No, to be honest, I hadn’t heard of a Studebaker Lark Daytona either before today. That embarrassing admission behind us, this great white slab of small block powered ‘60s Americana is the last car you might expect to see nestled under the awning of a Fortec Motorsport truck.
Fortec are a force to be reckoned with in single-seater formulae such as FR3.5 and FIA 3, but the historic arm of the Fortec business run this Lark, and this weekend took part in the HRDC ‘History of the BTCC 1958-1966’ race. Its drivers are two names well known to anyone with knowledge of tin top racing history: Nick Whale and Lionel Abbott.
‘We’ve spent two years testing it,’ says Fortec’s Tristan Gow. ‘The angles of the suspension were originally all wrong, so we’ve been trying to make it not handle like a boat,’ he adds with a chuckle. ‘There’s been lots of playing with it, but it’s been a great challenge, lots of late nights, and lots of fun.’
Typically, an unusual project throws up unusual challenges: ‘I spent a few months just trying to find spare windscreens for it’, adds Tristan. ‘We’ve had to keep it as close to the factory specification as we can, and everything on the car is now as it should be.’
The Lark uses a 283 cu in ‘small block’ V8 driven through a four speed manual transmission. The rear axle is from a Mustang – ‘you can’t find the Studebaker ones now’ – but the front suspension is all Studebaker. ‘With all these cars they try and chase horsepower,’ reflects Tristan. ‘But with not much weight on the back end what you want is torque. And we try and get the best corner-weighting possible, too.’
So how much grunt does this Chevy put out? No team will give you a straight answer to that one, but you can reckon on at least 400bhp troubling that rear axle. ‘We limit it to 7,000rpm,’ said Tristan. ‘We’ve had it go to 8,200rpm but it blew up. Anyway, it has more than enough power…’
Photography by Chris McEvoy