I kind of got the early idea behind the Avanti II, to put it back in production beyond its early death in 1964, after Studebaker closed its South bend factory. On the other hand, the original Avanti never sold very well, so it was kind of a stretch to think that it would in its reincarnated form.
But somehow the Avanti became some kind of touchstone, and it just wouldn’t die, even if its styling was very much a product of the early 60s, and not really truly a great design. It was bold and different, but Loewy wasn’t really a good car designer, and left it to his hired designers to come up with something that he could then approve. But the Avanti is the closest thing there is to a genuine Loewy design, and like his other one-offs he built for himself, it’s got some…issues.
But that’s nothing compared to what it morphed into in the later years, like this Avanti II convertible, probably from around 1990 or so. Ouch!
William Rubano shot this at a storage facility and posted it at the Cohort. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an AII convertible, but it sure isn’t working for me. Starting with the terrible gap around the hood. Build quality was never a strong suit with its fiberglass body, but I’ve never seen an original Avanti with such a bad hood gap. And of course the atrocious efforts at updating it are painful. But most of all, that steep windshield, which was a contentious issue in 1963, looks utterly absurd in a car from the 90s.
The wrap-around cockpit dash was innovative in 1963, but soon everyone had them. This looks like a gussied up 70s’ camaro version.
I’m sorry, but this is simply awful. And it’s anything but a tribute to what was a fresh and rather exciting design in 1963; it’s a desecration.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s this four door sedan, which looks all the world like one of those safety concepts from the mid-70s.
My tribute to the brilliant but flawed original Avanti is here.
Im thinking the gap on the hood is fixable and i’m sure they all didnt roll out of the factory looking like that. i don’t see why you find it so terrible it’s a good looking car(well the way the rear wheel aligns doesnt bode well for it) Tighten up a bit and you have a beautiful car. the 4 door…………………….not so much.
I think I saw both the convertible and the four door sedan at the DC auto show. Definitely the four door. There was a proposed four door Avanti early on in 1963, but it didn’t look like this one.
I believe they dropped the “II” suffix when new management took over from Newman and Altman which is also around when the chrome bumpers/trim and round headlamps were dropped, so this would just be an Avanti, no II.
I know around this time or a bit later, the original Studebaker design frames were replaced with GM chassis (or was it Ford?) – not sure how they got the body to fit.
The rectangular headlights were actually a late change during the Studebaker years, and most (but not all) of the 64 models carried them.
Rectangular headlight *openings*, yes, with round headlights in them. Rectangular *headlights* weren’t even legal until 1978 or so (for singles, quads appeared a few years before).
I remember when Car and Driver carried the story – they made it sound like Newman and Altman were virtually bullied into selling, and the new guy sounded dubious. The four-door version looks as though ‘clueless’ might have been closer to the mark – shows what can happen when people who aren’t car designers start tampering with a good-but-dated design. Some customizers do great jobs – these guys not so.
Why, oh why did you have to show me that four door version. I had no idea that existed, and my life has not been improved by knowing 🙁
Kinda like the 4 door. Could use some tweaking, but a nice, large greenhouse with good proportions.
The original Studebaker Avanti – the ones built in 1963 and 1964 – had a wedge-like profile that looked sharp and aerodynamic. When Nate Altman took over, his crew altered the shape of the front fenders and jacked up the front suspension a bit to make the car look more conventional. In doing so, they ruined the styling in my opinion. I’ve been told they did this to make the Chevy engine fit because it was taller than the Studebaker V8, but I find that hard to believe. You can see the difference when you line up the Studebaker and Altman versions side-by-side. I like the Studebaker version much better.
I am unclear if the Chevy 327 was taller than the Stude 289 or if there was something about the mounts of the newer engine that prevented it from nestling quite as far down, but clearance had always been close and the newer engine had a problem there.
According to Bob’s Studebaker Resource Page ( http://www.studebaker-info.org/avantiRQAVerc.html ) the body mounts were shimmed to raise the front of the body up and there was some filler added to the wheel openings to reduce the 3 inch extra gap between the fender opening and the top of the tire. Gene Hardig, Studebaker’s old Chief Engineer, was the guy in charge of making that conversion.
I agree that the way the front end sat up higher messed with the aggressive look of the car.
I have included a picture comparing the Avanti and Avanti II (the original is on the bottom). What Altman did more than anything was to level the stance and tone down the forward rake. I don’t think the changes did any real harm.
I wasn’t aware of the fender change – the things you learn here!
Something about the Avanti rear quarters said “XJS” to me, so I took an image of an XJS top (From Tom Klokau’s article). and pasted it over the Avanti.
The resulting image is impractical (for one, the windshield header covers the back edge of the hood), but I think it’s an improvement and addresses Paul’s windshield complaint. Of course, the image I started with placed the bar below ground level…
Yeah, once they went to the plastic bumper version they lost me. I cannot decide which is worse – that 4 door version or the post 2000 version built on the Camaro or Mustang platform. Those were just – not Avantis.
