The Avanti was introduced by Studebaker in late 1962 after an ultra-quick design program. Despite this, the Avanti has lived on as one of the most enduring and inspirational designs ever. Available in four versions, R1-R4 (R2 and R3 were supercharged). Engineer Eugene Hardig was put in charge of making the antiquated engine, drivetrain and chassis into performance products, and master stylist Raymond Loewy was put in charge of design, while company president Sherwood H. Egbert directed the whole effort. The Avanti caused a sensation among the crowd at the 1962 New York Auto Show, and the orders for the new Avanti soon outnumbered the orders for the also-new Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. Problems with getting the fiberglass bodies to fit, however, delayed production and many would-be Avanti owners bought a Corvette instead. The car was amazing on the track and it caught the attention of Paxton Products president Andy Granatelli. Granatelli added more high-performance gear to the existing supercharged R2 to make the 330 bhp supercharged R3 and the 280 bhp R4 with a 4-barrel carb. The Avanti was an amazing performer and the R3 broke 72 official stock car records at the Bonneville Salt flats. An experimental R5 'Due Cento' Avanti equipped with fuel injection and dual superchargers developed an incredible 575 hp (thats more than a Dodge Viper!) and went a top speed of 196 mph! The R5 was never produced. When the hi-po R3 and R4 Avantis officially debuted mid-year 1964, Studebakers fate as an auto manufacturer was already sealed. When Byers Burlingame took over as president from the ailing Sherwood Egbert, he soon announced that the main South Bend production facility would be closed and the stunning Hawk and Avanti models would cease being produced. Only nine R3 Avantis and no R4s left the factory. After two short years of Studebaker production, the Avanti continued to be produced in small numbers by private organizations who refused to let a great car die. The Avanti was produced almost uninterrupted until 1991. Recently, plans for another new Avanti have taken shape and Avantis are beginning to roll off the line again, for many inthusiasts around the world.
The Avanti captured twenty-nine new stock car records under the direction of Andy Granatelli at Bonneville. The high performance R2 models featured a supercharged V8 engine producing 290 horsepower. Top speed for these fiberglass-bodied coupes was 135 miles per hour. The cars weighed 3,148 pounds and had a wheelbase of 109 inches. Total Avanti production for 1963 was 3,834. The original price of this car was $5,291. By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2010
As Studebaker sales slipped, the company introduced a brand new car for 1963 - the Avanti. It was the company's first completely new design in 10 years. The design came from the Raymond Loewy Studios.
Power was supplied by a 289 cubic-inch, overhead valve V-8 that offered 240 horsepower thanks to the optional four barrel Carter carburetor and McCulloch supercharger.
This Studebaker Avanti was sold new in Knoxville, Tennessee and found a second owner in that same city. The current owner is only the car's third. It remains in original, unrestored condition.
This is the second production Studebaker Avanti and is the first R2, supercharged, four-speed car with the deluxe interior. Early production Avantis have subtle differences from later models due to production improvements as well as lessons learned and rear world use. Supposedly these cars were largely hand built as this was Studebaker's first all fiberglass car and there were disagreements between MFG (molded fiberglass) of Ohio and Studebaker in Indiana. When found, by the current owner, the car was almost totally destroyed. It suffered the further indignity of being lost for a number of years when the person who was storing the car skipped town without leaving a forwarding address. It has been restored to its former glory by Gary Johnson of Avanti Northwest and is now in its second and hopefully happier life.
Studebaker may be best known for the 1963 introduction of the Avanti, but there was much more that came out of its South Bend, IN facilities. Today we present an example of a car that very few know exists.
Studebaker certainly produced plenty of cars that were not necessarily exciting. What many don't know is that they produced an incredible amount of factory supercharged vehicles, including four doors and station wagons, and even several pickup trucks.
This 1963 Lark convertible is one of only 31 produced with the R2 supercharged engine package. Since most performance enthusiasts would opt for the lighter 2-door sedans, it is indeed a rarity. The long list of factory options includes disc brakes, original Halibrand wheels, an AM-FM radio, heavy-duty package with additional cooling, traction bars, heavy-duty adjustable Gabriel shocks, a tachometer and 160 mph speedometer along with the rare bucket seats and a center console.
When the current owner first saw this car in a friend's garage in the mid-1970s in Pomona, CA, he tried to buy it. It would end up disassembled and in disarray for many years before he would be able to convince the owner to part with it. After over 20 years of sitting, it was decided that he would never get around to restoring it, and he agreed to sell it. An extensive, recently completed restoration using numerous new-old-stock parts would take eight years.
