(first posted 9/23/2014) The Studebaker is the most Christ-like of all personal coupes. I’m not too sure that the end of production at South Bend fell on a Friday, or whether the revival of limited production models came on a Sunday. In a number of ways it was perfect, in other ways it was perfectly flawed. As we approach the 50th year anniversary of its resurrection, let’s look at what crosses it had to bear for the sins of Studebaker before arising to a bespoke role.
Although Studebaker is not often credited as such, they delivered the personal coupe gospel to American buyers quicker than other manufacturers. Of course, 60+ years hindsight allows us to see that it was a botched attempt. Studebaker didn’t anticipate the high demand for their 1953 glamour coupes. Quality bug-a-boos and delays hindered sales, never mind the ancient Flathead Six or a milquetoast V8 underhood providing marginal to adequate performance for the times. If Studebaker had placed more faith and planning in the initial batch of coupes, they would have gotten a five year jump on Ford’s Squarebird. The original Starlight Coupe is still a milestone design, the St. John that prophesied the Avanti.
It wasn’t for lack of trying to beat Ford to the punch; Studebaker’s first genuine premium coupe, the gaudy President Speedster arrived to mixed reviews in 1955. That specialty model developed into the rags-to-riches full line of Hawks in 1956, as basic Studebakers ditched any sporting pretenses and became literal squares. As the 50’s slid into a consistent cycle of planned obsolescence, the purity of the basic design lost some of the balancing elements in attempts to keep up with the times. The attempts proved to be futile as the plethora of plumage to be found on Hawks at Studebaker dealerships did marginal business in 1956, and it only went downhill from there through 1961.
The tough old bird was given a make-over in 1962, in the form of the Gran Turismo Hawk, but one could still feel the creaky bones underneath the svelte new suit. In the brave new world of the early 1960’s, the majority of attention went to a bevy of Bucket Seat Bombs and the torpedo shaped Bullet Bird. Studebaker may have had a case of pneumonia by this point, but they weren’t in the mood to roll over and sweat out the fever.
Take the magic brew of overenthusiastic new President Sherwood Egbert, throw in a challenge he gave to Raymond Loewy, give Loewy and his design team 40 days and 40 nights to come up with a clay model after showing them some rough sketches by Loewy of a Studebaker sports car. This is the result. To keep the insanity going, Egbert decided why the hell not? and presented the car to Studebaker’s board of directors for production. In the continuing fits of not necessarily rational decisions, the Board of Directors gave approval for production in April of 1961. Given that most crash programs for new models took some 2½ to 3 years, one can see how the Avanti’s genesis is on the level of immaculate conception, and close to the term of an actual human pregnancy.
From approval in the Spring of 1961, it took under a year’s time for the Avanti to transition from being an in-house pipe dream to something customers could—theoretically—buy. Sadly, some ghosts from Studebaker’s last attempt to make a huge splash in the marketplace with a stylish new coupe reared their ugly heads. The rush to get the car into production meant outsourced fiberglass bodies that didn’t fit together. Eventually Studebaker did the job themselves, but spent plenty of time doing their best with body production they weren’t exactly familiar with.
By the time the Avanti was truly ready for sale, it found itself in a interestingly crowded field of competitors for 1963. In addition to competing somewhat with the Thunderbird in price, two surprising rivals for attention leapfrogged from General Motors in the fall of 1962. The razor sharp Buick Riviera and the stunning Corvette Sting Ray were both within shooting distance price-wise of the potential savior from South Bend. It can also be argued that both held a higher quotient of prestige, if not all out snob appeal, compared to the sinewy new Studebaker.
It does beg the question of just where the Avanti did fit into the 1963 automotive market. It was initially conceived as a sports car, but due to limitations of the available chassis, it evolved into more of a Grand Tourer. The basic bones were essentially a Lark Daytona convertible frame that had roots in the same Old Testament frame that sat under every “standard” Studebaker since 1953. Tarting up basic bones is far from anything new in the automotive world; however there were inherent flaws and dated aspects in Studebaker’s chassis in 1953, never mind ten years down the road.
