Studebaker Stories:

Marie Lewis: Dream Car

By Marie Lewis, White Sulphur Springs, WV

The spring of 1961 was an exciting time for me. I was sixteen, a high school junior, and on my way to find a dress for my first prom (yes, I'm a gal). Our town in West Virginia had a population of less than 3,000, so my best friend and I wanted to travel to a nearby city to find the perfect dresses. I talked Dad into making the trip, and we got into his 1956 Golden Hawk. It was "pinkish/purplish" and had a speedometer that registered 160 mph…the only two things I really knew about the car, other than it was "cool" and that my Dad absolutely loved it. Down the road we went, talking and laughing, in anticipation of finding our perfect dresses.

Our trip was abruptly interrupted when the car began to rattle with a terrible clanking noise and came to a stop. My girl friend and I had to catch a bus into the city, and Dad wound up having the car towed into a garage. The news was bad—about as bad as could be for my Dad—the car had thrown a rod through the engine. Once something was less than perfect, Dad got rid of it—he never was up for repairing. He sold the car to the garage owner, who supposedly wanted to fix it up for his son to drive. Dad never owned another Golden Hawk.

I have dreamed of that car since then. I was saddened by Dad's loss. He never had a car that he loved like he loved that Golden Hawk. After some fifty years later, I have now just purchased a 1956 Doeskin/Mocha, Studebaker Golden Hawk (a 56j as I have learned to call it). Dad had let me drive his 56j only one time, but I never forgot it. It was garage kept (we had a 51 Kaiser for a family car), and my Dad would get it out, wash & polish it, and go for a spin. He kept it immaculate. One day a couple of neighbor boys were walking past and saw Dad once again washing the GH, as he often did. One said, "Look at that old (blank-blank) washin' that car again." "Yeah, if I had that car, I wouldn't be washin' it—I'd be drivin' it!" the other replied…Dad overheard them, but just kept working, with a chuckle.

It might take me a while to conquer a manual transmission again, since it's been a while; but, I can't wait to take my first drive! As I sit here anxiously awaiting the arrival of my dream car, it feels as if I am once again 16…I imagine myself riding down the road, with Dad by my side, and suddenly it is the fabulous fifties once again—they were the best! Dreams can come true! But then, I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? This is the Drivers Club, and all of you have your dream cars too. Life is good!

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