Recently, I was reminded about Studebaker pacing the field at the 1962 Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was there, so, I’d like to share what happened at the Speedway in May 1962.
First, here’s some background. The Studebaker Avanti was simultaneously introduced on April 26, 1962, at the New York International Automobile Show, a shareholders meeting, and at a press preview in South Bend, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, the company flew an Avanti prototype to 24 cities in 16 days to introduce Studebaker dealers to the new car. The first production Avanti was ready for delivery to dealers by June.
With these production realities in mind, the 1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible became the “Official Pace Car” and the Avanti was the “Honorary Pace Car.” The Studebaker Lark was given a highly successful makeover for 1962 by Brooks Stevens and launched as the Lark Daytona available as a two-door hardtop and a convertible. The Lark Daytona was the first compact car to pace the Indy 500. The 4-bbl, dual-exhaust 225h.p, V-8 convertible, demonstrated credible performance pacing the race. Today, one of the two Daytona convertibles would be an ultimate collectible. One paced the race, and the other was the backup.
What a sensation! I can remember the Avanti being demonstrated during the on-track festivities on Pole Day in May 1962. There was a great deal of chatter up and down pit lane as the Avanti drove around the track fulfilling its honorary role. I’ve also seen publicity photos of the Avanti with Studebaker officials behind Tower Terrace at the track.
Rodger Ward, winner of the 1962 Indianapolis 500, received a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize package, “thus becoming the first private owner of an Avanti.”
So, that’s the story of Studebaker pacing the field in 1962.
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