ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Vince (last name withheld by request)
A few days ago, in July on I-40 in North Carolina, I saw the rear end
of what I couldn't believe. I got closer to make sure I wasn't mistaken.
It was a beautiful '58 Golden Hawk in tow on a trailer. This apparition
instantly brought back a flood of memories.
I've never considered myself much of a car buff. In the days when I grew
up in rural Virginia, most of the kids I went to school with built model
cars and could tell you more about the details of cars than stats' on
baseball cards. In the country, at least in that area, racing had a big
influence on us all. There was local dirt track racing and there was NASCAR.
Most Sunday afternoons we hung around the garage and listened to the race
on the radio. NASCAR then was far different than today's; it was about
the cars and less as much about the drivers, it was about the love of
racing and less as much about the money. Whether you were a Ford or Chevy
person was a very serious choice like religion or politics. There were
a few Mopar heads too, but mainly Ford or Chevy were the definition of
your moral fiber. I guess I never got bit by the car bug in the way they
did. My idea of what a car should be was a Studebaker.
I've never understood with the innovations that Studebaker introduced
to the automotive industry like streamline body styles, automatic chokes,
and hill-holder clutches why Studebaker didn't succeed. Maybe they were
just ahead of their time.
The late 50s were a golden age for cars. The '57 Chevy still has somewhat
of a cult following. We had one. I don't remember much about it when my
dad had it but he sold it to my grandfather. My grandfather let me drive
it a couple of times under his supervision and only for a short distance
because I was young, but I can say the '57 Chevy was the first car I ever
drove. I never understood the fascination with '57 Chevys.
The apple of my eye was my dad's '57 Studebaker Silver Hawk. That was
the car. It had class and style that nothing else had. Ours was white
over black. I remember the unique shape of the cab, the swirl metal dash
panel, eloquent and sporty body style, and the hood ornament of a naked
lady leaning into the wind that just put the finishing touch on the car.
I can't think of a single model of any car yet made that just looks so
cool. You can keep the Mustangs, T-birds, Sting-rays, 57' Chevy's, and
the like, the Golden and Silver Hawks were the coolest, classiest cars
But aside from looking good was what was under the hood. I don't remember
as much about how it handled, but I do remember that once it was moving,
it was moving. It would top out of 2nd at 90 and bury the speedometer
in short order (seems that the speedometer went to 120). I never knew
the top speed because even after the speedometer was out of site, the
Silver Hawk still wanted more road.
The Silver Hawk was primarily used as a family car for us. It served well
for a number of years till my dad put it out to pasture (parked it). By
that time it had quite a few miles with squeaks and rattles and needed
some upholstery work, but I still wanted it. It still ran OK at that time.
He would crank it occasionally to keep everything working OK, but in doing
that one day an oil line broke and caused some engine problems.
That's were the memories turn dark. My dad, a mechanic, didn't want to
fix the car. I started asking to buy the car from him. He didn't want
to sell it. Not selling the car was characteristic of him. He hated to
sell anything (still has most of the cars he's ever owned). I watched
several cars go to rust that he wouldn't sell (though he has preserved
a few others over the years like a '56 De Ville). I ask to buy the
Silver Hawk a few times and he declined. I figured he would change his
mind one day.
Then one day I drove over to his house and noticed the Silver Hawk wasn't
there. Gone! He had sold it to someone a few weeks earlier who drove by
and ask about it; and not even for a large amount of money. I still don't
know the reasons; maybe good ones, maybe not.
In retrospect, the car needed a lot of TLC. And although the body was
in good shape, at the time I didn't have the resources to do a project
car. And, being at that age, I'm sure I would have just had to drive it
most everywhere. As much as I hate to admit it even now, the Studebaker
was probably better off - at least that's what I tell myself.
I caught one last quick glimpse of a Silver Hawk in primer about 2 years
later that must have been it, and that's the last I saw of it.
Over the years I've watched people's eyes glaze over when I've tried to
tell them about the Silver Hawk. I've tried to explain what a marvel it
was. Nobody seems to get it. I've pondered all the what ifs'. I've wondered
what ever happed to that old car. I've never forgotten about it. I'd like
to think it got restored and is still out there somewhere. Where
ever it went, a piece of me went with it, and a piece of it is in me.
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