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My 1960 Studebaker Lark

The company that started life in Indiana in 1852 making wagons for farmers, miners and the military and began producing electric cars in 1902. "They should have kept making electric cars," says Lucas. Studebaker moved to petrol cars in 1912 and the last model rolled off their Canadian assembly line in 1966.

"Studebakers are good quality car that were a long way ahead of their time," Lucas says. He points out that in 1946 they introduced a hill holder function ("just put on the brake and then release it and it wouldn't roll back on a hill") and in 1952 they released a three-speed automatic transmission with manual overdrive in every gear. "And they won just about every economy run in the '50s and '60s," says Lucas.

Lucas, 67, manager of Caboolture Motorcycles, owns a 1960 Studebaker hard-top Lark which he bought in 2002 for $5000 from a Victorian owner. "It had more rust than the Cherry Venture," he says. "I restored it myself with a little help from my friends. I had to replace all the floor and rocker panels, rebuilt the motor and diff gearbox, the whole lot. "It's pretty original, but I fitted disc brakes on the front to stop it as the old drum brakes weren't the best."

Lucas claims the person he bought it off had a pink slip that showed the vehicle had once been owned by American actor Tim Conway who played the not-so-bright Ensign Parker on the old black-and-white TV comedy, McHale's Navy.

"When the guy told me I said, `You couldn't have told me it was Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart, could you?'," he laughs. "I've had no luck contacting him (Conway). He's still alive. I wanted to get a photo of him with the car. He apparently owned it for years. The car had done about a million miles."

Lucas bought the car because he liked the shape. "I persevered with it. Worked on it for three years nearly always at night because I work six days a week.

"Keeping me in the shed at night probably made my wife happy. Anyway, it's been well worth the effort. It's a great little car. Everywhere I go people take photos of it." Lucas claims it is the only one of its type in Queensland and one of about three in Australia.

He is also restoring a 1952 Studebaker Commander Starlight V8 Coupe designed by Raymond Lowry the industrial designer responsible for the Coke bottle and Lucky Strike cigarette packet.

His first car was a 1934 Dodge Tourer he bought for 50 when he was 14 living in Manly, Sydney. "I used to drive it to school and I don't know how I never got arrested," he says. "You could do those sorts of things in those days."

"On Friday and Saturday nights we went down to the Manly Corsa in our Customlines and used to park and beat the girls away with a stick. I was an old Manly bodgey and proud of it."

Lucas also boasts that he is a Ford man. "I have owned just about every Ford that was built from 1932 to 1955," he says. "They had a big V8 and were a fast car, plus every back yard had a Ford lying in it and you could get them cheap."

He moved to Queensland in the 1970s as a sales manager at Yamaha and raced off-road bikes, later opening a motorcycle retail business. "I got to that stage in my life where I was getting bored so one day I was looking at a car mag and thought I'd love to restore an old car," he says.

"It's good fun going to all the shows and reminiscing with people my own age. People think we're just silly old buggers, but wer'e not really; we're just enjoying life. It's better than going home, opening a beer and sitting in front of the TV."

Lucas will be enjoying life with his old mates when he shows his Lark at the annual Studebaker Concourse on August 30 at South Bank from 9am to 3pm.

Mark Hinchliffe
Contributing Journalist
Mark Hinchliffe is a former CarsGuide contributor and News Limited journalist, where he used his automotive expertise to specialise in motorcycle news and reviews.
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