Timeless Design

1963 Studebaker Avanti

Bill Amantia - April 18, 2014 01:00 PM


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The Studebaker Avanti is considered by many as an example of an extraordinary American production car whose timeless design has influenced many other makes and continues to look contemporary these many years later.

When Studebaker faced tough times in the early 1960s, it brought in Sherwood Egbert from its Paxton Products Division (formerly top executive at McCulloch) to “save the company.” He believed the automotive division needed an exciting new car to catch the attention of the public, spark up the employees and bring attention to the dealerships.

Raymond Lowey, the nation’s leading industrial designer, gathered a team of three others (John Ebstein, Robert Andrews and Thomas Kellogg) and isolated themselves in a rental house in the desert outside Palm Springs, California, on March 19, 1961. The mission was to “make a car with blistering speed, excellent braking, innovative styling and controls, good handling, effective safety features and a new automotive transmission … all without spending any money.”

In a little over two weeks, on April 5, 1961, Lowey presented a 1/8-scale model to the Studebaker board of directors. Approval was instantaneous.

To save time and money, Studebaker chose to build the Avanti in fiberglass. MFG Products in Ashtabula, Ohio (the same company that supplied fiberglass bodies for the Chevrolet Corvette since 1953), was selected to build the first cars for presentation at the April 1962 Auto Show in New York. Everything worked to plan, the showing was a fabulous success and orders came pouring in.

The new Avanti (Italian for "forward") would feature a nose-down attitude. It was a two-door, four-passenger coupe with a long hood, short trunk, asymmetrical power bulge on the hood that carried through into the car’s interior dash creating a visual sightline, or “gunsight” for the driver, and virtually zero chrome trim.  It was given a razor-edged fender line that swept back into a curving, jacked up tail. Avoiding a conventional grille, Lowey opted for a wide scoop under the bumper.

The featured car, owned by Bill Amantia of Boca Raton, Florida, was built in March 1963 and is the 2,851st car of the only 4,647 1963 and 1964 models built by Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana, from June 1962 through their unfortunate closing in the United States in year-end 1963.


Read the entire story, which includes more photos, in the June Issue of Cars & Parts, on sale April 22.