Oh what might have been. Studebaker had high hopes in 1962 when it introduced the Avanti. It was going to be Studebaker’s halo car. Studebaker billed the Avanti as “America’s Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car!”. But the woes of the Studebaker Corporation would not be kind to the Avanti.
1962 Studebaker Avanti
Introduced on April 26, 1962, the Studebaker Avanti was a personal luxury coupe built by the Studebaker and developed at the direction of the automaker’s president, Sherwood Egbert. It was be designed by Raymond Loewy and his design team consisting of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews and John Ebstein. The Avanti featured an unusual at the time fiberglass body design that was mounted onto a modified Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible 109 inch chassis with a modified 289 Studebaker Hawk engine. The car featured front disc-brakes, a first for an American production car. A Paxton supercharger was offered as an option. Studebaker had a 20,000 unit sales goal for 1962, but only 1,200 were built.
1963 Studebaker Avanti
The Avanti would carry over without significant changes. The big news for the Avanti was the planned production changes. Initially, Studebaker planned to build the car bodies at Molded Fiberglass Body Company in Ashtabula, Ohio, the same company that built the fiberglass panels for the Chevrolet Corvette in 1953. But in December 1962, Studebaker launched it’s own fiberglass body works to increase the production volume of the Avanti. However, production problems concerning the supplier, fit, and finish resulted in delays and cancelled orders.
At the same time, the financial problems of Studebaker lead to an early death for the Avanti. By December 1963, Studebaker closed their South Bend Indiana plant and announced the end of Avanti production. When production ceased, dealers had about 2,500 Avantis on hand with only about 1,600 having been sold since its introduction.
The Avanti name, tooling and plant space were sold to two South Bend, Indiana, Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman. The two gentleman formed the Avanti Motor Company and produced hand-built Avanti IIs from 1965 to 1982. 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, albeit the Altman-Newman Avanti IIs, but the deal never materialized. After Leo Newman’s death in 1982, the Avanti Motor Company would be sold and passed through a number of owners until the final Avanti was built in 2006.
The original Studebaker Avanti has been described as “one of the more significant milestones of the postwar industry”. It’s design would prove timeless and enjoy a 44-year run with minimal changes. For more about Studebaker, see our post on the Studebaker Museum.
To find your own Classic Car or to sell your Classic Car, see the listings in Classics for Sale.