The Avanti was introduced by Studebaker as the company's entry in the sports car market. The fiberglass-bodied car was designed by Raymond Loewy Studios for Studebaker. It was the company's first completely redesigned car in 10 years and built on a modified Lark-Daytona chassis.
The Avanti had two engine options. The R1 base engine was an overhead valve 289 V-8 that developed 240 horsepower. An optional supercharged version - the R2 - boasted 289 horsepower, one horsepower per cubic inch.
The $4,445 list price put the Avanti in the upper tier of the American automobile market in 1963. Nevertheless, 3,834 were sold.
This 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 has its original 289 cubic-inch supercharged engine and is 1 of 1,552 examples produced. It has a 4-speed T-10 transmission (1 of 643 with this option), is finished in Avanti Turquois (1 of 283 R2), and an original Avanti Turquois interior (1 of 277 R2). It was the world's fastest production automobile in 1963 with a 168.15 mph flying mile. It was the first American production car with front wheel caliper brakes. It has a built-in roll bar, front and rear stabilizer bars, and safety cone door latches. When new, it had a base price of $4,843.30.
The 1963 Studebaker Aavanti personal luxury coupe was newly-appointed president Sherwood Egbert's last-ditch effort at pumping excitement into his fast-fading brand. Its handsome design began with an Egbert sketch doodled on a plane, and was brought to life in a 40-day crash program by Raymond Loewy's team of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews, and John Ebstein. Powered by a 289 cubic-inch V8 (with optional Paxton supercharging), its fiberglass body rolled on a modified Lark convertible chassis. The first American production car with front disc brakes, it set 29 speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1963.
Just 3,834 1963 Avantis were built and some 1,600 sold when Studebaker closed its factory on December 20, 1963. The name, tooling and plant were sold to South Bend, Indiana Studebaker dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman, the first of several who would build small numbers of Avanti replicas and new-design cars off and on through 2006.
This highly-optioned Avanti-Gold example was found - through a local newspaper classified ad - disassembled in 'basket-case' condition, but with all its original (November, 1962) paperwork, in the service bay of a former Studebaker dealership. A rare 4-speed manual, supercharged R-2 model with a 4:09 Twin-Traction differential, it was meticulously restored by Westmoreland Antique Car Restoration with some help from the second (and current) owner.
This 1963 Avanti is the first Studebaker-powered automobile to exceed 200 miles per hour. Ron Hall began his quest to break the 200 m.p.h. barrier in 1988. Five years later, his efforts paid off when he reached a record speed of 200.426 miles per hour at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1993. The car has a 304 cubic-inch V8 engine offering 585 horsepower. The cooler in the car is part of the intercooler for the engine's supercharged induction system.
Studebaker came into existence in the very early 1800's where they specialized in making wagons for the Union Army during the Civil War. The company later switched over to producing automobiles and by the 1920's had built a reputation for making a fairly good car at a reasonable price. As the 1920's came to a close, the Great Depression coupled with stiff competition made business difficult for the struggling Studebaker Company. An acquisition in 1928 of the Pierce-Arrow Company nearly sent them to bankruptcy. Though the Pierce-Arrow vehicles were some of the best in the industry, they had not done enough to stay competitive. They were supports of the six-cylinder engine while the rest of the competition had outfitted their vehicles with larger eight- and twelve-cylinder vehicles. By the time Pierce-Arrow began using the larger engines, their competition again changed their marketing plans and moved 'down-market', producing lines of inexpensive cars in order to stimulate sales.
During the late 1930s the Studebaker was again able to turn a profit and their business began to prosper. After World War II they were the first American company to introduced new and dramatic designs while their competition continued to create outdated vehicles. By the close of the 1950s, the Studebaker Company was once again faced with staggering sales. In an attempt to redirect their misfortune, Raymond Loewy, a renowned industrial designer, was hired to create a performance car. With the help of three other designers, Loewy began creating a new vehicle that would surly resurrect the troubled company. Locked in a private cottage for two weeks, the team was able to create a clay model accompanied by detailed drawings which they presented to Studebaker.
