• Jun 21st 2007 at 8:03PM
  • 24
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During a recent excursion back east, we had the opportunity to be in the presence of one of the most iconic automobile designs of the 20th century: the Studebaker Avanti. Worshiped by some and derided by others, Raymond Loewy's masterpiece was two-and-half steps beyond anything produced in the '60s. The coupe's name itself means "forward" or "advance" in Italian, and whether you're smitten by the Avanti's aerodynamic styling or its innovative approach to safety, there's a little something for any purebred pistonhead.

This particular 1964 supercharged R2 example currently resides outside Pittsburgh, PA, under the watchful gaze of its owner, John Kudravy, who is a family friend, architect, design snob and devout worshiper at the altar of power and poise. He's owned the Avanti for going on two decades and after showing it at several events across the U.S., it's likely to be the best-kept Avanti in North America.

For a brief rundown on the Avanti, you can check out Wikipedia's entry here, along with a bio of Raymond Loewy here. And be sure to check out our 40-image-strong gallery below.

A special thanks to John for his time, expertise and patience, along with his early contribution to our obsession with all-things automotive.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Avanti is unique and I'm sure it was polarizing in 1963. The unrealized mid-60's design prototypes for the Studebaker lineup are interesting. I've always preferred the various Hawks of the 50's however.

      I wasn't around in the 60's, but I think of a lot of cars that came out in the 80's that had a big design impact then but don't get too much respect or are misunderstood now. I was a young teen in 83, and I think thats about when the then-radical Thunderbird came out. People loved it or hated it, but everyone noticed it. Also the Taurus. Can't remember the name of the show, but there was a Fox Sci-Fi series, which was supposed to be set in the year 2000, and the cop cars were Tauruses because they were so futuristic then.

      Things are a product of their time, and you while some things are "timeless", others you have to look at them in context. The Tulsa unearthing of the rusty Plymouth brought back my you fascination with the 57-58 Chrysler products (my fav was DeSotos of that period). My family was die-hard GM, and I just never understood the deification of the dumpy/frumpy 55 to 57 Chevys. The Chrysler stuff was just light years ahead.
        • 8 Years Ago
        robocop used the taurus...
        • 8 Years Ago
        Your thinking of one of the old terminator movies ;)
        • 8 Years Ago
        Robocop used Tauruses (Tauri?) as police cars.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I've always liked the design of the Avanti, especially in black, and I too, have a background in design. Different strokes for different folks; after all, the world would be an incredibly dull place if everyone liked the same things.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Bill P, I am in total agreement with you.
      Avant1963 -- your tastes and mine are subjective. You have no basis to call anyone ignorant because they find this design horrifying. I was around when it debuted, and sure, it was a sensation -- mostly because it was (and remains) so damn ugly. People either loved it or hated it, and by my count, most hated it.
      I have a background in architecture and automotive aerodynamics, and while this design is simple, there is no coherence whatsoever. There are elements that are good, but there is no flow.
      The Avanti reminds me quite a bit of the devil car in the campy b-movie, "The Car." In fact, I thought the Avanti was the inspiration for that movie monstrosity.
      I have read David E. Davis Jr. for decades, and I know he loves this design. I respect his opinion -- just as I respect yours (until you call everyone who doesn't agree with you "ignorant"). However, I respectfully disgaree with DED Jr. and with you -- the Avanti does not represent anything other than the gleam of the Aztek in a Pontiac designer's eyes.
      • 8 Years Ago
      That Slate article clearly was not written by a car guy. I much prefer driving any old car over anything new. I've yet to meet a new car that had a ride quality even half as nice as my Nova.

      As for the Avanti's styling, I don't love it. I don't hate it, either. It's different. I wouldn't seek one out, but, if the price was right, I wouldn't turn one down, either. In fact, I know where there is one for sale. I just don't like the owner.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think it's very handsome and has aged very well compared to some of it's rather bland contemporaries.

      Personally I think that the '32 Ford Roadster is ugly as sin and has been played out far beyond it's expiration date. But different strokes for different strokes...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Bill and Ligor,
      I've never read a criticism of the Avanti; most people just assume it is very stylish. But now that I look at it, especially in this blue, I have to agree. Not a beauty so much, after all.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Avanti appeared when Studebaker was all but dead--a last ditch effort to create some buzz that never materialized.

