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The Studebaker Avanti is a personal luxury coupe manufactured and marketed by Studebaker Corporation between June 1962 and December 1963. The radical Avanti galvanized the crowd, its attention-grabbing shape at once revered and reviled. “There is a lot of support out there.”, Stock Avantis are difficult to find, not only because the cars were used hard and often modified, but also because they were overlooked by collectors for so long. Copyright © 2020 American Car Collector Magazine. The three Avanti coupes Granatelli brought to the salt reportedly included a practice car, a back-up car, and the actual record car.

Studebaker was dying when Sherwood Egbert was hired as president in 1961. The Cancun factory, filled with rare Studebaker and Avanti vehicles and parts, remained closed and was sold in 2011.

Sketched by Sherwood Egbert himself (who had an aircraft background) and designed by the already legendary Raymond Loewy, the sporty Avanti came together on paper and as a scale model in early 1961 after a secret, five-week design session outside Palm Springs, California. He then called in old friend John Epstein to manage the project and enlisted another trusted stylist, Bob Andrews, to model the team’s ideas in clay. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time the PR folks glossed over some details in the effort to tell a good story.

Although still a good-looking car compared to its contemporaries, the Avanti was priced too high in the existing market and performance was lacking. When Stuart Egbert took over Studebaker in 1961 with orders to reverse the company’s death spiral, he chose to electrify the American car-buying public by creating a whole new image for the once-great independent. Loewy’s “surprise” caused fits in South Bend. Fast indeed for a barely dry model that only 16 months earlier had been on the drawing board. Right after the show, Studebaker loaded its only two driving examples on a Flying Boxcar and took off on a well-publicized, 16-day, 24-city tour. Studebaker Studebaker’s board hastily approved the concept and rushed the car into production.

The company gave the first production car to Rodger Ward fo…

(click here), The unauthorized use of any editorial or photographic content from americancarcollector.com without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. The reality of backseat headroom under the Avanti’s luscious curves meant the roofline had to be raised, which appeared to spoil what had been a fairly aerodynamic-looking line. | Never miss an article. In the frenetic advertising blitz that followed, the company blanketed the bases, touting the Avanti’s USAC speed records, calling it “America’s Most Advanced Car,” and promoting it as a luxurious, four-place GT. Although it sported an undeniably Space Age fiberglass skin–that body weighed only 550 pounds–underneath it the Avanti sprang from various parts bins. The slippery Studebaker shattered record after record, blowing through the previous American Class C benchmark (held by a Dodge) by more than 50 mph. Targa Tasmania 2019 - Studebaker Avanti, Pure Sound - YouTube Twelve Studebakers smashed 337 different USAC records in six classes. Values are rising along with the attention from collectors. There were no engineering limitations at that point, because not even the designers and engineers in South Bend were aware of Egbert’s secret project. A supercharged model hit 168 mph, while a modified version reached 196 mph--a staggering speed for a 1960s production street car.

When it was presented to Studebaker Styling Director Randall Faurot, there were bruised egos, followed by myriad production problems in trying to confine Kellogg’s svelte lines to an existing chassis. Loewy’s design team was then disbanded and Kellogg was released. Still, Egbert had seen how the creation of a halo design might draw attention to Studebaker. He says that for an obscure, low-production car, the Avanti has amassed a large, international following. On the return leg of the 20-mile record run, the Avanti reached 178.5 mph. The 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 measures 70.40 inches in width, 192.50 inches in length, and has a wheelbase of 109.00 inches. A well-equipped Avanti cost around $5000, while a loaded V8 Mustang could be bought for $1000 less. Loewy gathered his team in Palm Springs and laid out the plan. The last Avanti rolled off the line on New Year’s Eve. The instruments, encased in their pod, are readable at a glance through the elegant steering wheel. An Avanti with a supercharged V-8 was one of the fastest 1960s autos. It was a familiar template. The three Avanti coupes Granatelli brought to the salt reportedly included a practice car, a back-up car, and the actual record car. Chrysler and Virgil Exner almost topped them both with ‘54’s stunning Dodge Firearrow concept, but that dream never made it to production. Michael found this well-equipped R-2 in 1997, not long after it had undergone a two-year, frame-off restoration using NOS parts. Fast indeed for a barely dry model that only 16 months earlier had been on the drawing board. A year later Kelly sold the company to John Cafaro, who continued the convertible and introduced an odd-looking four-door sedan. By John Webber They’re active in the Avanti Club of Florida, attend several shows a year, and have the trophies to prove it. This story ran in an old issue of Classic Motorsports. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. A year after he set the production car marks, Granatelli returned to Bonneville with an experimental, twin-supercharged Avanti and ran a blazing 196 mph. Examples trickled out until 1991, when the Ohio factory closed. Studebaker built only nine Avantis with the R-3 engine, but after the company stopped production, Granatelli bought the remaining R-3 engines and retrofitted a few Avantis with this potent option. We end up driving nearly 40 miles during our photo session, starting and stopping maybe 20 times. It’s one of those coulda, woulda stories for the ages. Some 29 Bonneville speed records were smashed by a supercharged Avanti. While this combination proved to be an above-average performer, at $6500-steeper than a Corvette or Jaguar E-Type-it was a hard sell. Loewy also wanted a subtle, Coke-bottle shape to differentiate his concept from anything then in production by the Big Three, and requested a front-fender design similar to one he’d admired on a recent Lincoln. Talk to Avanti owners today, and they believe their car makes a pretty good case for itself. Even if the Avanti had been able to stick around, however, it couldn’t compete on price.

