1963 Studebaker Avanti
1963: fewer than 4,600
|Assembly||South Bend, Indiana|
|Designer||Raymond Loewy and Associates|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Personal luxury car|
|Body style||2-door coupe|
|Engine||289 cu in (4.7 L) 240 hp (243 PS; 179 kW) V8 (1963)|
|Wheelbase||109 in (2,769 mm)|
|Length||192.4 in (4,887 mm)|
|Width||70.3 in (1,786 mm)|
|Height||53.8 in (1,367 mm)|
|Curb weight||3,095 lb (1,404 kg)|
The Studebaker Avanti is a personal luxury coupe manufactured and marketed by Studebaker Corporation between June 1962 and December 1963. A halo car for the maker, it was marketed as "America's only four-passenger high-performance personal car."
Described as "one of the more significant milestones of the postwar industry",:p257 the Raymond Loewy-designed car offered safety features and high-speed performance. The fastest production car in the world upon its introduction, a completely stock Avanti could reach over 178 mph (286 km/h) with its supercharged 289-cubic-inch (4,740 cm3) engine. In all, it broke 29 world speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Subsequent to Studebaker's discontinuation of the model, a series of five owner arrangements continued to manufacture and marketing of the Avanti model through 2006.
The Avanti was developed at the direction of Studebaker president, Sherwood Egbert, who took over in February 1961. The car's design theme was "allegedly doodled by Egbert on the proverbial back of an envelope during an airplane flight." Egbert's 'doodle' was to answer Ford's Thunderbird and an attempt to improve the automaker's sagging performance. Designed by Raymond Loewy's team of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews, and John Ebstein on a 40-day crash program, the Avanti featured a radical fiberglass body mounted on a modified Studebaker Lark 109-inch convertible chassis and powered by a modified 289 Hawk engine. A Paxton supercharger was offered as an option.
In eight days the stylists finished a "clay scale model with two different sides: one a two-place sports car, the other a four-seat GT coupe." Tom Kellogg, a young California stylist hired for this project by Loewy, "felt it should be a four-seat coupe." "Loewy envisioned a low-slung, long-hood-short-deck semi-fastback coupe with a grilleless nose and a wasp-waisted curvature to the rear fenders, suggesting a supersonic aircraft."
The Avanti's complex body shape "would have been both challenging and prohibitively expensive to build in steel" with Studebaker electing to mold the exterior panels in glass-reinforced plastic (fiberglass), outsourcing the work to Molded Fiberglass Body in Ashtabula, Ohio -- the same company that built the fiberglass panels for the Chevrolet Corvette in 1953.
The Avanti featured front disc-brakes that were British Dunlop designed units, made under license by Bendix, "the first American production model to offer them." It was one of the first bottom breather designs where air enters from under the front of the vehicle rather than via a conventional grille, a design feature much more common after the 1980s.
The Avanti was publicly introduced on April 26, 1962, "simultaneously at the New York International Automobile Show and at the Annual Shareholders' Meeting."Rodger Ward, winner of the 1962 Indianapolis 500, received a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize package, "thus becoming the first private owner of an Avanti." A Studebaker Lark convertible was the Indianapolis pace car that year and the Avanti was named the honorary pace car.
In December 1962 the Los Angeles Times reported: "Launching of operations at Studebaker's own fiber-glass body works to increase the production of Avantis." Many production problems concerning the supplier, fit, and finish resulted in delays and cancelled orders.
Egbert planned to sell 20,000 Avantis in 1962, but could build only 1,200.:p257
After the closure of Studebaker's factory on December 20, 1963, Competition Press reported: "Avantis will no longer be manufactured and contrary to the report that there are thousands gathering dust in South Bend warehouses, Studebaker has only five Avantis left. Dealers have about 2,500, and 1600 have been sold since its introduction." This contrasted with Chevrolet which produced 23,631 Corvette sports cars in 1963. According to the book My Father The Car written about Stu Chapman, Studebaker Corporation's Advertising & Public Relations Department head in Canada, Studebaker seriously considered re-introducing the Avanti into Studebaker showrooms in 1965/66 after production resumed in 1965 via Studebaker-Packard dealership owners Newman & Altman.
Following Altman and Newman's effort, a succession of additional entrepreneurs purchased the tooling and name to manufacture small numbers of increasingly modified variants of the car, including the Avanti II, through 2006.
The Avanti Owners Association International is an active association with nearly 2,000 members worldwide and meeting yearly in various cities in the United States and in Switzerland. Members to the not-for-profit organization receive the full color quarterly "Avanti Magazine" publication, published since the organization's founding in 1965.
The exiting 1963 Avanti was one of the most beautiful sports coupes ever produced.