The Studebaker Avanti is a personal luxury coupe manufactured and marketed by Studebaker Corporation between June 1962 and December 1963. The automaker marketed the Avanti as “America’s Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car.”
Described as “one of the more significant milestones of the postwar industry” the car offered combined safety and high-speed performance. The Studebaker Avanti broke 29 records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Subsequent to Studebaker’s discontinuation of the model, a series of five owner arrangements continued manufacture and marketing of the Avanti model. Waterproof Car Cover
The Avanti was developed at the direction of Studebaker president, Sherwood Egbert. “The car’s design theme is the result of sketches Egbert “doodled” on a jet-plane flight west from Chicago 37 days after becoming president of Studebaker in February 1961. The design was the result of a four man team on a 40-day crash program and the Avanti featured a radical fiberglass body mounted on a modified Studebaker Lark Daytona 109-inch convertible chassis and powered by a modified 289 Hawk engine.
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, “felt it should be a four-seat coupe.” Raymond Loewy (design team leader) 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 so Studebaker elected to mold the exterior panels in glass-reinforced plastic (fiberglass), outsourcing the work to Molded Fiberglass Body (MPG) in Ashtabula, Ohio — the same company that built the fiberglass panels for the Chevrolet Corvette in 1953.
The Studebaker 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. A Paxton supercharger was offered as an option.
The Studebaker 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. Avanti model
In December 1962 the Los Angeles Times reported: “Launching of operations at Studebaker’s own fiber-glass body works to increase 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.
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.
The Avanti name, tooling and plant space were sold to two South Bend, Indiana, Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman, the first of a succession of entrepreneurs to manufacture small numbers of Avanti replica and new design cars through 2006.
The Avanti Owners Association International (AOAI) is an active association with nearly 2,000 members worldwide and meeting yearly in various cities around 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.