Studebaker Week Finale: 1963 Avanti – A Quick Homage And Farewell

I haven’t found a genuine Avanti yet, but I will. And when I do, a proper CC will ensue. But in the meantime, has recently added a 1963 Avanti brochure to their ever-growing collection. And a stunning one it is, both the brochure and the car.

The presentation of the Avanti was one of the most unexpected events of 1962. In America, anyway. That’s because this car, like the 1953 Studebaker coupes, were the work of Raymond Loewy, who always kept one foot in Europe. And it showed; who else would work so hard to eliminate the bold front grille, foreshadowing the aero-look cars from the eighties. And like its ’53 coupe predecessor, the fiberglass-bodied Avanti also suffered from a botched production ramp-up.

I just can’t resist showing the ’53 coupe here too, because these cars are so essentially Loewy (regardless of who did most of the actual design work). The share the windsplitting front ends with that center crease rising from their delicate front bumpers, the looong front hood, a beltline that drops down from the windshield, and of course that forward-slanting C-pillar.

Is the setting of the Palm-Spring-ish house in the top photograph on purpose, to echo the fact that the Avanti was designed in forty days in a rented house in Palm Springs by Loewy’s team? Although it was team effort, Loewy contributed many of the Avanti’s distinctive features, including the Coke-bottle shape, the grille-less front end and bladed fenders. Here’s an excellent article on those eventful forty days.

The Avanti was a true Studebaker, inasmuch as its design and execution both suffered certain shortcomings. The Avanti looks fabulous from certain angles, and a bit awkward from others. But a noble effort it was, to try to redefine Studebaker’s ailing image in the mid sixties.

The original Avanti’s profile had a decidedly NASCAR-ish rake to it. Odd then that when the Avanti was revived as the Avanati II, the first change made was to jack up the front end, as well as ruin the beautiful faired-in round headlights.

Why that would be called “improvement in the lines and streamlining of the new Avanti” is beyond me. The original Avanti’s stance was defined as “an aerodynamic wedge, designed to to defy the wind”.

The Avanti II started out on the wrong foot in my book by just those two changes alone. Whatever…The Avanti II could have been America’s Bristol coupe, made in almost perpetuity, but unfortunately, its owner’s lacked the aesthetic sensibility from the get-go, and started chasing every new design influence and trying desperately to graft it onto the Avanti, when it should have stayed the icon of early-sixities design that it was. Of course, Bristol made some similar mistakes too.

This is as close as America got to a true European-style GT coupe, despite the lack of a single “Euro-sport” badge on the Avanti anywhere. The Avanti came from a time when that wasn’t necessary, or even desirable. Loewy’s sensibilities may have had a decidedly European aspect, but the Avanti was ultimately an all-American “experiment”, and thoroughly confident in its sensibilities and execution. That would soon change, as the rise of Mercedes led to the great American automotive insecurity.