Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1963-64 Studebaker Avanti

1963-studebaker-avanti.jpg (750×468) - Google Chrome 5162014 92658 PM.bmp Welcome to another installment of the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to redefine the definition of what a muscle car is, and to expand your mind while doing so. Avanti is an Italian word for forward, and was probably the perfect name for the newest Studebaker coupe that was introduced in the fall of 1962. The car had many design firsts that later became inspirational factors in future cars during the next two decades. Key features include a long hood and short deck, popularized by the Ford Mustang, a grill-less front end which was popularized a decade later with other performance oriented cars, a glass fastback rear that was picked up for the Plymouth Barracuda and other vehicles, as well as other styling touches too numerous to mention here. Let’s just say that when the Avanti was introduced, it looked like nothing else on the market. But is it a muscle car and does it deserve a place in the Garage? tumblr_m1dqczDq5R1ql6vn9o1_1280.jpg (1280×960) - Google Chrome 5162014 92523 PM.bmp By the end of 1957 Studebaker was in serious trouble. So in an effort to save the company, the board at Studebaker Packard Corporation hired Sherwood Egbert as President to try and turn around the troubled automaker. Even in his initial discussions with the board about the president’s job, he proposed a radical new car. It has been reported that on a lay-over at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, he bought some car magazines and once back in the air began sketching ideas about this new radical car. On March 9th 1961 he contacted Raymond Loewy, who has quite a history with Studebaker, and asked him to design a new car. 63-Studebaker-Avanti-white-DV-11-GC_01.jpg (1024×680) - Google Chrome 5162014 92115 PM.bmp This was the stuff of legends, and it has been thoroughly written that within ten days Raymond Loewy, John Ebstein, Thomas Kellogg and Robert Andrews were working at a rented house in Palm Springs. Within two weeks they had finished the 1/8th scale clay model, and on April 2nd Egbert flew out to Palm Springs to view the proposed clay model and the final drawings. With only a few minor changes, he toasted the new car with a soft drink and said “Let’s go!” The 1/8 scale clay was then shipped back to South Bend Indiana for the Studebaker styling crew to work on. The two-seater design became a four seater. The windsheild pillar was made more upright when Egbert bumped his head while getting into the seating buck. The “Coke bottle” shape was moderated. The asymmetrical hood bump was borrowed from some of Loewys earlier sketches for the Avanti. The taillights were modified to make them easier to produce, and the quad-headlights were changed to single headlights to reduce cost. By April 27th, the full-sized clay was done. 1963_Studebaker_Avanti_gold_at_Concord_University.JPG (1640×990) - Google Chrome 5162014 91942 PM.bmp Because of Studebaker’s limited budget, the performance/suspension options were sparse. The frame for the Lark convertible was chosen and beefed up to support the Avanti’s fiberglass body. For handling, the front coil springs from the Lark heavy duty police package and rear leaf springs from the Lark station wagon were chosen with heavy duty shock absorbers added as well. The Avanti was the first American car to feature disc brakes as standard equipment. It used Bendix units made under license from Dunlop, the same brakes that Jaguar had been using for years. 12333-1963-Studebaker-Avanti.jpg (1789×1204) - Google Chrome 5162014 92049 PM.bmp The engine was also a hold over. The top of the line Studebaker 289 made only 225 Horsepower. It was massaged to deliver 240 horsepower for the new performance model, but it really needed more. Fortunately, Studebaker had just acquired Paxton (of Paxton Supercharger fame), and with it came an a belt-driven centrifugal supercharger good for 300 horsepower. With Paxton, Studebaker gained a true performance engineer, Andy Granatelli, who had a few ideas on how to promote the Avanti’s performance image, along with massaging the entire Studebaker line. 1001phr_61_o+1968_chevy_camaro+1963_studebaker_avanti.jpg (1600×1200) - Google Chrome 5162014 92404 PM.bmp The Avanti production V-8 produced 240 horsepower from its 289 cubic inches, which was labeled the R-l engine. For a few dollars more the R-2 option could be had with the Paxton supercharger putting the Avanti in the same performance league as fuel injected Corvettes and the sleek Jaguar XKE sports cars. The hotter Avanti R-3 used the same engine block bored out to 304.5 cubic inches. Still hotter was the R-4 with dual superchargers. Avanti stock cars broke records at Bonneville both In ’62 and ’63. The Avanti enhanced it’s sporting image with a set of throaty dual exhausts and the natural “rake” it had when viewed from the side, sitting nose down and tail high. 1964-Studebaker-Avanti-0021.jpg (1300×870) - Google Chrome 5162014 92941 PM.bmp A number of firsts were introduced with this car. It was the first American four passenger car to have front disc brakes as standard equipment so it could stop as well as it could go. The doors featured “cone” locks and the fuel tank was tucked up between the back seat and trunk wall. It was equipped with a fully padded dashboard, and a collapsible steering wheel. And it was a couple of years before other “personal” cars featured a cockpit environment. A lot of original thinking went into the Avanti making it a unique and remarkable American car. 1964-Studebaker-Avanti-1931.jpg (1300×870) - Google Chrome 5162014 93004 PM.bmp Many names were considered for the Avanti including revivals of the name Packard and Pierce-Arrow. No one knows who first came up with the name Avanti. Some credit the D’Arcy Advertising Agency and some credit Sherwood Egbert. Whoever thought of the name, it was Raymond Loewy who designed the final Avanti script nameplate. The prototype was ready in just under a year and was unveiled on April 26th 1962. 63avanti1152x864.jpeg (1152×864) - Google Chrome 5162014 92315 PM.bmp Unfortunately, Studebaker missed the deadline for the fall car buying season, due to problems with the body manufacturer (who as it turns out, also made the bodies for the Corvette), and many of the pre-production orders Studebaker received were canceled by impatient buyers. The Avanti wasn’t ready for the Indianapolis 500 either, as it was selected as the official pace car for the 1963 race, and was substituted with the Lark Convertible. Only 4,643 of the futuristic Avanti coupes were produced between June 1962 and December 1963, when Studebaker pulled the plug from it’s US operations, and eventually shut down altogether by 1966. Studebaker-Avanti_II_mp204_pic_50681.jpg (1280×960) - Google Chrome 5162014 93156 PM.bmp There you have it, another Studebaker. This one is a better known performer, but I think it’s still a bit obscure. What do you think? Does it belong onto the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, or should it just be assigned a space within a museum? Let’s have a lot of debate on this one. 1963StudebakerAvanti.jpg (915×442) - Google Chrome 5162014 92336 PM.bmp [poll id=”211″] paxton_avanti.jpg (2592×1944) - Google Chrome 5162014 92028 PM.bmp Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You! 1964-Studebaker-Avanti-164521352116186.jpg (750×399) - Google Chrome 5162014 92919 PM.bmp

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