Studebaker was quite a nice brand. It was just a bit too small to make it in the big bad world. But the Studebaker Avanti is an icon. The car was not a salesman. According to our information, there are fewer than 5000 made. But the sold copies apparently often ended up with good owners. Because they are still offered regularly and in good condition. And the international Avanti club has more than 2000 members.
Sketched quickly, made short
Sherwood H. Egbert (1920–1969) had taken over at Studebaker in 1961 to diversify the company or at least get it out of the red. Before landing at Studebaker, he had done little or nothing in the car corner. That can be refreshing. Not as refreshing as the lady who was going to do the marketing of a renowned motorcycle brand for an importer from the lingerie marketing, but still: refreshing. And a month later, Egbert outlined the basic idea of what would become the Avanti during a plane trip to Chicago.
- Also interesting: Studebaker, too small to win
Under the skin the car would be based on the Studebaker Lark. But the 'looks' became unique. Of course sketches made in an airplane are a good basis. But the famous designer Raymond Loewy (1893 - 1986) was hired for its elaboration. It was already famous at the time, and has since become a legend. He designed everything from razor blades to railway stations.
He was responsible for designs that are set in history, including the Lucky Strike pack of cigarettes, the Coca-Cola bottle and logo creation for Shell and Exxon.
No months of meetings
Within 8 days (!) The stylists made a clay model with 'two faces'. One side was a double sports car. The other a four-seater GT coupé. The designer hired by Loewy and the master agreed: it should be the GT. And Loewy went for a long, smooth nose, a short 'aft deck' and a look like that of a successful cross between a wasp and a supersonic plane.
The design had a wonderful tension between perverse Italian and rude American. And with the cooling air inlets under the bumper, the Avanti was way ahead of its time.
Too good for steel
The nice lines of the Avanti were far too complicated to be financially justified from sheet steel. But there was already quite some experience with fiberglass-reinforced polyester at that time. So the men from Studebaker went to visit Molded Fiberglass Body in Ashtabula. Because they had experience with 'polyester' there since 1953. After all, they were the ones who had been at the cradle of the Chevrolet Corvette. In practice, the case was somewhat disappointing. There were quality and fit problems that hampered production.
With the chassis of the Lark, the Studebaker Avanti was a fairly conventional American
But the Dunlop disc brakes licensed by Bendix gave the case an exotic twist. In terms of drive, the Studebaker Avanti naturally had a V8. Optionally there was a Paxton compressor for the artificial ventilation of that block.
After the closure of the Studebaker factory on December 20, 1963, Competition Press reported:
“Studebaker Avantis will no longer be manufactured and contrary to rumors of thousands of Avantis collecting dust in South Bend warehouses, Studebaker has only five Avantis left. Dealers have about 2500 and 1600 have been sold since its introduction. ”
The second (etc) life
The Avanti name, manufacturing tools and factory space were sold to two Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman. The first of a line of entrepreneurs who produced a small number of Studebaker Avanti replicas until 2006.
According to the book My Father The Car, written about Stu Chapman, the head of Advertising & Public Relations at Studebaker Corporation in Canada, Studebaker seriously considered reintroducing Avanti to Studebaker showrooms in 1965/66. After production resumed in 1965 through Studebaker-Packard dealers Newman & Altman. We found the car in the photos at Catawiki