I am a fan of the original and the AII into the 80s which kept most of the original’s look. I understand that changes were necessary (the supply of Lark convertible frames was never going to last forever) but it would have been better to let it die than to make it into the Frankenstein car it became.
This car reminds of a cheap imitation-Matchbox copy of the original. You can recognize the car they stole the profile from but it’s just off somehow.
The four-door version reminds of the American-food logic that says if putting cheese on something makes it good, putting four kinds on will make it even better!
The side profile of the white Avanti II reminds me of an Olds Trofeo.
Ugly. But then I was never very fussed on the original Avanti to begin with… Maybe it was a “you had to be there at the time” design…
I think your a little harsh as to the Convertibles over all look. As for the Four Door , I cannot give you any argument.
The ground effects are the worst part, what on earth made skirting the bottom of the car like an oversized table cloth so damn trendy in the 90s?
I don’t know if this Swiss-registered Avanti with quad headlamps is as worse as the convertible and four-door saloon. Of course, you can bid on this ‘rare’ Avanti:
I’ll be honest, I think that’s better looking than the single headlamp avanti
The slant of the housings make it look like it’s going to cry!
…or like WALL-E.
Yes, thank you! I was racking my brain where have I seen something like that somewhere else.
The quad lights and slant housings does look odd……like it’s going to cry or it just turned cross-eyed in response to what it ate.
No story of the Avanti is complete without Nate and Arnold Alman.
The convertible dates after the Alman’s sold the company, and it turned into a great excuse to bleed tax credits and investor’s money.
I could rock the ‘vert. I’d want to replace those wire wheels with something a bit more substantial. I think that wire wheels really should only go on cars up until the 1930’s, when they were commonplace. This is one of the few circumstances where you could upgrade the wheel size to 18’s or 20’s and it wouldn’t look out of place.
I get that the four door is ungainly, but JJ (Cafaro) & Co., were trying to expand the idiom of the Avanti beyond the weekend toy category. A four door with accommodations for everything a luxury car should have was great in concept. Too bad it wasn’t in execution. I think they did a heck of a job taking current production GM and Ford pieces and mating it to a bespoke body and having everything work. It seems the successor companies didn’t.
Granted, the AVX versions just rebodied Firebirds and the later Villa Rica (Georgia) versions rebodied Mustangs, so steady parts supplies and expediency win the day. I wonder what clown ended up with the V6 Avanti?
The attached photo shows the aborted Avanti GT model that raced in IMSA briefly in the mid 1980’s. Had JJ & Co., put a little more of the GT’s attitude into the four door, I think the result would have been better. Just my $0.02…
I also like the four-door – in principle only. If the execution were better, I could imagine it having occupied the niche today filled by Tesla – a unique, instantly recognizable, and world-class American sedan, neither a carbon copy of German sedans nor a kitschy brougham-barge.
The fourth picture shows what’s always been a problem with the Avanti from day one – the position of the rear wheel in relation to the wheel arch. The shape of the opening makes it look as though part of the rear tyre protrudes beyond the body – awkward, anyone?
If you *really* want to make Raymond Loewy spin in his grave, introduce the Avanti Brougham.
and beef up the structure to add more road-hugging weight
I think the convertible would be improved by taking a step backwards and putting in ROUND headlamps.
And yeah, that 4-door should never have been built.
I think the reason the Avanti II hung in there for so many years was the personalization aspect. To the best of my knowledge, no two Avanti IIs are alike. Barring any kind of federal requirement, the sky was pretty much the limit as to what someone could get on an Avanti II. Yeah, it would cost, but if you had deep pockets and liked the styling, it was the only game in town.
Additionally, the factory was very much like a British hand-built operation. If you ordered one, you could really go up to the factory and watch it being built every step of the way.
So, no, the Avanti II was never going to break any sales records, but there was a very steady and loyal clientele for many years after Studebaker shuttered. My guess is too many of those buyers started dying off and it cut into Nate Altman’s ability to keep the place going. Rather than trying to update the car, he simply sold-out and retired.
The convertible was probably made in the same small building in Villa Rica, GA that made the 2004 Studebaker XUZ. GM sued over the similarity to the Hummer and Avanti agreed to make alterations to some styling elements. I thought it was strange that AM General was a grandchild of Studebaker, and was suing Studebaker Avanti for copying them. As best as I can determine, “Studebaker” and “Avanti” are available to anyone who will pay the filing fees. “Avanti” was registered to someone in Florida a few years ago but he did not use it and it’s up for grabs. A copyright on product names and symbols can only be maintained by paying an annual registration fee to the USPTO. There are many products named Avanti, but none are automotive.
Unfortunately the Studebaker trademark is also being used by a producer of tacky “retro” radios, cassette players, and cheap record players …
It is not just electronics. There are days it would be hard to decide between a Kaiser Manhattan and a Studebaker Manhattan. 🙂 But it is best not to mix them.