Tales Told by Studebaker Drivers

A Remarkable Lark Wagon
by John Alexander, from interviews with Tommy Atkins, the now-deceased owner and his friends

Most of us consider it an achievement when a car lasts long enough for the odometer to roll over at 100,000 miles. Some of us may have even seen 200,000 miles on the odometer (or, as in the days of most of our Studebakers, seen the odometer hit all zeros again twice). How about a car that has already passed 400,000 miles and is well on the way to a half-million miles? This wonderful 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire was such a vehicle and was still adding to its mileage a few years ago.

As Tommy related the tale, he acquired the Wagonaire several years ago because it was cheap and because he liked Studebakers. The seller considered it to have reached the end or nearly the end of its useful life and was ready to part with it; however, after Tommy bought it, he had a bit of work done on the body and a bit more on the engine and kept driving it and driving it and driving it. Although I'll describe it in the past tense, I'm uncertain of its fate after Tommy's death.

The Wagonaire was still a working vehicle as long as its owner was able to work; Tommy used it daily in his plumbing business, although he said, at the time, that neither he nor the Wagonaire were quite as fast as they were in their younger days. Usually, when the wagon appeared at Studebaker meetings, it was hauling some of Tommy's tools and, often, some spare Studebaker parts. The Wagonaire had a sliding panel in its roof near the rear door, which lowered for easy loading, and, with the panel open, it could haul a tall water heater or a refrigerator standing upright. It smoked a bit and could probably have used some engine work; however, it still ran remarkably well. Tommy joked that he sometimes got the award at Studebaker meets for laying down the best smoke screen.

Tommy credited many of the long-time members of the SDC as helping to keep the Wagonaire running, and, truly, they all seemed to take pride in it longevity. Tommy had plans for getting the engine overhauled for the third time and for doing some body restoration, but I don't believe he got around to it before his death. Maybe, at this moment, is in perfect, restored condition while it works toward its second half-million miles. We can hope so!