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1964 Studebaker Avante

Thought you might be interested in these photos. From the Peabody Essex Museum, 2014

(You now have to click on the box to see the photos)

"Avanti-Avanti ! " Forward Forward driver…post haste !

Didn’t these little beauties get Supercharging at some point ? A Paxton I believe…289 Ford V8 if memory serves.

A Canadian company bought the rights to build that car from Studebaker’s bankrupt corporation. They bought Chevrolet power trains for them and sold quite a few over the years. While Studebaker was still producing cars they did have a supercharged 289 that was installed in Larks that were equipped for law enforcement. The National Park Service was using those larks in the mid '60s on the Parkway near me. The Avanti may still be in production.

A quick check indicates that the last effort to produce the Avanti was in Mexico and it folded a few years ago.

Paxton supercharged 289 cu in/290hp Studebaker V8. Post factory production Avanti lls 1965-mid 1970s used Chevrolet 327/300 and 350 cu in engines.

The Avanti was a beautiful car and the Lark was a particularly nice car that seemed to have failed due to the sluggish flat head 6 cylinder that was standard equipment. The Chevy II, Valiant and Falcon ran away with the ‘compact’ market and the Studebaker truck never seemed to catch on. Studebaker sponsored the “Mr Ed” television series and they flopped together.

“A Canadian company bought the rights to build that car from Studebaker’s bankrupt corporation”


If you were referring to Studebakers in general, production of Larks (only) continued for 3 years at Studebaker’s Canadian division, which had existed for…decades…and which was their only auto production facility that was left after the closure of the California and Indiana factories. Avanti and Hawk production ceased when the Indiana factory closed, and only Larks were made in Canada, by Studebaker of Canada.

If you were referring to Avantis specifically, the rights were bought by Nate Altman, who had been the biggest Stude dealer, and he and his company were US-based. They did re-start limited production (in one of the old Stude buildings), with the use of the smallest Corvette engine under the hood of those cars. Altman also bought the entire stock of NOS Stude parts which was…huge.

As to the genuine Avanti engines, they were as follows:
R1–normally aspirated 289 c.i. Studebaker (NOT Ford!!) V-8 producing 240 hp
R2–Paxton supercharged 304 c.i. Studebaker V-8 producing 290 hp
R3–Paxton supercharged 304 c.i. Studebaker V-8 producing 335 hp

There were also experimental R-4 & R-5 engines that were never installed in production Avantis.
The R-5, equipped with dual superchargers, reportedly put out 575 hp in laboratory tests.

Beginning with the solely Canadian production in 1964, they used McKinnon (Canadian Chevrolet) engines, both a six and a V-8. Production ended as of the '66 model year, despite the fact that they were making a profit. The NY bankers who controlled the company at that point wanted to concentrate instead on the more profitable divisions–STP, Gravely lawn equipment, a tire stud manufacturing company, Worthington Pump, Clark floor machinery, a commercial refrigeration company, and a small airline.

Incidentally, the easiest way to tell–from a distance–if an Avanti is a genuine Studebaker or if it was made by Altman’s company (or the several companies making them after Altman died), is to see if the car has a “rake” to it. The genuine article has a noticeably lower front end, as compared to the rear, while the ones made by the successor companies doesn’t have a lowered front end.

Museum ? . . heck, there’s one in town here. When the old AMC/Chrysler dealer was open they parked it in the showroom side by side with some new dodge thingy ( maybe late 80s early 90s ? ). . . and you could absolutely swear the Avanti was also new ( except for the big round headlights of its era ) with its long hood, sloped nose, high short rear deck etc.
Too, too bad Studabaker was so far ahead of their time.
People would stand in the showroom and look at both . .point to the Avanti state quite positively . ." I want that one.’’

I think that the best automotiles ever made were Studebakers. However, I may be biased since I have lived in Indiana most of my life. If I could buy any car I wanted, it would be a Studebaker Avanti. If I needed a second car, I would purchase a Studebaker Hawk. Studebaker reflected our Indiana values. From its 1953 models, Studebaker produced the Hawk and the Lark. The Hawk was based on the coupe and the Lark was based on the sedan. One thing I didn’t understand about the Lark is why Studebaker went back to the 169 cubic inch flathead 6 that came out in 1939 for the Champion series. The engine was enlarged to 186 cubic inches for the later Champions sometime in the 1950s, but it went back to 169 cubic inches for the Lark. In 1951, Studebaker introduced a very good V-8 engine to replace the 245 cubic inch flathead 6 in its Commander models. The origonal V-8 displaced 221cubic inches, but was later increased to 259, 289, and 304 cubic inches. In the Lark, the 259 V-8 engine got as good mileage as the 169 flathead 6 and in some cases better mileage. Had Studebaker just installed V-8 engines in the Lark, it would have had a really competitive product. The 221cubic inch V-8 could have been the base engine and the 259 V-8 would have been the option. This would have added very little to the cost of the Lark. Back in 1959, we were in a recession. People were giving up their large cars for compacts. With a Studebaker Lark V-8, one wouldn’t have to give up much from a larger car. The interior room and performance were at least as good. The only place where the Studebakers were smaller was in trunk space. The Lark had a full frame and rode quite well. When compared with a 1960 Ford Falcon with its 144 cubic inch 6 and unibody construction, the Lark comes out way ahead. The new series Studebaker truck that came out in 1948 had a much roomier and much more modern cab than other pickup trucks of the day. Unfortunately, Studebaker used that 169 cubic inch 6 as the base engine in the pickup truck. The 245 cubic inch 6 was an option that for the time period gave good performance. Studebaker trucks also had the gas tank under the truck, not in the cab. It was years before Chevrolet and Ford moved the gas tank out of the cab. I don’t mean to brag, but here in Indiana we are far ahead of the rest of the world.

