufflers

Transmission: 4L60-E electronic four-speed overdrive, stockconverter

Rearend: '95 Corvette IRS shortened 3.5 inches, 3.55 gears

Front suspension: '95 Corvette front clip with owner- fabricatedframerails, C4 control arms and spindle, Aldan coilover shocks,Progressive Automotive front crossmember, '96 T-bird steering

Rear suspension: Pinched custom rear framerails, 1-inch customrear antiroll bar, Aldan coilover shocks, additional owner-built framecrossmembers for structural rigidity.

Brakes: Front C4 Corvette 13-inch stock rotors and PBR two-pistoncalipers, rear C4 Corvette 12-inch stock rotors and PBR calipers

Wheels and tires: '95 Corvette 17x8.5-inch aluminum wheels withSumitomo P235/45R17 tires, front; '95 Corvette 17x9.5 wheels withSumitomo P255/45R17 tires, rear

Body mods: Front and rear wheelwells raised 2 inches, transtunnel raised 1 inch, mounted custom-built 25-gallon stainless steelfuel cell, owner-designed and built crumple zone for gas tank, bodyworkby Chris Brunner and Gary Beupre of Manitowoc

Paint: PPG GMC Pewter and House of Kolor Galaxy Gray, painted byChris Brunner's Body Shop in Manitowoc

Interior: Teas front buckets and stock rear bench in blackleather by Skin & Bone in Manitowoc, tweed grey headliner, LeCarrasteering wheel, Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Blaupunkt CD head unit withamp and Pioneer speakers, wiring by American Auto Wire

Cost to build: $65,000

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