Studebaker did do a good job in making the old bones perform well enough though. The hardly “Spring Chicken” 289 V8 was still able to scoot a basic R1 Avanti to 60 in under 10 seconds, which was a pipe dream for the deceptively overweight Thunderbird. Choosing R2, or R3 grade Avantis brought you into parity and beyond what a Buick Riviera was capable of in the straight line. You could potentially scoot right up to what all but the most ferocious of Corvettes could do.
Where the Avanti was truly let down was the aging chassis. While it was beefed up from Lark Daytona duty, and it probably was among above-average cars in 1963, it couldn’t match the polished refinement of rivals in its price class, especially for those leaning more to the luxury side of the equation of personal coupes. There was no hiding the fact that underneath it all, despite having three distinct-appearing car lines in showrooms, Studebaker was selling different branches of the same tree. No matter how long the list of features available larded on top off the variety of models (like the built in roll-bar and front disc brakes of the Avanti), it took a very unfocused eye to not notice all the new glitz, glamor and foliage hid some rotten roots.
The Avanti does bring up more why questions than why-nots. It seems at cross purpose that Studebaker kept selling the cheaper but somewhat similar in terms of market position Gran Turismo Hawk in production alongside it. That begs the question of whether the Avanti was more a personal luxury coupe or more an authentic attempt at a four-seat sports car. Content-wise, the lushly appointed interior and reality that the majority of the units sold were set up as capable boulevard cruisers sides with the Personal Luxury assessment. The blazing (optional) performance tips the needle into “four-seat Corvette” territory.
How the Avanti landed, however, was a curiosity that few indulged. A switch to square headlamp bezels dates our subject car as one of a depressing 809 of the 1964 models built before Studebaker shuttered their South Bend plant five days before Christmas 1963. Surprisingly, no one thought to fill the place in the automotive market that the Avanti once sat. Not as outsized as the Thunderbird, or Riviera, Oldsmobile did come close with the original concept of what would eventually become the Toronado. The American market was left void of a proper sized grand tourer, sort of.
1965 was the Avanti’s Easter Sunday, as the Altman brothers and Leo Newman resurrected it as the Avanti II. In the greatest form of irony, the Avanti found its Frankenstein monster pulse by using a Corvette-grade 327 small block V8 from Chevrolet. The Avanti found a second life as a bespoke grand tourer. In a lot of ways, the Avanti II developed into a softer four-seat Corvette that General Motors was too lazy or afraid to commit to. If you thought the Studebaker Starlight/Hawk was the Personal Coupe that wouldn’t die, variations of the Avanti II on the Studebaker Chassis lasted clear through 1987. Other variations and detours using the Avanti name came later, including a convertible and even a four door sedan.
The Avanti lived a raucous life befitting its conception. Misunderstood at the time of birth, the concept of fine motoring that it offered whispered appeal to select converts once it was resurrected. Though not for everyone, it does offer a heady mix of design distinction and performance wrapped up in a fascinating origin story. The Avanti was a purely American confection, yet also one of the most internationally-flavored items conceived on American soil. As we move further into the 21st Century, I hope we keep the faith that one of our existing brands can bring this particular brew back to the marketplace. We could use a little grand touring magic that looks this gorgeous during evening dinner hours.
More: PN’s take on the Avanti
I think Franklin Mint wisely chose to issue ’53 Starliner and Avanti as two of the very few studebaker models. It’s a beginning and end in personal luxury market for studebaker.
Yet again from Laurence: great words and unbelievably beautiful shots. Cover pic and selective focus GT Hawk are fully juicy. It’s a shame I never liked the Avanti…
Really well written and photographed , this *almost* makes me want to op buy one .
Here, here. A very nice piece, befitting the car. And that car is beautiful. Thank you.
