Studebakers Won The First Two Shell 4000 Rallies

This past week Harald von Langsdorff sent me a copy of an article from “Inside Track Motorsport News” magazine about the Shell 4000 rally.  The Shell 4000 rally was the premier North American rally of the 1960s.  There were some changes from year to year, but it was basically a multi-day rally that ran across Canada.  Many of the car manufacturers sponsored rally teams and many of the top rallyists, from all countries, took part in this rally. The story of the early days of the Shell 4000 rally, as reported in “Inside Track Motorsport News”, is included in the file below:

Shell 4000

I noticed in the article that the photos were provided by Marcel Chichak.  Marcel is the unofficial historian of the Shell 4000 rally.  For many years he has been seeking out, borrowing, and collecting as much information about this rally as he can obtain.  I think that it would be fair to say that Marcel knows more about this rally than anyone else.

One of the main discussion points in the “Inside Track Motorsport News” article is that the first two runnings of this rally, in 1961 and 1962, were won by rally teams driving Studebaker Larks.  At that time Studebaker cars were being built in both United States and Canada.  Many of the Studebaker Lark models were being built in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  This post highlights the 1962 Studebaker Lark.

Studebaker Lark Sedan

1962 Studebaker Lark Two-Door Sedan

It is interesting to note that during this time, Mercedes-Benz in an effort to establish a significant dealer distribution in North America had entered an agreement with Studebaker whereby Studebaker dealers sold Mercedes-Benz cars as well.  It is easy to see that this business relationship between Studebaker and Mercedes-Benz influenced the design of the Studebaker Lark.  If you look at the grille of the Studebaker Lark, you can see the similarities with the Mercedes-Benz grille design of that era.

The two-door model shown above has the 169 cubic inch 6-cylinder inline overhead valve engine that produced 112 horsepower.

Studebaker Lark 4-Door 1962 (4)

1962 Studebaker Lark Four-Door Sedan

There were a total of five different engines that were available in the Studebaker Lark cars:

  • 169 cubic inch, 6-cylinder, single-barrel carburetor – 112 horsepower
  • 259 cubic inch, V8, two-barrel carburetor – 180 horsepower
  • 259 cubic inch, V8, four-barrel carburetor – 195 horsepower
  • 289 cubic inch, V8, two-barrel carburetor – 210 horsepower
  • 289 cubic inch, V8, four-barrel carburetor – 225 horsepower

I do not know which engine that the Studebaker Larks had when they won the Shell 4000 rally.  I would guess that the performance of the Larks with the four-barrel 289 cubic inch V8 engine would be quite lively.

Studebaker Lark 4-Door 1962 (5)

The Front Grille Has a Mercedes-Benz Influence

Despite the availability of V8 engines, the Studebaker Larks were considered to be small economy cars, suitable for family chores.  However in 1962 a top-of-the-line Studebaker Lark, the Daytona Convertible, was selected to be the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500.

Studebaker Lark 4-Door 1962 (1)

This Lark Has The “Dog-Dish” Style Wheel Covers

In 1962 the base price for the entry level 6-cylinder two-door sedan Studebaker Lark was $1935.  The top-of-the-line Lark was the Daytona with a base price of $2,676 for the Daytona convertible.

Studebaker Lark 4-Door 1962 (2)

Two-Tone Paint Was Common In The 1950s and Early 1960s

As can be seen in the photo below, this car has a “Flightomatic” automatic transmission, which was an option with all engines.  The standard transmission was a column-mounted three-speed manual transmission.  An optional overdrive was available for this transmission.  A floor-mounted four-speed transmission was available with the optional V8 engines.

Studebaker Lark 4-Door 1962 (3)

The Studebaker Lark Interior Was Very Basic

In addition to the rather mundane sedans, Studebaker Larks were also available as convertibles.  An example of a Studebaker Lark convertible is shown below.


1962 Studebaker Lark Convertible

Studebakers are not normally considered to be rally cars, but their success in the early runnings of the Shell 4000 are in contrast to this widely held view.  In addition, from Maurice Gastonides’ book “Rallies and Racing”, I know that Studebakers took part in the Monte Carlo rally in the 1930s.

As of January 1, 1964 all Studebaker production was being done in the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada plant.  Studebaker was in rapid decline during this time and Studebaker finally production ceased in March 1966, closing the curtain on 64 years of automotive production.

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2 Responses to Studebakers Won The First Two Shell 4000 Rallies

  1. Jay Nemeth-Johannes says:

    Also, a Studebaker won the very first Press On Regardless Rally, the grandaddy of all US rallying.

    • Hi Jay,
      Thanks for sharing this information. Perhaps Studebaker should have used some of the ideas developed as part of this car.
      Standard Studebaker cars competed in the Monte Carlo rally in the 1930s. These days, Studebakers are the preferred body style in La Carrera Panamericana.
      Steve McKelvie

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