I think that Triedaq and I were separated at birth!

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the post-war ('47-'52) Studebaker body design, which was instantly recognizable as NOT being a car made by anyone else, due to Raymond Loewy’s unique styling. (First by far with a post-war car!!)

Then, when they restyled their cars for '53, I was hooked! I can vividly recall plastering my nose against the showroom windows each year when they introduced the new models.

When I was in high school, my Assistant Track Coach had a Gran Turismo Hawk, and I thought that it was perhaps the most beautiful car that I had ever seen. On the rare occasions when I see a GT Hawk nowadays, I still think that they are incredibly beautiful and well-proportioned.

The Avanti, while it was ultimately not a huge success, was definitely an important car. In addition to grabbing several land speed records at Bonneville, it had the distinction of being the only American car of its time with disc brakes, and it is one of the few cars–ever–with an integral roll bar, concealed beneath the interior padded fittings.

The full instrumentation was angled for perfect viewing by the driver, and the instruments were illuminated in a dim red light. For those you are not aware of the advantages of red illumination, the interiors of our submarines are illuminated with red lighting when they are going to surface at night, because that allows your eye’s pupils to “accommodate” to night light levels much faster. When you are driving at night, if you have to look at your instruments, and then gaze back at the roadway, your vision will adjust much more quickly if the instrument panel is illuminated in red.

Just to bring things full-circle–more or less–after the local Stude dealership went out of business, the two brothers who had owned it opened a Sinclair gas station, and that is where I took my father’s '63 Plymouth for maintenance and repair. I used to relish going to that Sinclair station because there was always a good assortment of Studebaker and Packard cars parked there, awaiting service or awaiting pickup by their owners after being serviced.

I can recall a conversation with one of the two owners about the prospect for getting replacement parts for Studebakers after the company went out of business in 1966, and he said, “After visiting South Bend and seeing their warehouses filled to the rafters with parts, I think that there is a pretty good chance that their parts stockpile will last for at least 20 years”. Well–guess what? There are still NOS Studebaker parts available for those who need them!

I too thought the 63 Avanti was the most beautiful car ever designed and wanted one. After I retired from the Navy, I got an interview at Car Quest’s main distribution center. When I walked into the general managers office for the interview and immediately asked him who owned the 63 Avanti in the picture over his desk, I had that job in my hand. It was his and the fact that I knew what it was told him that I was a car guy.

Unfortunately as we were doing the facility tour to show me my duties and meet the people I would be supervising, we got the back of the place and he showed me a room where he said this is where we store the paint and charge the batteries and I asked “does OSHA let you get away with that?” He pointed to the nearest door and said that I could take the sidewalk around to the parking lot. Oops.

I was in Jr high when the Avanti hit the streets. A simply beautiful car. A very renouned designer Raymond Lowey was the head designer. The other terrific car of the era was the Jaguar XKE. Two outstanding cars that are still beautiful IMO.

The Avanti was among the most beautiful car designs ever. IMHO its only problem was that it was ahead of its time.

The XKE also remains one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. As does the Corvette Stingray (the Mako-shark-based C2, not the new one).

These cars have a lot of company. The original AC Cobra among them. Sadly, great car design atrophied during the '70s and '80s, and arguably even into the '90s. Regulatory compliance became Job One.

The AC Cobra and all the 60s Jaguars were beautiful to me back then. But then the Austin Healeys and all the Corvette roadsters were just .5 behind them. I drove a California GTO Ferarri once and it was off my chart. These days they are all off my chart. For a few bucks I can look at a great many of the real classics at the local museum. The Leslie Special is there so you can imagine what a great collection there is.

I’m still trying to get to that Stude museum in South Bend, Indiana. Maybe this summer.

That’s on my bucket list, and among other things in that museum, I want to be able to see the Studebaker Sceptre up close. This beautiful design, which would have been “the next Studebaker” if they had been able to get the funding, could have been a game changer, IMHO.


For those who are not familiar with the Studebaker Sceptre concept car, here are links to some photos. I think that, when you consider that this car was designed and built in 1965, it is amazingly tasteful.

And, it is obvious that–unlike every Studebaker produced up through 1963–it shared no body panels or glass with older Stude designs. In the frontal view, you can see the unique, experimental headlighting array that was provided by Sylvania.

I remember my uncle’s 1950 Studebaker with the bullet nose. I helped him install a “third headlight” kit when I was about 8 years old. My “help” consisted of turning the headlights off and on when needed. It was a big deal for me and I was rewarded by a trip to the local Dairy Freeze with my cousins.

Let’s not forget that Studebaker was building battery powered electric cars from 1902-1912. Here in Indiana we are far ahead of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, with so much of our population so involved in innovations that we have the few that are behind the times tbe only ones left to serve in elected positions.

VDCdriver: I have a neighbor with a beautiful silver GT Hawk. He was driving it yesterday. My shoes were squishing from the drool! I was 10 years old when they appeared in the showroom. At first I was confused by the lack of fins but the styling quickly grew on me. Another neighbor had an Avanti II with the Chevy 327/300 but it was sold a few years ago.