The Avanti was supposed to resurrect the Studebaker brand. Company president Sherwood Egbert dreamed up the car – as a means to inject some much-needed vitality into Studebaker’s corporate veins. Egbert’s choice of designer for the Avanti was astute. Raymond Loewy – who had previously penned the Coca-Cola bottle – was hired as stylist. Loewy went the minimalist route … at least, as compared with many of his contemporaries. Typically, Detroit-built cars of the time were mainly comprised of chrome and fins. The Avanti, though, exuded European restraint. Its glassfibre-forged lines were smart – but unshowy. On the inside, too, things were similarly sophisticated. Neat instrumentation – and leather bucket seats – were fully imbued with Italianate finesse.
But – just two years after the Avanti’s release – Studebaker was no more. The firm went into receivership in ’64. And that seemed like that for the new car. At the last, though, automotive saviours stepped in – in the form of Studebaker dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman. In no mood to see the Avanti die, they bought the rights to it – and set about re-starting production. With Studebaker motors no longer around, Chevrolet Corvette units were sourced. The car was re-christened the Avanti II. The original had already received rave reviews. Now, it acquired sought-after status, too. Altman and Newman’s faith was rewarded. The Avanti Motor Corporation thrived … right up until ’82.
Technically, the Avanti impressed. Its V8 engine made 335bhp. That took it to a top speed of 145mph. The power was controlled from a comfortable cabin. 4,643 Avanti IIs were sold. In subsequent years, there would be further attempts to keep the car going. Like Loewy’s coke bottle, certain products seem destined to be with us forever. And – while not quite in Coca-Cola’s league – customised Studebaker Avantis are always appearing. Last seen somewhere in Mexico, apparently!