From the aspect of the other side of the ocean, the THEN functioning North-American auto industry had been built cars with all of the available auto industry’s high end efforts and engineering capabilties and they’ve put them into mass production which generated a situation that an average american consumer could buy quite easily his/her always restylished dreamcar on an affordable price level. Which had not been and neither it is the situation till nowadays on the other continents. Less advanced and modest cars had been made in Europe for higher sales prices in lower series as those were marketed as like “hand-made” and/or “limited editions”, etc. where the simple existence of a 6 and 8 cylinder engines were the top of the line and available only for the european jet-set. As the more and more sophisticated cars were natural for the americans, for the europeans they were equal to spaceships and less equal to simple cars. Till the things in the global economy slowly changed and forced somehow the Detroit oriented auto industry to reshape, downsize, rethink the manufacturing policy, it became obvios that the artificially boosted consumer’s tastes didn’t match quite well the newly developed (downveloped) domestic and imported boxcars which in general lacked all those ingenuity, performance and luxury offered not so long ago by the domestic auto industry… That’s why if somebody owns and drives a simple american V6 or a V8 daily in any country of Europe…it could result head turning effects of the average crowd. From time to time I am attending car shows BUT Studebakers/Avantis, Packards, Nashes and other similar superstuffs aren’t simple to find… The majority of these brands had been and will be always staying in the category of unreachable and known only from illustrated almancs of dreamcars and die-cast toycars at least…
Theological nitpicking time: “immaculate conception” refers not to the circumstances of Jesus’s Incarnation (which was the term you were looking for), but rather the idea that Mary must have been concieved and born without original sin in order to have carried the sinless Christ child, an idea believed by Catholics but not many others. It’s a common misunderstanding.
Theological nitpicking time over. We now return you to our regularly scheduled CC.
Isn’t the Avanti a great looking car? I much prefer the round headlight models, however…the square headlight trim design is my only knock against it.
That pic of the GT Hawk is amazing!
Always liked the round headlight ’63’s over the square bezeled ’64’s and beyond. Also the factory rake was really appealing and it was lost in the Avanti II incarnation. They had nice sounding factory exhausts, I used to see and hear one every day while i waited at the school bus stop in the mid-sixties. It’s polarizing styling has always appealed to me and the grilleless front presaged the Taurus and Infiniti of the 80’s.
I have read that the Avanti II required the front end of the bodywork to be raised just a touch to clear the Chevy engine, thus the loss of the forward rake.
Beautifully done, Laurence. And one of my very favorite cars, too. After yesterday’s meat and potatoes Studebaker sedans, you have served up a delicious dessert.
Studebaker never did anything the way the other companies did. Almost every car they ever made after the war was somehow unique, without any real direct competition. It makes a guy wonder, was the small sales figures because they were Studebakers, or because the company fielded cars in niches that were too small and limited to get any volume. Probably some of both. Even things like door handles and switches were new and not pulled out of the parts bin.
I remember reading an old road test that called the Avanti a Lark in a gilded cage. The thing still used kingpins and leaf springs that dated back eons. And open the doors, and the flat floor was dead even with the door sill. The driver sat practically on the floor with legs straight out. No stepdown body even on this one. But in everything you could touch, they did a first rate job. The interiors of these are as nice as anything else made in 1963-64.
One note on the headlights. The square lights make it a 64. There were, however, a few round light cars made as 1964 models. My neighbor down the street had one when I was growing up. Whenever I see an Avanti, the first place I look is for that emblem on the C pillar – the mark of a genuine Stude.
And open the doors, and the flat floor was dead even with the door sill. The driver sat practically on the floor with legs straight out.
That was routine in body on frame cars in the early 60s. My dad’s 64 Galaxie was the same way in the front: flat floor, sitting nearly on the floor with legs straight out. Only the back seat had footwells. That was my mom’s big objection to cars when she was shopping in 64. She ended up with a unibody “step down” Rambler.
In the Avanti’s case, they added an X member to their willowy ladder frame, so they couldn’t have put footwells in if they wanted to.
Variations of the same car, that exact same quote could have been said about Chrysler in the late eighties early nineties. Kinda explains why they were owned by Mercedes and now Fiat.
