I’ve always thought the Studebaker brand was solid, yet luxurious, able to transform the nouveau riche into something akin to respectability with a single click of its doors. It isn’t something made for a punchline, but something that makes a bold statement about itself and its owner. Even now I would jump at the chance to drive one, gas mileage and expensive repairs aside. There’s something about that old majestic look that I would love to experience by driving down winding country roads on sunny Sunday afternoons.
The Avanti, though short-lived, is perhaps one of the most notable of the Studebakers, mostly for its high performance in both safety and speed, its record breaking times made at the Bonneville Salt Flats (29 records, to be precise), as well as its entrance into the post-war market, which was marked as a high point for both the company and the industry at large.
Studebaker’s introduction of the Avanti in 1962 was used as part of its marketing campaign to create “America’s Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car”. Styled as a 2-door coupe, the Avanti, closely related to the Studebaker Lark and preceded by the Studebaker Hawk , came with a wheelbase of 109 inches, with a curb weight of over 3,000 pounds. The engine used was a V8, but each buyer could choose between a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission, or a 3-speed automatic transmission.
In order to counteract the difficulty of building and the resulting incredible weight of a steel body, Studebaker tapped Molded Fiberglass Body in Ohio to create the bodies that would then be sent to the assembly plant in Indiana. Funnily enough, that same company also produced fiberglass parts for Chevrolet, specifically for their Corvette line. It seems the Avanti was in good company.
When the Avanti arrived in the early 1960’s, it was introduced in meetings, shows, and racetrack events. The winner of the 1962 Indy 500, one Rodger Ward, even took one home as part of his prize winnings, therefore becoming the first official private owner of Studebaker’s new vehicle.
Unfortunately, the Avanti underwent a barrage of issues regarding the companies providing materials for its build. After struggling to keep up production, the Avanti was discontinued a year after its release, though there has been talk that it was to be re-released during the mid-1960’s.
Despite its disappearance from sales lots, the Studebaker Avanti has not in fact vanished from sight completely. After the Studebaker company went under, a few car dealers purchased the Avanti name along with the remaining assembly plants and equipment and continued making small batches of Avantis over the years, at least until 2006.
If you are one of the people who continue to be interested in vintage vehicles, you may want to avail yourself of information regarding like minded people. Joining a group like the Avanti Owners Association International will not only introduce you to people who share the same hobby, it will also grow your appreciation of the vehicle still deeply loved by so many.