By 1962, Studebaker Corp., the oldest vehicle manufacturer in the United States, was in serious financial trouble. But there was still a chance. In February 1961, the company hired 40-year-old Sherwood Egbert as its president. He was the Lee Iacocca of Studebaker.

One of the first things he did was to call on noted designer Brook Stevens to rejuvenate the Hawk. Since the car was really a face lifted 1953 Starliner coupe, it was dated. Time and money were short, but Stevens accepted the challenge.

The Gran Turismo Hawk went from idea to production in a matter of months, a task that usually takes several years.

Rarely, if ever, has an updated, modernized model like the Gran Turismo Hawk won the praise of critics. The name itself suggested a combination of European and American style. The squared-off roof had a 1958 Thunderbird look, and the grille was influenced by Studebaker's relationship with Mercedes-Benz, its U.S. distributor. Even the circled chrome "S" nose ornament had a Mercedes look.

No wonder the Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk is a popular model for Studebaker fans and collectors. Bob and Carol McMains, of Pleasant Hill, love Studebakers. Even the license frame on their newish Chevrolet brags "My Other Car Is A Studebaker."

For Bob, it started about 40 years ago when he was visiting Paso Robles and met someone who had a 1935 Studebaker for sale. He bought it for $300, and it's in his garage today.

"Carol's family was steeped in Studebakers," Bob said. "Her uncle and grandfather worked for Studebaker in South Bend, Ind., and most of the extended family members owned and drove Studebakers."

Several years ago, the couple agreed to "get ourselves a car that can run with the big dogs and travel." They found the car on Craigslist. It was in Prunedale.

"The paint was pealing, and there was some serious rust in the trunk, but the body was fit," Bob said. "The seats and headliner were good."

The McMains bought the 1962 Hawk for $5,000 and sent it to a body shop in Castroville. It was refinished and painted Bordeaux red with a white top.

"The goal," Bob said, "is to keep it as stock as possible but make the sacrifices you have to to keep it running."

This is a local car show vehicle, not a serious show car competitor. The 289 c.i. V-8 engine mated with a Borg-Warner automatic transmission is stock, but the grille has some model year mixes, and the trunk deck has been slightly modified from the factory specifications.

This June, the McMains wanted to travel to Kansas for a family reunion in their Studebaker. Bob installed air conditioning for the hot weather trip. On June 26, Bob and Carol headed east from Pleasant Hill excited about their adventure.

"Twenty miles from Winnemucca, the generator went out," Bob related. "We found a mechanic at the motel, and he offered to help. We bought an alternator at O'Reily's, but a bracket needed to be ground down, and the bolt size was wrong. However, the mechanic got us ready to go by 10 p.m."

The second day wasn't any better. "We were on the road by 8 a.m. Utah temperature was 100 degrees. We stopped for gas in Park City, and the Studebaker vapor locked. I ran down the battery trying to restart it."

He got a jump start, but it later vapor locked again, this time in a construction zone.

On their third day out, the McMains shared some of their wealth with the AutoZone store in Vernal, Utah, where they bought a new fuel pump for the Studebaker and had it installed.

The fourth day, after stopping in the high altitude town of Dinosaur, Colo., the car wouldn't start. Bob changed the condenser and got the engine running. "It sputtered once as we took off," he said, "but 16 miles later, we couldn't even get up a small hill outside Rangely, Colo."

Another mechanic said the new fuel pump was defective, so an electric pump was purchased and installed.

They completed the first 1,300 miles of the trip on the fifth day, when the car again sputtered and died and needed to be towed in Colorado Springs, Colo. On the sixth day, there were more problems, but they were fixed by a "carburetor mechanic."

Apparently all was fine by the seventh day, but the forecast was for 106 degrees in Kansas. The McMains had some doubts about taking the 51-year-old Studebaker on to Kansas. So they rented a car to complete their trip to the family reunion.

Are they discouraged by this experience? Heck no! In fact, the McMains can hardly wait to drive to the next out-of-state Studebaker Club meeting, where they can proudly show off their beautiful 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk and tell of their adventures.

Have an interesting vehicle? Contract David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.