Quick Silver
Classic American|January 2021
When Patrick Watts went looking for the basis of his new race car he made a novel choice in this 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk, but it’s worked out rather well…
Patrick Watts

You don’t see many racing Studebakers − certainly not on British circuits − but then Patrick Watts has never followed trends. “I wanted something different for Historic Racing Drivers Club racing,” explains Patrick. “I’d been competing in a Volvo doing club racing, then got an invite to the Goodwood Revival to run in their pre-1960 races, so started thinking about what I might like to drive next. I’d been considering a 1.5-litre Riley with a 1.8 MGB engine, as allowed by HRDC regulations, but then I was chatting with fellow racer and HRDC founder Julius Thurgood and he directed me toward a pair of Studebakers, this Silver Hawk and a Golden Hawk. They were effectively rusty wrecks with a lorry load of bits and I thought I could build an unusual race car.

“I took the body from the Silver Hawk and the best bits from the other to produce one complete car, although it turned out a lot of parts were missing. I did most of the build at home in my workshop. After having the body shell sandblasted, I put in a new floor, making half of it after welding in the transmission tunnel from the Golden Hawk. The front repair sections came back from the States in my hand luggage. I solid-mounted the body to the chassis with aluminium spacers – originally they would have been rubber – and uprated the chassis outriggers to make stronger mountings for the Custom Cages six-point roll cage.”

The Studebaker is built to compete in friendly HRDC series events and at Goodwood, where entries have to be in the spirit of the original pre-1966 cars that competed there; although allowances are made, within reason, for modifications that could have been done in period. This includes ‘family’ engines, so the Hawk is now Chevypowered. “A place in Florida did the engine; it’s a crate 350cu in Chevrolet built fast-road rather than full-on race motor. It’s about 400bhp and it’s put together for reliability over all-out speed. The tune is much like a standard Corvette spec, with big valve heads, but a standard four-bolt main and conrods. I wanted something strong I could drive hard, but not eat the opposition, which are mainly small Austins and 3.8 Jags. The gearbox is a manual four-speed close-ratio T10 previously used in my 1957 J2 Allard.”

The rear axle is the standard Studebaker unit with the Twin-Traction limited-slip differential that was a $35 option on any model. “Again I took the best bits from both Hawk axles,” continues Patrick, “using the Golden Hawk one with the shorter ratio and re-shimming it. There’s uprated half-shafts since a standard one broke within two laps of my first test at Brands Hatch – this was 2017 when I’d almost finished the car and three days before its debut race at Goodwood. During testing it was running with no chrome and the windscreen was the only glass fitted. I got it completed and at Goodwood qualified a surprising sixth on the grid in the wet. Then during the race the head gasket went – disappointing since it’s the only part of the car I’d relied on someone else to do…”

Barely run-in

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