The mid-fifties were desperate times for the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. They had merged in 1954 in an attempt to reduce costs and become more competitive. Surely the most visible change was the use of the new 352 cubic inch Packard V-8 in the newly restyled '56 Studebaker Hawk. But the marriage was short lived, as Packard was out of the car business by mid-'56 -- leaving Studebaker with no real performance engine for its Hawk.

Out of desperation Studebaker turned to the McCulloch supercharger to increase the power of its own 289" engine to 275 hp. Despite only having a few short months to make the conversion, the supercharged '57 Hawk was a smashing success. To quote Hot Rod magazine (March 1957): "The '57 Hawk is so superior in all respects to the '56 Hawk that the two are simply not comparable, even though they both share the same basic body and frame structures."

But more than a new Hawk was developed in those fateful months in mid-56, because the installation of a supercharger on the Studebaker V-8 engine was to launch a most unusual high performance group that continues to this day. Studebaker would continue to use McCulloch/Paxton superchargers off and on until the end in 1964. In March '62 it bought Paxton to assure an adequate supply of superchargers for its upcoming Avanti's. Andy Granatelli came with the deal and there was a flurry of new supercharger development and record breaking at Bonneville with Studebakers. To climax this effort, Granatelli ran a 600 hp dual Paxton supercharged Avanti to 196.6 mph at Bonneville, literally as Studebaker ceased US car production.

But a strange thing happened along the way, neither the Avanti nor the supercharger technology died in the mid-60s. The 2002 Avanti can be seen at the major car shows this year (Chicago, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, etc.). And 21st Century Turbo, the direct offspring of those early Studebaker Paxton days, provides more do-it-yourself blower technology than you can find anywhere else.

Andy Granatelli's 600, hp dual supercharged Studebaker was an inspiration that lead to increasing use of two superchargers, and then two turbochargers on Studebakers with ever increasing boosts. Ultimately in '96, Jim Lange's 1000 hp twin turbo 5 liter Studebaker Avanti set a World's record of 212 mph at Bonneville. It had been a long journey but the technology acquired along the way was staggering -- enough to fill a book!

Copyright Dick Datson 2002,
 P.O. Box 49614, Sarasota, FL 34230
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