Hey, Duane here! Within weeks of purchasing the silver Volkswagen Beetle in 2004, I noticed an Avanti II advertised in the newspaper classifieds.
If you’re not familiar with the Avanti, it looks like no other car. Inspirations were sketched by Studebaker’s new president in early 1961. Then famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy of the modern Coca-Cola bottle and his team designed the actual car for the struggling automaker.
Striking in its appearance, many thought the distinctive Studebaker Avanti to be Italian because of its sensuous, sculpted lines. Accordingly, Studebaker marketed it as "America's Only 4 Passenger High-Performance Personal Car."
An automotive journalist magnet, it sadly sold for only two model years, 1963 and 1964. Production of the Studebaker Avanti, built in South Bend, Indiana, ceased at year-end 1963. Consequently, this halo car did not save Studebaker, which shut all automotive production by 1966.
Raymond Loewy Studebaker Avanti
Birth of Avanti II
Once Avanti production ceased, two former Studebaker-Packard dealers resurrected it. They purchased the name, design rights, tooling, and plant space to build the car again in South Bend.
Their newly formed Avanti Motor Corporation began production in 1965, marketing the Avanti II as a highly customizable personal luxury coupe. Each was hand built using the fiberglass body and same frame. This time power came from the Chevrolet small-block V8 engine. GM air conditioning was sourced, but essentially everything else was like the original Studebaker Avanti.
Virtually any exterior color or interior material could be requested. Production averaged 100-150 cars built annually between 1965 and 1982. Subtle upgrades were added over the years, some mandated by law, but there were few major changes to the Avanti II during this almost two-decade span.
Avanti II Advertisement
My first introduction was in the early 1970’s when my father considered purchasing an Avanti II. I excitedly viewed the sales brochure, only to be disappointed when he concluded it was too small for a family of four.
As for the car advertised in the newspaper in 2004, it was a silver 1978 Avanti II, powered by 350CI V8 engine with 3-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 180-hp, it was the same horsepower as my recently purchased 2003 Beetle Turbo S with 110CI (1.8L) 4-cylinder turbocharged engine.
I hesitated to call for several days. By the time I finally did, the car was tentatively sold. I regretted not calling sooner, and the ad soon disappeared from the classifieds.
Almost a year later in June 2005, I saw a 1978 Avanti II for sale in the newspaper. This time I called immediately and was surprised to conclude that it was the same silver one advertised the previous year.
This seller was the previous purchaser. His wife disliked the car and its use of her sheltered parking spot. After many months, she convinced him to sell the car. This was my second chance. I had to see this original, low mileage Avanti II in person.
Next Sunday, read more about this car and the subsequent accident it caused. Thanks, and always drive with allure!