Studebaker quickly began creating the car but since money was scarce, the company performed many cost-cutting measures such as modifying a Studebaker Lark convertible chassis and using that as the basis for the vehicle. By 1962 the car was ready and dubbed the Avanti, Italian for 'forward'. It was an instant love-or-hate design. Since this was to be a performance car, Studebaker employed the services of Andy and Joe Grantelli to modify the engine. In forty-days the task was completed and the result was a power-plant that could propel the Avanti to a top speed of 171.10 miles per hour, which it achieved on a clocked-run at the Nevada desert. Further fine tuning of the engine, chassis, and body gave the engine the name 'R3'.
Though it had captured the title of 'fastest production car in America' it failed to generate sales. The styling of the vehicle was too much for buyers to bare. In total, only nine examples of the Avant R3 were ever ordered. The company was forced to close its doors on December 9th, 1963 and production ceased. Production of the Studebaker Lark continued for two more years in Canada. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2012
The Studebaker marquis had been in the business for over 100 years before the Avanti was debuted. In the mid-1950s the company lacked the economy of scale of the bigger U.S. automakers like General Motors and couldn't compete with their prices. They managed to tread water by producing compact economy Lark models that sold remarkably well for the times until 1961 when their volume fell by more than half.
Being described as one of the most impactful milestones from the postwar industry, the dapper Avanti was among the most enterprising 1960s American cars. Influenced by popular Italian sports cars of the time, including Jaguar's new E-Type, it featured incredibly innovative American styling.
Just thirty-seven days after becoming president of Studebaker in early 1961, young Sherwood Egbert was doodling a design during a jet plane ride that would inspire the Avanti. Milwaukee-based designer Brooks Stevens did the best he could do with dated Studebaker cars and engine but Egbert desired a truly spectacular new car to grab the public and aid the ailing automaker.
Stevens was busy updated higher-volume cars so Egbert enlisted the creative Raymond Loewy, a well-known industrial designer with a substantial auto design background. Loewy was in fact responsible for one of the most eye-catching American car of the 1950's; the 1953 Studebaker coupe. With just a rough idea of what Egbert was wanting the car would be designed by Loewy's hand-picked team of Tom Kellogg, Job Ebstein and veteran Bob Andrews. Andrews and Ebstein had been longtime Loewy designers and Kellogg was a recent graduate from the Art Center College of Design in southern California. His gifted team was moved to a rented desert bungalow near Palm Springs, California to fully immerse themselves without any distractions from Studebaker executives. For weeks the talented team worked 16-hour days on the design of the car. The design theme was clearly described to his team with phrases like 'wedgy silhouette' and 'Coke-shape' from Loewy. He knew that Egbert loved flying so he designed an aircraft-style cockpit, and even personally designed the wheel openings, which mimicked the flight trajectory of the Russian Sputnik space satellite.
On March 19, 1961 a clay scale model was give to Egbert by the Loewy group. The Studebaker president fell in love with it instantly. Following board approval the construction began just five short weeks after the team had began work on it. Never before had any big American automaker ever progressed so quickly.
The end result would be an impressive fiberglass body design mounted onto a revamped Studebaker Lark Daytona 109-inch convertible chassis with an updated 289 Hawk engine. Construction was set to happen at Molded Fibreglass Body Co., at Ashtabula, Ohio, which was the same company that built fiberglass panels for the Chevy Corvette back in 1953.
Featuring a coke-bottle 'waist', the Avanti was truly something to behold. It had razor-edged front fenders that flowed back to the curved rear end and landed in a dynamic tail. The roof was thin-sectioned and an extra-large window was found in the rear along with a built-in roll bar. An air scoop was at the front underneath a thin bumper and the hood had an asymmetrical hump. Passengers sat in four slim-section bucket seats, much like ones found in an Alfa Romeo sports car. On the inside it really did resemble an airplane cockpit with aircraft-style controls and instruments some even place above the windshield.
Since the design had been rushed there wasn't time or resources for wind-tunnel testing, but the Avanti proved itself to be amazingly aerodynamic. The Loewy team guessed at the car's slick shape, but it paid off when the car could hit nearly 200 mph. The body was constructed of fiberglass, once again because time and money were tight and left no roof for steel body dies. With a shortened muscular Lark convertible frame and sport suspension with front and back anti-sway bars the car was incredibly strong and also had bear radius rods to give exceptional handling.
