Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Built at the direction of Studebakers then president Sherwood Egbert, the Avanti Coupe was manufactured between June 1962 and December 1963. After the demise of Studebaker, the Avanti would go on to gain iconic status with enthusiasts, and underwnet ongoing custom production by a succession of entrepreneurs.
Designed by Raymond Loewy's team of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews and John Ebstein on a 40-day crash program, the Avanti (the Italian word for "forward") featured a radical fiberglass body design mounted on a modified Studebaker Lark Daytona 109-inch convertible chassis with a modified Studebaker 289 OHV V-8 engine.
Optional versions of this engine were the R-1, which featured a 3/4 race high-lift cam, dual-breaker distributor, four-barrel carb, and dual exhausts and was rated at 240 HP, the supercharged R2 rated at 289 HP, and 9 Avantis were equipped with a 299 cid rated at 400 HP. R4 and R5 versions were experimented with but not produced (these used Paxton superchargers, one for each cylinder bank, magneto ignition, and Bendix fuel injection, which gave an incredible 575 horsepower).
The design featured (for the time) sharp-edged front fenders swept back into the curved rear, then into a jacked-up tail. Loewy threw out the conventional grille, putting an air scoop under a thin front bumper, and an asymmetrical hump in the hood. Inside the emphasis was on safety, with plenty of padding around the dash (as can be clearly seen in the slideshow left) combined with four slim-section vinyl bucket seats and an aircraft-style control panel. The whole package was accepted for production with hardly any changes from Loewy's small-scale model.
For reasons of cost and time, Studebaker decided to build the Avanti's body out of fiberglass. It would need a stout platform, so chief engineer Gene Hardig took a beefy Lark convertible frame, shortened and modified it, and fitted anti-sway bars and rear radius rods. The Bendix disc brakes
used on the Avanti (as well as some Larks and Hawks) were the first caliper discs in domestic production.
Only 4,643 Avantis (not including prototypes, some of which were assigned serial numbers at the end of the run) were produced. After the closure of Studebaker's factory on 20 December 1963, the Avanti model name, tooling and plant space were sold to two South Bend Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman, who hand-built small numbers of cars.
They introduced a slightly modified version of the car in 1965 under the brand name "Avanti II" which initially had a 327 ci. (5.4 L) Chevrolet Corvette engine. This evolved to the 350, the 400 and, finally the 305. All Avanti II's were built on leftover Studebaker chassis until 1987. The 1987 - 1989 models were based on GM's "GM G platform (RWD)" that underpinned the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
On October 1, 1982, real estate developer Stephen H. Blake bought the rights to the Avanti II. Blake's company declared bankruptcy in 1986, and the company was purchased by Michael Kelly, who relocated production to Youngstown, Ohio. The company claimed that a second-generation automobile
was styled by Tom Kellog (Kellogg), one of the original Avanti design team, in the late 1990s. This car was based on GM's Camaro/Firebird platform.
Tom Kellogg was tragically killed in a car accident in California on 14 August 2003. In October 2005 an internet report was published that "Avanti Motors" had announced a new relationship with Ford Motor Company and was planning a big comeback. These new Avantis, very similar in appearance to the Firebird-based cars designed by Kellogg, were to be based on the new-generation Ford Mustang and were available as both coupe's and convertibles.