The Pareora & St Andrews Branch of the Studebaker Fraternity
Monday, May 24, 2010 20:27

1960 Lark Hard Top, Left Hand Drive

Ross and Pauline Oldman, Queensland Club members have made another discovery of Studebaker treasures. Read their story here and there are more photos in the Photo Gallery.

Ken Patterson and Owen Offen are an institution within the Studebaker community in New Zealand and more particularly within the South Island Contingent.

Pauline, my father and I were treated to an afternoon of their hospitality recently at their base, the garage in St Andrews and their homes.

I believe that between them they have more than eighty years of combined experience with the marque as owners and restorers of a wide range of Studebakers. Their interest has seen them set up shop years ago in an old garage in a little township called St. Andrew’s which is located a few kilometres south of Timaru in South Canterbury. The garage has been kept operational and they have all the facilities available to an old fashioned country gargage to indulge their passion. The garage is located beside the main highway and passing traffic has learnt to keep a look out for the latest Studebaker parked around the old forecourt. Not too many people with an interest in Studebakers fail to call in for a chat when they see a Stude parked out the front.

It would be fair to say that Ken and Owen are no longer in the first flush of youth and over the last few years they have had to make the difficult decisions as to which vehicles they want to keep. The inevitable need to reduce their collections to a more manageable size has forced them to become a little more selective with regard to what cars they keep for posterity and what they move on to willing purchasers.

Ken showed us the following vehicles on the day that we visited.

Harry Van Wees from Western Australia recently sold him a lovely example of a 1963 Avanti. This car has been treated to a no expense spared restoration over the years and presents beautifully. It is a credit to Harry. Of course Ken found a few things that he wanted to do to make it his own so subtle cosmetic and mechanical improvements have been made recently. The car now sports a brass name plaque near the gearshift identifying Harry as the creator of this beautiful car. Definitely a keeper this one.

I visited Ken a few years ago and at the time he was getting to the final stages of a complete nut and bolt restoration on a 1961 Hawk. The finished article is a credit to him. The attention to detail lavished on this car is astonishing, particularly in the out of the way areas where none but the most knowledgeable would know to look. The car is one of those that every time you take the time for another look something different pops up and grabs your attention. A lifetime of experience has been put into subtle improvements to the car. No expense or time has been begrudged this car. An impressive feature is the rich leather interior that has been completed in the rare Hawk 400 style.

Ken has sold the car to a very lucky member of the Studebaker Club and I believe that it will travel to a good home in Christchurch.

The Black Hard Top President was the next to come out. A lovely example of a low mileage one lady owner car from Illinois that has been kept totally original.

Back at the garage Ken has a 1960 Hard Top Lark undergoing the full treatment. It is early days yet but the signs are very good. It appears that the engine may well hide a few improvements that will provide more than average performance to the old girl. This car will round off the collection when finished.

Owen concentrates on the pleasure of ownership and using his cars as often as possible. Prestine show cars are not his ambition, more build them right and drive them often. A recent knee replacement has slowed him a little but it will not stop the work being completed.

Hiding in a corner of the St Andrews garage is a 1960 Hawk that has an interesting history. This car was built in right hand drive for the Earls Court Motor Show. To make the right impression all the period factory goodies were apparently included. A bit of provenance never does any harm when selecting the right car to put your time into. I believe that Owens intention is to restore her back to the Earls Court specification.

Parked outside was a 1955 Champion four door in very original condition. This car is Owens daily driver. I know that because it flashed past on the highway. It took a few kilometres to catch him. When he offered me a drive I understood why. This car hammers when you apply some throttle. I am not sure what the tweaks are but they seem to do the job. The car drives and handles like a much younger vehicle.

Back at Owens home we found a 1960 Lark Hard Top with all the period fruit that you can imagine including a continental kit, spats and sun visor. Pure 60’s extravagance.

The vehicle that Pauline fell in love with is the Lark Utility pictured below. Offered a drive she went off with a big smile and came back with an even bigger smile. Owen purchased this vehicle years ago from the builder. When you walk around it you can see the high professional standard that went into the work. First impressions are that Studebaker built this vehicle, perhaps they should have. What a competitor it would have been for those such as the E1 Camino. Look at it from any angle and the proportions and finish look right.

We all came away from our visit somewhat wiser and very impressed with the hospitality and the friendship offered by Ken and Owen. Photos of more Studebakers from the trip are available in the Photo Gallery.

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