1963 Studebaker Avanti



1 of 3744 built, and far fewer with the R2 Supercharger option.

Studebaker, one of the last great American independents, was on its last legs heading into the 1960s. To the amazement and delight of the industry, rather than going out with a whimper, the company introduced this stunning four-passenger sporting car in 1962. The idea originated with Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert, who engaged legendary designer Raymond Loewy to assemble a crack team of stylists, who in turn delivered the result in a very short time. (Loewy was the man who guided another such team several years earlier and produced the timeless 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner Coupe, considered by many to be the best looking postwar American automobile.)  While sharing the underpinnings of the compact 1959 Studebaker Lark – which in turn was utilizing mechanical elements from the Commander – the Avanti was nevertheless quite a contemporary automobile, especially in the styling department. Most Avanti engines were normally aspirated R1 units, but some were outfitted with a Paxton supercharger, which changed the car’s personality noticeably. A handful of R3s were built, primarily for Andy Granatelli, who used them for racing.

Bodies were of fiberglass and manufactured by the same company that built bodies for the Corvette. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond stories, was taken with the Avanti and asked to have his built in black. Studebaker declined, for fear the fiberglass body would show a little too much ripple finished in black. When Fleming’s representatives apprised them of just who Ian Fleming was, the company acquiesced and built him one. It turned out that there really was not a problem and a few more were turned out in black, one of which is pictured here.

Though the Avanti is quite an automobile, it was not enough to save Studebaker; the company built the Lark through 1966, with the Avanti being offered by Studebaker for the 1963 and 1964 model years. Nate Altman, the largest distributor of Studebaker cars, was so impressed with the Avanti that he purchased the rights to the car, along with all of the tooling and dies, and started manufacturing them, with Chevrolet running gear, as the Avanti II.

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Last Updated June 4, 2008
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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