GOING OUT WITH A BANG
Can we take a few minutes to admire one of the most beautiful automobiles ever created? How about TWO of the most ultra-rare, ultra-sexy, powerful and elegant last-gasp hail Marys of all time? Behold:
In the parking lot of a Scranton, PA train museum of all places I ran across two examples of the mighty Studebaker Avanti.
Just look at this thing!
This is a Studebaker Avanti from either 1962 or 1963 in Velvet Black. This car was built by a company that was 110 years old at the time. Studebaker was founded in 1852 as a producer of wagons. To think that a company that made wagons for the Oregon Trail was also responsible for a vehicle that looks like it came from outer space is remarkable.
This example was fitted with the optional Paxton supercharger from the factory.
The Avanti is a design from the great Raymond Loewy. His list of successes is staggering; the Shell, Exxon, TWA, and BP logos were all his work as were Coca-Cola vending machines, Lucky Strike cigarette packaging, and the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus. He started his relationship with Studebaker by creating the Bullet Nosed coupes of the early '50s with the wraparound rear window.
This is one of the very few cars that I love every inch of. You can stare at this for hours and continue finding details. The angles of the front bumper are so complicated and subtle in their beauty. That tiki style S on the hood is nestled within a chrome detail that mimics the bumper edge.
Well this happens to be a former National First Prize car show winner which is pretty much the only reason you would bolt anything to the outside of this ride. Can I get a shout-out for that Avanti emblem?
One of the most unbelievable facts about the Avanti is that it went from design to fully realized clay model in 40 days! Legend has it that the president of the company doodled some sketches on a napkin during a flight and handed them to Loewys team as inspiration. You know what other iconic design was scribbled on a napkin? The VW Beetle! Bring napkins back people and lets design the future!
This car has the automatic transmission but with the supercharger I'll allow it. Look how pretty the interior is on this thing.
This font just makes me want to sip on a Mai Tai and eat a Pu Pu Platter.
If the body looks impossibly swoopy and elegant for metal stamping that's because it is. The body was made from fiberglass by the same Ohio company that made bodies for the Corvette.
The rear speaker was in itself a rarity for any car from the era.
Studebaker built the Avanti to save the company from its downward spiral. Unfortunately it didn't work and so after 1963 all domestic automobile production ceased. Trucks continued to be made and their Canadian division built cars through 1966 but for the U.S. this was the last gasp.
Before we hold a funeral for Studebaker let's check out the Blue car.
This is another '62-'63 in Riviera Blue.
The lines on the Avanti seem to come down to this; it it's made of metal the lines will be sharp and creased. If it's made from glass or fiberglass it will be rounded completely.
Every once in a long while you might see one of these at a show but this was ridiculous.
When Studebaker ceased production of the Avanti it was already regarded as one of the most elegant designs in history. Two Studebaker dealership owners bought the Avanti design, tooling, and plant where it was manufactured in order to continue producing examples. They built the Avanti (known as Avanti II at this point) with a Corvette engine through 1982. The next buyer ruined the design in my eyes by replacing the round headlights with square units. Ownership changed a couple more times with different iterations like a convertible and even a 4 door before stopping for good in 2006.
I like both wheel treatments equally.
Bringing the air for the engine in through this lower scoop was revolutionary for the time. Under the skin this was a traditional front engine V8 powering the rear wheels. Not having a big grill in the era of gargantuan grills was bold.
The staggered hood bulge and passenger side vent adds to it all for me. The fact that the hood bulge continues through the windshield as the top of the dashboard is just cool. By the way notice where the windshield steps up at the bottom for that bulge. Replacing any of the glass on this car would be crazy expensive!
While I wish they removed the GPS for my viewing pleasure this interior is amazing. This is fitted with the 4 speed manual trans which ought to be a lot of fun. The gauges are like beautiful watch faces. Even the steering wheel is classy.
Both Studebaker and Packard were highly respected automakers in 1954 when they combined forces to briefly become the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. However the finances of Studebaker were woeful while the designs of Packards were very long in the tooth. For the 1957 and '58 model year there were Packards available that were really rebadged Studes. Unfortunately they added an elongated nose to the grill that the public referred to as the Fishmouth. Ask Edsel how they did with a maligned front end design.
I've never been in an Avanti or even heard one run but I would love to at some point. They manage to look fantastic and modern even 54 years after their introduction which is no mean feat.