Studebaker had been quite successful during the late 1950s with the Lark - a compact, affordable car which could still seat six people. But by the 1960s people were becoming richer, a young John F. Kennedy had become President, and the world was looking to the stars as NASA was aiming for the moon. People weren't interested in a practical economy car, they wanted something much more aspirational.
Within six weeks, they'd created a full-scale clay model of the new car, which was promptly given the name Avanti, Italian for forward. It had numerous novelties, such as aircraft style switches in the interior, an integrated roll-cage, and front disc brakes - a first for an American production car. The front was also devoid of a grill, with it instead being moved below the bumper line, in a bid to make the car look more streamlined.
Despite the early interest, the Studebaker Avanti lasted just over a year in production, with only 4,643 made. For other cars, this would be the end of the road, but not the Avanti. Enterprising ex-Studebaker dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman bought the rights, tooling and South Bend factory to carry on production as the Avanti Motor Corporation. With a number of improvements they launched the Avanti II in 1965, keeping it in production until the business was sold on in 1982.
But who cares? Are you really going to want to drive the wheels off of a 36 year old car? Especially one with what seems to have blemish-free bodywork. I'd suggest you take it easy, enjoy the fantastic Lowey styling, revel in the burble of that American V8 - it sounds a lot more potent than it actually is - and be satisfied in the knowledge you'll be driving a rare car. It's guaranteed to be the talk of your local car meet, and unlikely to receive the negative glances of those who can't stand the ostentatious looks of the Avanti's contemporaries. Aside from anything, it's the perfect classic for a UK owner, because not being made of steel, you won't ever have to worry about using it in the rain.
STUDEBAKER AVANTI II
Engine: 4,998cc, V8
Transmission: three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 155
Torque (lb ft): 240
MPG: Not many
First registered: 1981
Recorded mileage: 50,000
Price new: $4,445 (1963 original)
Yours for: £22,750
See the original advert here.
[Words: Max Adams]