Under the Avanti hood was an updated version of Studebakers aged but durable 289-cubic inch V8. Developing 240 horsepower in standard 'R1' form, this 'Jet Thrust' engine featured dual exhausts, four-barrel carburetor, a 3/4 –race high-lift camshaft and dual-breaker distributor. It supercharged 'R2' form it developed impressive 290 horsepower. Several supercharged 'R3' V8s engines were produced that developed 335 horsepower. An experimental 'R4' was a non-supercharged 280 hp V8 with dual four-barrel carburetors. Even more impressive was a twin-supercharged, fuel-injected 'R5' V8 engine with magneto ignition that produced 575 horsepower.
The personal luxury coupe Avanti was introduced at the New York International Automobile Show in April 26 of 1962. Advertised by Studebaker as 'America's Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car!' it continued in production until December of 1963. The public was enthusiastic over the arrival of the upscale Avanti, much to Studebaker's delight. Nicely equipped the 1963 and 1964 models had a base price of $4,445. Dubbed 'America's Most Advanced Automobile' the Avanti was available in red, gold, white, turquoise and black. Gray and maroon were later offered. The Avanti was the most expensive car in Studebaker's lineup with the Gran Turismo Hawk following close second priced at $3,095. The Avanti was designed to compete with the Buick Riviera, the Chevy Corvette Stingray and the Ford Thunderbird.
The winner of the 1962 Indianapolis 500, Roger Ward won a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize package at the Annual Shareholders' Meeting. Ward became the first private owner of an Avanti. That same year a Studebaker Lark convertible became the Indianapolis pace car and the Avant was dubbed the honorary pace car.
At a time when safety wasn't the highest priority to U.S. automakers, Studebaker added features that included door latches that became structural body members when shut, padded interior and a built-in roll bar. The Avanti became the first mass-produced fiberglass body four-passenger American car and the first to use caliper-style disc brakes. The Avanti featured front disc brakes that were British Dunlop designed units produced under license by Bendix. A Paxton supercharger was offered as an option.
One of the fastest cars during the 1960's, some Avanti models came with a supercharged V8 engine and had a top speed of 168 mph. A modified version could reach 196 mph, which was mind-blowing for a 1960s production street car.
The plan was to sell 20,000 models in 1962, but unfortunately only 1,200 models were built. Molded Fiberglass Co., which also constructed Corvette fiberglass body parts messed up Avanti bodies and delayed production for months. Unfortunately countless delays and cancelled orders were quick to follow. Though Studebaker set up its own fiberglass production most buyers ended up cancelling their order and buying a Corvette or other comparable sport car. Rumors spread at the same time that Studebaker was on the edge of going out of business and in December of 1963 they did close their South Bend operation. The door was barely closed before the final 1964 Avanti left the plant.
The Avanti title, plant space and tooling were sold to Nate Altman and Leo Newman, Studebaker dealers in South Bend, Indiana. Lasting four decades after 1963 with Chevy V8 engines, numerous Avanti replicas and new design cars would be produced through 2006. Newman and Altman bought the rights to the car and formed Avanti Motor Corp., and continued to create hand-built models for years in the old plant dubbed 'Avanti II'. Powered came from a Corvette V8 and Gene Hardig; the original Avanti head engineer was happy to take on his old role. Altman felt that the Avanti was 'too sensational' to let it die and worked diligently for more than a decade to keep it alive. Nearly identical to the Studebaker version, the Avanti II however lost its slight front rake and featured the Corvette V8 engine. It was of a much higher quality and the purchaser was able to select their own carpet and other high-grade interior material. Altman died in the mid-1970s and his family sold the operation.
In Canada until 1966 various Larks and several other models were constructed. For some 1964 models the Avanti 240- and 290-horsepower V8s were available. In 1963 a total of 3,835 Avanti's were produced. The following year the numbers totaled at 809. One can typically tell the models apart by the rounded headlights of '63 and square headlights of '64.
Ian Fleming, James Bond author ordered a black Avanti and shipped it overseas when he traveled outside of the U.S.
Today an impressive number of Avanti's have survived the test of time. Thanks to the solid construction of the day and their no-rust fiberglass body. A '63 or '64 R1 is valued at $10,800 in good condition and nearly double that at $20,500 if in exceptional condition according to the Cars of Particular Interest guide. A R2 can go for $12,000 to $22,800.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studebaker_Avanti http://www.danjedlicka.com/classic_cars/studebaker_avanti.html http://articles.southbendtribune.com/2012-06-24/news/32397623_1_sherwood-egbert-raymond-loewy-andrew-beckman By Jessica Donaldson
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