A gorgeous car,Studebaker went down with all guns blazing.I’ve only ever seen one Avanti a dark red one owned by a professional restorer in Colne Lancashire.He also had a Packardbaker.
It looks like an exotic hand built European car,the back window is very Jensen Interceptor.Thanks for a great feature
“the back window is very Jensen Interceptor”
Funny how I was thinking the exact same thing, right before I read this!
and the rear is NSU RO80
“the back window is very Jensen Interceptor”
More than most realize.
Avanti, and the Interceptor/FF had the same problem with rear windows popping out at high speed. Took both companies some time to sort it out.
Can’t fool Mother Nature. Aerodynamics is a real thing.
Terrific write up. I don’t hold using a basic platform against a car, but it appears that Studebaker just didn’t have the money to update it as needed.
It wasn’t that they couldn’t. The Studebaker family and the board of directors decided to take the company in a different direction in the early 1960’s, using what profits there were to acquire subsidiaries like STP, Gravely tractor and several others, basically starving the auto operation to death.
So Sherwood Egbert’s original job was to wind the car manufacturing operation down. Instead, he tried to revive it as best he could with whatever he had, which was less and less as media reports started surfacing about the company’s ills and people shied away from cars they feared would become orphans. Egbert contracting cancer in 1962 and fighting that didn’t help matters. He would lose that battle in 1969 at the tender age of 49.
Like GM and its own Deadly Sins, it’s not so simple to trace Studebaker’s decline to any one thing. They were on solid footing right after the war but lost that to a few marketing mistakes like the Loewy coupe launch. They merged with Packard and dragged it down into oblivion. The South Bend factory was woefully outdated and its limitations resulted in Stude cars being narrower than their competition. Smart move might have been to move everything to Packard in Detroit, but with the auto operation constantly starved for cash, it might not have been possible.
I don’t know what other people think, but I always thought the Stude sedans of the 1950’s were butt-ugly, and clearly others at the time shared my opinion.
But the board of directors and the banks’ refusal to back the car guys ultimately saddled them with outdated product and did them in.
A 1963 Avanti was recently in the lobby of my local museum (the Peabody Essex in Salem, MA) as part of an exhibition of California Style 1930-65:
If I had to choose a Studebaker, I’d have a difficult time doing that. That being said, mine would be the 1955 Studebaker President, all the Hawks before 1962. I like the 1959-61 Studebaker Lark. I like the very last Studebaker, the 1966 Studebaker.
Laurence, Great article and photos of one of my favorite cars. I prefer the round headlamp bezels also–I understand they were a retro option for the ’64. Two of Studebaker’s problems were a weak dealership network and the “Studebaker Rust” at the cowl/front fenders. Of course, the fiberglass Avanti was spared the rust. The Southbend factory also suffered from overhead/transportation expenses. I have often wished the Avanti had been marketed as a resurrected Packard. There is an Avanti body panel kit for the fourth generation Firebird.
A great writeup and fantastic photographs as always! I never knew how quick the development on this car was; given that, it’s quite amazing that it even got to market. But it may have also helped that gorgeous design maintain some of its purity. And it’s a very good point that the hotter models, particularly the R3, could be looked at as a 4-seat Corvette. But would that only apply in a straight line? While the C2 ‘Vette may not have been blessed with perfect handling, one would think it could get around corners faster than the “vintage” underpinnings of the Avanti. Despite coming from the familiar pen of Loewy, I’ve always thought the looks were rather European, also–natural for Studebaker who never did the “normal” American car styling, with the possible exception of the forgettable ’56 and ’57 sedans.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one though. An older couple that went to the same church as my family when i was a child had one of the four-door Avanti II models; I always admired that car whenever I saw it in the parking lot. Some may consider it sacrilege, and it defintitely had odd proportions compared to the coupe, but it was from the era where the basic shape hadn’t been monkeyed with too much yet.
A C2 Corvette had it suspension origins in post-war full-size chevrolet sedans, so it was pretty comparable with the Avanti’s early 50’s suspension. The C3’s from 1963 on had an entirely new and modern suspension that was carried through until 1983.
