Founded in 1852, The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company was a wagon builder who went on to become one of the only American companies of its type to successfully transition to automobile production at the turn of the century. While still selling their wagons and coaches, they formed an early partnership with E-M-F to sell automobiles at Studebaker dealers. Quality issues with E-M-F led to Studebaker taking over that firm’s automobile line and the rest, as they say, is history.
Studebaker remained staunchly independent in the face of competition from GM, Ford and Chrysler. They produced many a great car, and particularly in the post-war era, were not afraid to take some daring stylistic risks to stand out against the might of the Big Three. Yet as the 1940s rolled into the 1950s, Studebaker began to struggle financially and their product line became more and more staid and dated. In the early 60s, company president Sherwood Egbert saw the runaway success of the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette and realized he needed a “personal car” of his own; a well-equipped and sporty coupe with four full seats and brisk performance. Just 37 days into his tenure as the top man at Studebaker, Egbert sketched out a concept while on a plane out of South Bend, handed it to his hugely talented design team and demanded quick action.
Given just 40 days to work up a design, chief stylist on the project Raymond Loewy and his team (comprised of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews, and John Ebstein) worked 16 hours a day from a rented Palm Springs ranch home, and penned a sleek and ultra-modern body to sit atop a modified Lark Daytona platform. The somewhat antiquated chassis was reworked by engineer Eugene Hardig to resemble a sporting car. Given the complexity and subtlety of the Avanti’s curves, fiberglass was chosen as the most cost effective material to build the bodywork. Although production of the Avanti lasted only two years, with fewer than 6,000 built, it has rightly earned its place as a stylistic icon; one of the greatest designs of the era and a significant piece of both Studebaker history and automotive history as a whole.
Our featured 1963 Avanti is a genuine and highly desirable, numbers matching R2 4-speed example that has received a great deal of restoration work, with careful attention paid to preserving original and correct components. The car has seen regular, sympathetic use and maintenance and remains in wonderful order. Copies of the original build sheets and dealer invoices confirm this car’s correct, original specification (supercharged, floor shift four speed manual). Finished in its original colors of turquoise over a handsome turquoise and beige interior, this is a super-attractive example of Studebaker’s most famous car. The fiberglass body is straight and free of typical waves and warping that sometimes afflicts these cars, while the gaps and panel fit are consistent and even. Paint work, in the original Turquoise, is very well presented and the car rides on factory steel wheels fitted with the signature Avanti polished wheel covers and wrapped with proper narrow whitewall tires.
The sporty and luxurious four-seat cabin is trimmed in a rare combination of Avanti Turquoise on the seats, carpets and door cards offset by beige dash and door caps. The cabin is a beautiful expression of aircraft-inspired mid-century modern design, and one of the best examples of the “personal cars” of the period. Upholstery is in very good condition throughout, appearing to be in largely original condition and beautifully preserved. Original options included tinted glass, sunshade windshield, radio, electric screen washer and seatbelts. It has been usefully upgraded with a discreetly installed Vintage-Air air-conditioning unit and an AM/FM stereo with auxiliary input.
As an R2 spec model, the original, numbers-matching Studebaker 289 cubic inch V8 is equipped with the optional Paxton supercharger, which pushed power output to a healthy 280 horsepower. When backed by the optional 4-speed manual transmission, this Avanti certainly delivers performance to match the looks. The engine presents quite well; nicely detailed in largely original condition. While it shows some light use it still looks great, particularly with that big Paxton blower off to the side. Per the build sheet, this car is also equipped with power steering and a “Twin Traction” limited slip rear differential. Recent mechanical work includes a comprehensive suspension refresh with new bushes, rebuilt springs, new dampers and the addition of factory quick-ratio steering arms to sharpen the handling. The disc brakes (the first on an American production car) and power steering hydraulics were also rebuilt at this time, ensuring the car is ready for action.
Finished in desirable colors and in the best factory specification, it strikes a fine balance of being pretty enough for casual show yet completely suitable for regular driving. This finely presented, very well-sorted Avanti R2 is a great example of this early 1960s icon.