Launched for 1963, Studebaker’s Avanti personal luxury/sports coupe was a fresh, exciting design and clearly demonstrated the South Bend company was still a force to be reckoned with. While lacking the economies of scale and financial strength enjoyed by Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, Studebaker embarked on a bold campaign to reinvent itself when Sherwood Egbert assumed the company presidency in 1961. Immediately, he set to work with a two-pronged strategy, commissioning Brooks Stevens to update the existing Hawk and Lark and enlisting Raymond Loewy Associates to design a new sporty car, named “Avanti,” meaning forward in Italian.
Designed and refined from general directions laid down by Loewy to Bob Andrews, Tom Kellogg, and John Ebstein, who were sequestered in a Palm Springs house and worked 16-hour days over six weeks, the resulting Avanti was fresh and almost otherworldly in appearance. Since Egbert was an aviation enthusiast, the Avanti’s luxurious yet purposeful interior was designed similarly to that of an aircraft cockpit. Given the tight timeframe, Studebaker built the Avanti with a no-rust fiberglass body on a shortened Lark frame with front and rear anti-roll bars. Advertised as a new class of American automobile, the Avanti was at once elegant, sophisticated, and sporty and generated intense demand upon release, but relatively few were built before production ended. Today, the Avanti remains one of the greatest American designs conceived.
The Avanti was built to perform with a complete line of high-performance engines ranging from the “R1” 240-horsepower 289 cubic-inch V-8 equipped with a “3/4 race” camshaft, dual-point distributor, 4-barrel carburetor, and dual exhaust. Famed racer Andy Granatelli developed several tuned versions, including the Paxton-supercharged “R2” version with 290 rated horsepower and rare 335-hp supercharged “R3,” through the twin-carb “R4” and twin-supercharged “R5.” Granatelli set 29 world speed records with an R3-powered Avanti in late 1962, setting the mark as the world’s fastest sports car at 211.292 mph. According to marque experts, only 3,834 Aventis were built in 1963; precious few were built to R2 specification.
Offered from 18 years of sole ownership, this unrestored 1963 ‘R2’ Studebaker Avanti is a prime example of these design and performance icons. See it at our upcoming Auburn auction, scheduled for Saturday, September 2nd at the National Auto and Truck Museum (NATM) on Gordon Buehrig Drive in Auburn, Indiana, and be sure to register to bid at firstname.lastname@example.org !