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 1963-64  Studebaker Avanti

   Too Late, but not Too Little

Reaching back to the days of the Conestoga Wagon that helped carry the nation westward, Studebaker was one of the few buggy and wagon manufacturers to make a successful transition into the car business.   Studebaker enjoyed a reputation for quality and innovation through much of its time, but by the early sixties the company was in a difficult financial position.  Studebaker’s president, Sherwood Egbert, decided that a showroom traffic builder was needed and called upon the talents of an old friend of Studebaker, industrial designing legend Raymond Lowey, to come up with something new.

 Lowey’s last major contribution to the company had come with the chic and stylish 1953 line-up, which to some degree was still in use when this new project was being organized. Going through a number of tasteful facelifts, the Hawk family of cars was still in production, and for 1962 a new Gran Turismo would use the original basic body shell once again.  But these were based on old designs and Egbert felt that a new bold, fresh look based on the Lark’s platform (there was no money available for a new platform) would serve to build showroom traffic and give sales a shot in the arm.

 In addition to his work for Studebaker, Lowey had accomplished a number of other important designs including the line of Coldspot refrigerators and appliances, the familiar Shell Oil company logos and just before the Avanti the graphics for a new passenger jet called Air Force One.


1963 Avanti is sleek, clean.

The '64 Changed little, with the most noticeable difference the square bezels around the headlights.

Dash was comprehensive, attractive and well laid out.  This is a '64 with the new woodgrain.

In March 1961, Lowey was given the basic design parameters for this new Studebaker sports model, and immediately went to work. He gathered a trio of talented designers and shuttled them to a secret location where they could work undisturbed.  Time was of the essence.  They chose a rather comfortable house in Palm Springs, California, that just happened to be President Egbert’s home, and wasted no time getting to work. Lowey, along with Robert “Bob” Andrews, John Ebstein and Thomas Kellogg, started with a few basic ideas borrowing from some previous Lowey works such as a specially created BMW 507 coupe that he had totally redesigned. Working around the clock in just ten days they emerged from the house with drawings and a rough 1/8th scale model of a design dripping with both elegance and style.

 Working at a very rapid clip, a full-size mock-up was produced back in South Bend by the end of April 1961 with only a few minor changes from the original concept. By June of that year, a test-mule running prototype was on the road with further refinements incorporated on a daily basis. With sales and cash dwindling, Studebaker needed help in a hurry, so approval was given to go ahead with production of the new Avanti. 

 Using the classic formula of a long hood, compact passenger cabin and almost no rear deck at all, the team’s swooping back-slant front end and rakish front A-pillars translated into speed standing still. Among the major changes initiated into the production units that the original proposals didn’t keep was the heavier accented “Coke bottle” pinched waistline Lowey had taken from Formula race cars, a dual-headlight system rather than a quad set-up and a reduction to the slant of the A-pillar after Egbert complained about getting into and out of the driver’s seat.  In order to keep expenses in check, the new Avanti’s body would be constructed of fiberglass.    Bumper to bumper this new Studebaker measured out at 16 feet. 

 From its under-the-bumper air intakes for engine cooling to the unique wrap-around backglass, the Lowey team’s design was a winner from every angle.   Trend-setting and stylish, Avanti looked liked nothing on the road.  Inside was distinctive, too.  Executed in the European GT tradition, The Avanti was well appointed and sported bucket seats, console, floor mounted shifter and a well designed dashboard with full gauges. 

 Powering the new Avanti was a 289 cubic inch V8 engine.  Standard was the “R-1" version which featured 10.25:1 compression, four-barrel intake and 240 horses.  The optional  “R-2" version was topped off with a Paxton supercharger, used a 9.0:1 compression boost and pumped out 289 horses.  The third, the R-3, is extremely rare, with reportedly only 9 installed in 1964 models.  It was tuned to a whopping 335hp. 

 Shifting the Avanti was done through a standard manual three speed, or the optional  “Power-Shift” automatic. Those who really were performance minded could opt for the four-speed manual supplied to Studebaker from Borg-Warner. Stiffer suspension packages were used to improve this new sporty Studebaker’s handling and –unheard of in an American car – Dunlop front disc brakes were included in keeping with the its performance appeal.

go to Avanti, page 2

P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

Current Values:  1963   1964  or  Main Studebaker Menu    Avanti page 2


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