I think you’re mixing up your “Cs”. The C2 was from 1963-1967, and had a whole new frame and independent rear suspension. The C3 came out in 1968, but had essentially the same frame and suspension as the C2.
What a terrific article! Wish i could snap photos like those!
The Avanti is an acquired taste. But boy does this make me want to acquire it. I just wish they’d done the 4-door before Studebaker called it quits. It was in the works, apparently from the get go.
The pics below are Avanti styling studies by Loewy, made in 62 on Lark chassis: black notchback and beige fastback, 2-door styling on the right of the cars, 4-door on the left side. The notchback looks particularly good. Coachwork was done by Pichon & Parat in France, where Loewy had his weird cars tailor-made in those days (Cadillac, Lancia, BMW… they all looked quite strange once he got through with them).
Darn thing won’t let me post two pics?!
Kills me how so many companies do their best work just as they die. And all their brilliant, and desperate, efforts fall down on lack of proper testing and development.
The Avanti had issues with getting the body built and obtaiing acceptable paint quality
The 55/56 Packards were felled by horrible build quality, an inadequate oil pump in the new V8, disintegrating clutches in the new Ultramatic, which couldn’t take the torque of the new V8, and electrical gremlins in the Torsion Level suspension.
The best looking Auburn ever was the last year Speedster.
The Cord 810 suffered extensive production delays, which frittered away the initial interest in the car. Problems with the new, and inadequately tested V8. Problems with the new, and inadequately tested transmission.
For those who make the meet-up in Auburn next month. there is a room on the north wing of the top floor of the ACD that has an extensive presentation on the development of the 810. The first mule they had running had a conventional off the shelf Auburn straight 8 and rear drive. If they had stuck with that concept, the car would have come to market sooner, at far lower development cost, and been more reliable.
The Avanti, 55 Packard, Auburn and Cord were all desperation fueled overreach.
+1 on all these cars.I’ve been a long time fan of the last “real” Packards.I became interested in them after seeing Lancashire comedienne Hylda Baker in one in the early 60s and hearing Dad tell me about working on the Merlin engines when he was in the RAF
An excellent write-up and pictures, as always, Laurence.
I’ve always like the Avanti. It looks different in a good way. Like many other commenters, I prefer the original round headlight bezels.
I can hardly believe it….CC effect! I saw this at 6:00 am today…go out for a morning walk and guess what…come across a beautiful black 63 Avanti sitting inside a small auto repair shop less than 2 km from home here in North Vancouver, BC!
A car I always wanted.
Almost bought one that was sitting on a used car lot in Burbank about 20 years ago.
But when I went to test drive it my 6′ 7″ frame would not fit behind the huge steering wheel. Major disappointment. It was in my price range and was well cared for as well.
Thanks for pointing out about your height. I am little taller than you are and have considered looking for a 1963 Avanti to buy. I had no idea it would be a tight fit for taller drivers.
In the mid-1970s, there was one of these in Moscow. It was parked near the Scherbakovsky Metro station under an old tarp, which rotted around it. The car was yellow and in fairly poor shape. I have never seen it driven, it just sat semi-abandoned under that torn, rotted tarp, probably for lack of parts. But to me it still looked like a space ship compared to the Volga and Moskvich cars around it. I often wondered how an Avanti ended up in Russia, and subsequently what happened to it.
Hmm, another Inner Richmond District classic. Looks to be the same spot as other ones?
Yeah, same owner as a number of cars I’ve featured. He lives in the maroon “Full Five” in the lead shot. He’s a reliable source of curbside classics, as he normally leaves 4-6 parked on Turk/Stanyan and rotates the variety of them. He does favor his Forward Looks, tho. I do wonder whatever happened to his ’58 Oldsmobile though…..
I guess the Isuzu Impulse would be the Avanti’s spiritual successor.
I was thinking the same thing when I saw this old comment. So I figured I’d second the opinion.
