Everyone has a car from their childhood that holds a special place in their heart. One of those cars for me is the Studebaker Avanti.
My family didn’t own an Avanti, and I’ve never even ridden in one. But as a kid, my mom put up car wallpaper in my room. It had an assortment of vehicles, but the one I really remember was the Avanti.
The Avanti was Studebaker’s attempt to create a sports coupe that would redefine the carmaker. Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert wanted something revolutionary so he asked Raymond Loewy (famed industrial designer responsible for creating the coke bottle, the Greyhound bus and even the look for Air Force One) to create something new. Loewy’s team delivered. The 1963 Avanti had a bold new look.
To start with, there was no grill. The flat front end was offset by headlights (originally round, but later square) and fender lines that sharply swoop forward. The body was made of fiberglass, more because it was quick to reach production than weight savings. In fact, problems with the production of the fiberglass body delayed delivery of the car and may have been the beginning of its demise. The chassis was slightly standard Studebaker. They shorted a Lark frame and made it a little beefier to handle the 289 cubic inch engine. It had front disc brakes and an optional Paxton supercharger.
While it arrived with a splash, the ripples in the water died away quickly. Ultimately only about 5500 were made during the 63 and 64 model years. Studebaker only lasted a short time longer. In 1966 the car company closed for good.
Ironically, the Avanti lasted much longer. A series of owners purchased the name and produced the Avanti II for years. At one point there was even a four door touring sedan. The last one rolled off the production line (which ultimately moved to Mexico) in 2006. There were plenty of changes along the way using different engines and chassis, but the Loewy styling didn’t change much.
Little did I know that the Avanti that covered my bedroom walls would inspire owners for years to come.
Check out a video of the Avanti introduction here.