Smoky Mountain Chapter, Studebaker Drivers' Club

A Remarkable Lark Wagon
by John Alexander, from interviews with Tommy Atkins and other SMSDC members

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? Tommy Atkins, a member of SMSDC owns such a vehicle, a 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire.

As Tommy tells it, 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.

The Wagonaire is still a working vehicle; Tommy uses it daily in his plumbing business, although he says that neither he nor the Wagonaire may be quite as fast as they used to be. Usually, when you see the wagon, it is hauling some of Tommy's tools and, often, some spare Studebaker parts. The Wagonaire has a sliding panel in its roof near the rear door, which lowers for easy loading, and, with the panel open, it can haul a tall water heater or a refrigerator standing upright. It smokes a bit and could use some engine work; however, it runs remarkably well. Tommy jokes that he sometimes gets the award at Studebaker meets for laying down the best smoke screen.

Tommy credits many of the long-time members of the SMSDC as helping to keep the Wagonaire running, and, truly, they all seem to take pride in it longevity. Tommy has plans for getting the engine overhauled for the third time and for doing some body restoration. Maybe it will be in perfect, restored condition to begin its second half-million miles. Don't bet too heavily against its making it to a million!