This looks like it is or could be parked in front of Scotty Ferguson’s apartment in “Vertigo”, although he was a DeSoto man, as I recall. Fits perfectly with that architecture behind it, which reminds me of a miniature, in town version of Van Damm’s lair in “North by Northwest”.
In other words, I’m getting a major Hitchcock vibe from the shots.
I have always been fascinated by these. Such a bold design from frumpy old Studebaker. I’d like to own one someday. I was shocked to learn that these still used king pins on front end!
Nice write up Laurence! Is it Studebaker week or something?
My oldest brother’s old boss hired on to Avanti Automotive Corp. when it came to Youngstown, Ohio in the late 1980’s, they finally got the four door into production there. I was able to sit in on a couple of the photo shoots for the magazine ads that were published at the time. Due to this set of circumstances, I’m a fan of the 80’s Avantis, but I think I would be happy with any version of the Avanti, up until the 1990’s. When the name and company stopped using the original formula of body on frame layout, and started adapting the styling to F-bodies and later Mustangs, I lost interest.
The Avanti was something of an American Bristol, Bitter or some other highly customize-able almost bespoke motoring machine. Nothing else was quite like it.
I do like these! First one I ever saw was the one driven by some popular kids in Karate Kid. Very cool in a semi European grand tourer sort of way…exactly as many have said here. This kind of ‘go for it’ innovation and risk taking is much like AMC.
Laurence, your images are delightful.
Great article and photos – though I was still in elementary school at the time, I can remember clearly the two cars that absolutely “jaw dropped” me when I first saw them – the 63 Avanti and 66 Toronado…….
You really bring up a good point that I never considered with so many US manufacturers missing out on the GT. With the handful of Europeans and Brits who cobble them together using US-sourced running gear, one might expect the situation to be different, but when an entire industry seemingly forgets an entire category of car, this is the result. Too bad, though; this has got to be one of the most tasteful American cars of its era (both the era of its initial conception and its long, drawn-out life).
With uncanny timeliness, the Studebaker museum in South Bend posted this pic on their FB page today.
caption: Unsold Studebaker Avantis await customers while sitting in one of Studebaker’s storage lots during the winter of 1962-1963. This lot was on Lafayette Blvd. just west of Studebaker’s truck plant (four-story building in background), later known as the Transwestern Building.
I love the interior in these. A few years back I was at a local cruise in and was checking out a ’63. I think I was 24 or 25 at the time and the middle-aged owners were sitting behind it. The husband said “Do you want to know what it is?” I said “I know what it is.”
“Oh you do?”
“Yes, it’s a ’63 Studebaker Avanti. Is the 4-speed factory? R1, 2, 3 or 4?”
His jaw dropped.
So I head over to the Gilmore for the grand opening of their Cadillac gallery, with the Cadillac/LaSalle owner’s club members bringing their cars, and what do I see in the parking lot outside of the museum?
CC-in-scale can do this. Even in black 🙂
What a lovely and unique automobile!
I love all versions except for the 80s ones with the big fat bumpers. It was a mistake to try to adapt this body to any visible modern safety items.
I’ve enjoyed my visits to the plant/museum in South Bend. I broke a rule and operated a gullwing door on an old Merc. I was surprised it seemed to weigh almost nothing.The smaller museum behind it, I forget the name, was a lot of fun too. We got to sit in a Bricklin, a Checker cab, and Lark wagon. They were very cool people there, with an awesome variety of cars. I wonder if they’re still in business, as its been about 8 years since we went.
I miss Laurence, his words & photography. I hope he is happy and doing well in Portland(?).
It has been a few years since Laurence Jones
Set off in his Cadillac from the San Francisco area in his Cadillac for the Pacific Northwest. He has not made any entries in his blog since. I miss his warm-toned photography which cast an autumnal tone on his subject material, matching his nostalgic prose, which I miss just as much. Laurence, here’s hoping life has been treating you well.