Last time we checked, an Avanti Motors zombie website, carrying photos of the 2007 models, still lurked out there in the ether. So far that hasn’t happened. Road & Track praised the car’s quick steering, stout brakes, cockpit layout and bucket seats, but panned its handling and lack of traction in hard turns. (There had been no money or time allocated to design and tool a bespoke platform. © 2020 Motorsport Marketing. I wish I owned one of the record setting Avantis but, sadly, I don’t. He says he wanted an Avanti ever since he spotted one being unloaded at a Pennsylvania dealership in 1963: “I looked for the right one on and off for 20 years.”. Features After Studebaker’s demise, the Avanti motored on–with starts and stops–under a succession of owners for more than four decades. “I tend to baby it,” says owner Michael Chernago, “but” I’ve had it to 90 mph and there was plenty left.”. He was not to see his unique shape again until a year later, when it went into limited production in the fall of ‘62. Some Avanti experts (we’re not the experts by any means) say the red Avanti featured in this short Studebaker film was not the actual record setter, that the car that set the records was gold. Video below. Hotshoe Andy Granatelli, who knew a thing or two about driving fast–and even more about promoting merchandise-was president of Paxton Products at the time, and one of his superchargers wailed under the Avanti’s hood. Studebaker, in desperation, set up a separate fiberglass production line in their South Bend, Indiana, plant, but the production slippages were too far gone. Under its once-handsome skin, the Avanti was essentially a parts-bin special, much like GM’s earliest Corvettes. Studebaker pulled the 289-cubic-inch V8 from the Hawk, the frame and suspension from the Lark, the supercharger from Paxton, the manual and automatic transmissions from BorgWarner, the limited-slip rear from Dana, the front disc brakes (which were the same as the Jaguar E-Type’s) from Bendix/Dunlop, and the finned rear drums from Lockheed. The Avanti springs to life each time, runs cool, and is thoroughly pleasant to drive. Michael Chernago, who splits his time between New York and Florida, is a lifelong Studebaker fan who owns five examples ranging from the biggest, a rare Detroit Diesel-powered semi-trailer tractor, to the sportiest, his Avanti.

It came with extensive records, and he’s the sixth owner of this bone-stock example— which is considered by experts to be a prime, never-molested Avanti.

A year later, John Seaton and Michael Kelly (yes, that previous owner) bought the remains and teamed up to release another design using Ford chassis and engines; production started in 2001 in Villa Rica, Georgia. The Avanti offered three engine choices, either manual or automatic transmission, and a host of performance options and advanced safety features. Sure, but the United States Auto Club sanctioned each of these records. Kellogg later told me he was completely surprised when Loewy cold-called him, then hired him an hour later because he “liked what he saw in my portfolio.”.

The story goes that Egbert doodled an idea for a personal luxury car on a plane and gave it to a design team under Raymond Loewy’s direction. (This was confirmed months later, when several early production models had their rear windows sucked out by the vacuum formed above the rear glass.). | Punching the throttle at 60 mph, it takes but 12 sec to hit 100 mph. Underrated Classics: Corvair, TR7, MGB, 928, and Biturbo, The Classic Alternatives: Volvo 123GT, Lancia Scorpion, Elva Courier, and Holman Moody Fairlane, Millennial Falcon: Meet Calvin Nelson and His Studebaker Racer. He called in famed independent designer Raymond Loewy-whose office had been responsible for most of Studebaker’s best lines since ‘41-and outlined his plan for a “sports-themed” personal car to debut at the New York Auto Show, which was just months away. In fact, back in the day, its throaty, free-flow mufflers were deemed too loud for California. The car wanders a bit by today’s standards-no surprise as it rides on skinny bias-ply tires. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Subscribe now. Was it a publicity stunt? Kelly moved the company in 2005 to a large, modern factory in Cancun, Mexico. Just about the time the Mustang roared out of the gates to storm the market with more than a million first-generation examples, Studebaker sank from sight, taking the Avanti with it. Studebaker’s latest 289 Hawk OHV V8 wasn’t matching the performance of Chevrolet’s latest fuel-injected V8s, though that problem was later resolved when Chicago tuning specialist Andy Granatelli installed Paxton superchargers to offset the weight. Loewy immediately took the model to Egbert in South Bend, where the four-place design was selected. The supply was so short that many dealerships couldn’t even get a display example. Was it a publicity stunt? For some time after the closure, diehard Avanti fans made pilgrimages to Mexico in hopes of uncovering remnants–or perhaps witnessing yet another resurrection. “In 2014 Dave Kinney’s ‘63 supercharged Avanti won the top award in the American Production Class at Amelia Island.”. Video: Studebaker Avanti Shatters 29 Records at Bonneville.

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