During the early 1960s, Studebaker was struggling to remain a relevant car company. Their products were a bit stale and they desperately needed a halo car to bring people into their dealerships.
The Avanti was the brainchild of new Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert, who wanted a car that was part sports car and part GT with unique styling and strong performance. Egbert engaged famed designer Raymond Loewy to assemble and lead the design team. made up of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews, and John Ebstein.
They rented a home in Palm Springs, California, to use as a workspace and 40 days later, they had the design for the Avanti. To be able to bring the Avanti to market quickly and within a reasonable budget, it was decided to use fiberglass for the body and a slightly modified chassis from the Studebaker Lark convertible.
The Avanti was launched on April 26, 1962, at the New York International Automobile Show.
The Avanti was very well-received but sales were slow and the effort did not save the company, which finally closed its doors in 1967. Fewer than 5,800 Studebaker-badged Avantis were built, making them rare American classics, especially when compared with such similar cars as the Buick Riveria or Ford Thunderbird.
But the Avanti did not die with Studebaker; the car continued to be produced by various companies through 2006.
The Pick of the Day is a desirable first-year car, a 1963 Studebaker Avanti R1 in the rare and desirable configuration of four-speed manual transmission and factory air conditioning. Power is provided by a 289cid V8 that delivers 240 horsepower.
The West Chester, Pennsylvania, dealer advertising the Avanti on ClassicCars.com says that it also features power steering, power brakes and Twin-Traction limited-slip rear end, stainless steel exhaust, rally wheels and radial tires. The dealer says the original wheels, hubcaps and tires come with the car.
The car is also rust free, the dealer says, including the vulnerable and all-important torque boxes – or “hog troughs” in Avanti parlance – that run behind the rocker panels to provide strength for the fiberglass body.
Many collector car experts wrote off the Avanti off years ago as a car that would never rise in value, but they have been proved wrong in the past few years as we have seen some of these cars, especially the supercharged R2 and R3 versions, sell for more than $100,000.
While not supercharged version, this Avanti with its manual gearbox and AC seems like a solid deal with an asking price of just $36,500. It’s a classic personal-luxury GT that offers rarity, interesting styling and a level of exclusivity.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day