Home » Let’s Start The Day By Thinking About The Avanti: Cold Start

Let’s Start The Day By Thinking About The Avanti: Cold Start

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You know what’s a remarkable car I think we don’t think about enough? The Studebaker Avanti. I think everything about it is pretty fascinating. It was the fastest production car (with the optional supercharger) when it came out in 1962, it was designed in a crash program where Raymond Loewy and a bunch of designers holed up in a Palm Springs house for 40 days, designing a fiberglass body to sit on a little Studebaker Lark chassis and cram a big V8 into, the resulting design was and still is remarkably original, and after Studebaker stopped building them, and even went out of business altogether, refused to die. It’s just amazing, so let’s just ponder it a bit.

As you contemplate that picture from a 1963 brochure up there, I’d like to point out something that you don’t see as much in car photography anymore: that brightly-glowing interior. I can only guess that they stuck a few lights on the floor in there, and hid the cables? Because that car is positively aglow inside. It’s like how every window in every Thomas Kinkade crap painting of a cottage looks like there’s a captive white dwarf star trapped inside. It’s a great effect when photographing cars, though.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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You know what else I like about Avantis? This is a little detail, sure, but its one I like: they had a little trapdoor in the rear parcel shelf to give access to the trunk area from the inside. Most modern sedans have folding seats or a pass-through behind a rear armrest, but for 1963, this was a pretty big deal, I think. The little pop-up vanity mirror is cool, too, but I think more common in the era.

Another interesting thing about the Avanti: I think there’s a powerful lesson about the importance of bezels the Avanti can teach us. When production of the Avanti was stopped by Studebaker, the rights to the name and the body tooling were bought by some Studebaker dealers, who started production on the Avanti II, now with 327 cubic inch Corvette engines and some minor styling changes.

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One of those changes was adding sort of cathode ray tube-shaped, mostly rectangular chrome bezels around the round headlamps:

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I don’t think this worked, at all. The round, simple lights of the original Avanti design I think were just right, and this fussies them up too much, makes that clean front end feel cluttered. Bezels matter.

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The Avanti continued on, improbably, later with new ownership and a new design from Tom Kellogg, one of the members of the original Avanti design team. A new ladder-frame chassis was designed, and there were now four door and convertible versions! Rectangular headlights, too, which worked better than the round-in-square-bezel one but still didn’t feel quite right.

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Eventually the round headlights returned, on a strange, Mustang-in-an-Avanti-costume car, and while it didn’t really feel right, I’m still sort of amazed the Avanti mystique managed to take it this far.

There’s probably a deeper lesson here, but this is just a Cold Start, so we’ll investigate that later. Besides, it’s after 9 and I need to get this up!

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Slirt
Slirt
1 month ago

OG Avanti or no Avanti, that’s my hot take. Sure the original is… challenging, say, but it is unique & interesting and ultimately works. Definitely a product of its era (and designer) as well; everything else after it just bastardizes Loewy’s intentions. Hard pass. But a clean restoration, or better yet, an unmolested survivor? Sign me up, please!

Mike stolmeier
Mike stolmeier
1 month ago

I’ve owned and driven my 1963 R1 auto “round eye” Studebaker Avanti since 1971! That’s 53 years, so I know a few things for a fact.
It’s a reliable heavy duty factory hot rod, easy to maintain, sporty, drives well in all conditions, and always looks good (inside and outside).
The only meaningful modifications that I recommend are changing from bias tires to radials, and upgrading the master brake cylinder from single to a dual circuit system.
Otherwise, it’s fix it, drive it, enjoy it and repeat as needed.
Oh, I’ve another 63 round eye Avanti R2 for nearly 20 years. It’s a factory supercharged, T-10 4 speed, Twin Traction, and 4:55 rear gears – completely stock, exactly as built be Studebaker. It will change every preconception you may have had about 60 years old Studebakers!

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