The Wagonaire model was introduced by Studebaker in 1963 as part of the Lark model range. From 1964 on, the cars were known as Studebakers, not Larks. It was styled by the Brooks Stevens industrial design group. Nearly 12,000 wagons were built in 1963, but as Studebaker faded as a brand in the 1960's, only 1824 wagons were built in 1965. Production of all Studebakers ended in March, 1966, with only 940 more wagons built. My car was built on June 23, 1965, and was thus one of the last thousand or so Wagonaires out of the 20,000 that were made.
Recently, my Wagonaire was picked by a European manufacturer of up-scale clothing to be
the feature prop in their brochure for Fall 1999 clothing. Thanks to a letter and photo I
sent to the Massachusetts film board, the Wagonaire got selected from a bunch of cars on
file for the photo shoot. Company staff, contract photographers, and a make-up man came
from Europe, while two male models came from Florida and a female model came from England.
We drove all over the North Shore part of the Boston area, while they shot lots of
pictures of people, clothes, and (of course) the car. Here is one of the set-ups with Jade
(the woman, not the car).
As you can see, a unique feature of this wagon is the sliding roof. It is manually operated. With the roof open, you can put a refrigerator or other large object in the back. I've hauled a Christmas tree and the engine for my truck in the back. After purchasing the wagon in June, 1997, I collected parts for about a year. Mark Keilen of Attleboro, MA installed NOS fenders on all four corners, rear gravel pan, and rocker panels. He rebuilt a used tailgate to replace the rusty one on the car. I also replaced nearly all of the rubber gaskets, the windshield, and got a new set of carpets and upholstery. The seat covers were also NOS of the exact type as the original. We also matched the Executive Blue paint in a modern enamel. Underneath, the chassis got new springs, shocks, bushings, links, and a new gas tank. The mechanical work was done by Bob Munter at WDC Garage, a superb Studebaker shop in Northboro, Massachusetts.
My Wagonaire was built at the Studebaker plant in Hamilton, Ontario with a Chevy 283 V-8 engine - sort of. The engine was manufactured by the Canadian GM engine plant at McKinnon. Normally, these engines went into Pontiacs built in Canada, but the engine is basically the good old 283 cubic inch block of US Chevys. It was equipped with 9.25:1 heads (same part number as 1964 Corvettes), but only a 2-barrel carburetor. Output was 195 hp. It was OK, but not great. I ordered up an early '60s vintage Chevy 4-barrel (Rochester 4GC), air cleaner, and manifold from an Arizona junkyard, and I installed the dual exhaust pipes from the '64 Studebakers with glass-pack mufflers. Now we have about 235 hp, and lots of get-up and go. It has disk brakes up front, as well as a Twin Traction limited slip differential in back from an earlier Hawk. Many of the parts and rebuilding services were provided by Dave Thiebault of Maynard, MA.
My Wagonaire is not a garage queen: I drive it regularly and use it to haul things. It can seat six people comfortably. Wherever we drive, it always attracts smiles and waves from people. An old Studebaker station wagon is probably among the least-theatening cars on the road. While I occasionally see another Studebaker driving around, I have yet to pass another Wagonaire on the road. For more history on Studebaker Wagonaires, see the February, 1982 edition of 'Turning Wheels', the Studebaker Drivers Club magazine. The June through September, 1997 issues of TW have a 4-part article by Fred Fox on Studebaker station wagon history. Also see the September, 1979 issue of TW for more info on Stude wagons.