Moved back to Oakland over a year ago. The palpable racism of the PNW (as seen in the news this year) sent me back to the safety of a POC plurality state. Now drive a ’65 Corvair Monza Sedan
Great writeup Lawrence! The Studebaker Avanti remains one of my favorite cars to this day, but I sometimes wonder if Studebaker would have done better to concentrate on modernizing the Hawk GT instead. Still, I love the Avanti’s styling, Raymond Lowey and his team really outdid themselves on the Avanti; it proves that a small dedicated group of individuals can outperform a committee anytime. I would love to the Avanti return as an electric vehicle!
Those ’62-’63 ads with Sherwood Egbert trying to sell me a Studebaker remind me of the Lee Iacocca Chrysler ads from two decades later. But Iacocca had become well known from his successful attempts to secure loan guarantees over the previous year, even amongst those who didn’t follow the auto industry. Did Egbert have that same sort of aura too? He was quite charismatic from what I’ve read, but did non-car buffs know who he was?
These really were quite lovely, especially on the inside. The outside looks good only from certain angles, but it must have looked incredibly striking in 1962. Those soft, flowing coke-bottle fenders would be all over GM’s cars within the next few years (Loewy not only designed Coke-bottle fenders but also actual Coke bottles). The clip below certainly makes the Avanti look elegant and alluring. But in real life those people would have found the Avanti too small, cramped, and noisy, and they wouldn’t really care that it set speed records at Bonneville. Studebaker really should have developed the Sceptre instead if they wanted to chase this crowd; something bigger would have had a chance against the Riviera, T-Bird, and Grand Prix and be easier to justify this sort of money. Instead it was more like an expensive Mustang, though a year and a half early.
When I discovered the existance of the Sceptre concept, I agree that it would have been a wiser course for Studebaker. Instead, they tried a desperate Hail Mary pass with the Avanti. A real shame since the last redesign of the 1964 Lark was a very attractive car. But only someone from the fast dwindling number of Studebaker loyalists was going to take a chance on buying a soon-to-be orphan car at that point.
Why all the negative words about the Avanti’s dated chassis? Like a potential buyer would have cared back in 1963? The Avanti performed well, set some speed records and its distinctive styling still looks good decades later.
I consider it as a personal luxury/grand tourer.
I probably exist because my father had an Avanti, and my mother was intrigued by the car. The Avanti II and the Bristol are kinda “brothers from another mother”, especially after Bristol was sold to Tony Crook and George White in 1960, and entered its strange life of nearly-suspended animation. I imagine the Avanti II could have maintained itself quite a bit longer than 1987 if Nate Altman hadn’t died, or Stephen Blake hadn’t had had luck with what turned out to be a fiberglass-incompatible paint formulation. After that, the Avanti was lost to the wild dreams of John Cafaro and Michael Kelly, strangely similar to the sad last years of Bristol with the wild dreams of the Fighter and the sad scams of Kamkorp.
One of the most amazing things about the Avanti’s styling is it accomplishes something I didn’t think possible: a good-looking, triangular-shaped C-pillar. It was one of the worst features of late fifties’ Mercuries and Lincolns. But, somehow, Loewy managed to pull it off on the Avanti.
About 1966 saw an ad for the Avanti in a Motor magazine Earls Court motor show, then a capsule write up. My jaw dropped. What was this? Why had I never encountered it before when it looks so fantastic…how could it fail?
And so began a search to find out.
Sadly, never had a house that could garage an Avanti even when I was in the position to buy one. But remains my favourite design of all time. God knows why. And that includes the Muir’s.
This was one of the most well-written features I have ever read on this site. Thank you and well done!
The presentation above really makes the car look great and I’m sure it was. I prefer the square headlights as it makes the car look mid to late 60s while the round lights look late 50s early 60s. I think maybe they should have gone with cheaper appointments and gone for the market the Mustang was so successful in. hindsight is 20/20 of course. Studebaker made some futuristic cars at the end, Not futuristic like space age but cars that look like cars from 10 years ahead like the Brooks Stevens Lark Cruisers which look like late 70s cars such as Diplomats and the downsized GM cars of 1977