It was no secret that in the early 1960s, Studebaker was up against the ropes. Their financial troubles had started years earlier and the failed merger with Packard had left them reeling. Selling economy cars was fine, but what they really needed was a stylish “halo” model to drive traffic into the showrooms. New company president Sherwood Egbert had the idea for a sporty “personal car” to compete against the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird, a car that could boost their rather staid and conservative product line. He doodled out his idea for a four-seat personal car while on a flight from South Bend to California. Upon meeting with his design team, led by Raymond Loewy, he charged them with the task of creating an image-booster for Studebaker and gave them a virtually impossible time line with which to do it in.
After just 8 days of feverish work, Loewy and his team of designers (Tom Kellogg, John Ebstein and Bob Andrews) produced a two-sided clay model, one side featuring a four-seat design, the other a two seater. Company brass settled on the four-seater and the styling team went back to further hone their work. To power their new creation, named Avanti, engineers used the 289 cubic inch V8 and reinforced chassis from the Lark Daytona convertible. While not ground breaking, it was an affordable and reliable platform for Studebaker to work with. But the underpinnings played 2nd fiddle to what sat atop – the body by Loewy and his team was jaw dropping. Fiberglass construction allowed them to accurately reproduce the coke-bottle curves and fine detail as penned by the artists. The smooth, grille-less design was groundbreaking, the first to use a “bottom feeder” radiator and intake. It was clean, yet finely detailed and sophisticated.
Egbert had ambitiously predicted Avanti sales of 10,000 units in the first year, but thanks to production issues and concerns from buyers about Studebaker’s health as a company, a fractional 1,200 were sold for the 1962 model year, with fewer than 4,600 units sold the following year. Studebaker ceased operations by 1963, yet in spite of the drama surrounding its gestation and ultimate demise, the Avanti remains a truly iconic automobile and a brilliant piece of American industrial design history.
This exquisite 1963 Studebaker Avanti R1 comes to us from the hands of a noted Studebaker collector and enthusiast. He has owned several different Avantis over the years, and of all the cars he’s owned, this is most certainly the finest. It was comprehensively and expertly restored to the exact build-sheet specifications and presents in beautiful, fresh condition.
An early production car, this Avanti (S/N R1259) was built on July 11th 1962 and delivered new to a dentist in Boise Idaho. After enjoying his Avanti for a few years, the car was sold to a Mr. Hutchison in Littleton, Colorado in 1967. Mr. Hutchison drove the car through 1977 at which time he replaced it with a new car, but kept the Avanti in storage until his passing in 2013. From there, the car found its way to its current owner, who upon assessing it as an original R1 specification car with an automatic transmission and factory air conditioning, determined it was very much worth restoring. He soon embarked on a comprehensive restoration that saw the car fully stripped down and restored to exacting specifications. It still appears very fresh, with exceptional PPG Avanti White paint. Particularly difficult with a fiberglass car, the body exhibits crisp feature lines, outstanding panel fit and beautiful, deep reflections in the surfaces. The razor’s edge bumpers are similarly presented, with concours quality plating and correct rubber protectors. NOS and original trim was painstakingly polished and fitted to ensure precise fit. It rides on original wheels with those fabulous signature Avanti convex wheel covers and correct tires.
Like the body, the interior has been restored to exacting standards using some of the last remaining original bolts of fabric made by Uniroyal specifically for Studebaker. Likewise, the Hidem welting was sourced directly from the old Mishawaka, Indiana plant. As per the original build sheets, it is trimmed in Avanti Red and Fawn with correct door panels and “salt and pepper” carpets in correct material. The dash is finished in off white with fully restored instruments that appear factory fresh. Original A/C controls and console shifter are excellent and as they left the factory.
The impeccable detailing continues under the hood with a beautifully presented 289 cubic inch V8 in normally aspirated R1 specification. Correct finishes and paints adorn the engine and accessories for a factory-fresh appearance. Incredibly, some of the original A/C hoses were found to be in excellent condition and still had factory markings. During the restoration, special attention was given to the cooling to ensure this Avanti runs cool and strong. The chassis was stripped, prepped and painted, while every removable frame component was stripped and powder coated. It is quite simply one of the finest, most meticulously restored Avantis we have encountered. It is so accurate in fact, that photos of this car are included in the latest update to the AOA Authenticity Manual.
From the beautiful and crisp body to the expertly researched and detailed drivetrain, this is a show-worthy example that has been lavished upon by a dedicated enthusiast. For anyone seeking an example of the Raymond Loewy design icon to show and enjoy, this is certainly one of the best Avanti R1s available today.