      The Studebakers of 1947 and 1953 were the great ones, but not all models of the '53 were especially beautiful. The coupe without the side pillar ("hardtop" as in hardtop convertible because the side windows opened fully from the "A" t "C" pillars) was one of the best designs ever IMO.

      The 1947 Studebaker Starlight Coupe with a back window that wrapped around to the sides was another winner, and some of the sedans were classy--especially the large, Land Cruiser model.

      The 1 millionth Studebaker was produced in 1950 which was the first of the bullet-nosed years ('50 and '51). Those were more a joke than good styling, but cars were hard to get after WWII, so people bought whatever they could.

      The Avanti was a low-volume car that never was much of a real Studebaker. By the way, real Studebakers were generally terrible mechanically in the 1940s and later. Almost all until the mid-'50s blew a trail of blue oil burning smoke, chattering clutches, broken front leaf springs--yes, a transverse buggy spring across the front end (until 1950), etc., etc., etc............
      • 8 Years Ago
      Unbelievable to read posts criticising this car. Have you ever seen one on the road? This design is near 50 years old yet it's simplicity and appeal is amazing. If you are a designer and deride this, I pity you.
      • 8 Years Ago
      it's interesting to see all the negative comments on this car!

      if the design was so awful, why has it lived on for fifty years? are there that many of us that have really bad taste?

      for those not familiar, when Studebaker moved to Canada in 1965, the rights to the Avanti were sold to a Studebaker dealer in South Bend, Indiana, Newman and Altman. contrary to popular misconception, the Avanti was NEVER built in Canada.

      Avanti has had many owners over the years. in the early 80's, the families of Newman and Altman sold the company to Steve Blake. he kept the company for a few years, and sold it to Mike Kelly. I had the pleasure of owning a 1987 Avanti built during this era, a white/lipstick red coupe (serial #99). mine was the last car built in the South Bend facility. after that, production moved to Youngstown, Ohio.

      the South Bend facility was ancient, and was the same building where Conestoga wagons were built during the 1800's. Mike Kelly had told me that the building had gotten dangerous when the last Avantis were being built, as things (like anvils) would come crashing thru the upper floors to the ground floor while they were working.

      Mike Kelly kept Avanti thru 1989, and sold the company to Youngstown-based shopping mall developer J.J. Cafaro. under his tenure, the 1990 four-door Avanti was put into production.

      the 1990 four door would prove to be a one-year-only vehicle; I had a silver blue (serial #62) four door. only 90 four doors were built, along with many convertibles.

      there were many improvments made during this time, the most important being the switch from Fiberglas to Kevlar bodies. the difference between the finish quality between the '87 and '90 models I had was unbelievable. the '87 body had an incredibly rough finish when it came out of the mold; they were using essentially the same process since 1963. this required extensive finishing (let's call it lots and lots of bondo) to make the body smooth.

      by 1990, this was all history. the new Kevlar bodies came out of the mold, there was some light sanding, and the flawless finish was applied.

      ordering a car was like very few others. you not only picked things like color (my silver blue '90 was a mixed
      combination of Jaguar dark blue and silver, the only one made that color), but even things like the wood finish inside, and even the number and style of pleats for the seats.

      another advantage was ordering the platform. at this time, the Avanti was built on a Chevrolet Caprice platform. I ordered a police chassis, with heavy-duty everything. since UAW rules would not allow shipment of a rolling chassis, a gold Caprice 'undercover' car was produced, and the body removed when it arrived at the Avanti factory.

      I spent the last week of "production" of my car at the factory. I had company; there was a gentleman from Switzerland waiting for his black convertible, and a coupe from Hong Kong, waiting for their pair of matching Grabber Blue (ugh) convertibles.

      having the GM drivetrain made for an incredibly reliable car, and the fuel economy was unbelievable. at a steady 70 MPH, I always averaged right around 30 MPG. must be the aerodynamics of that "ugly" styling!!

      I personally don't care much for the later versions that were built on the Firebird and (later) Mustang chassis. on the earlier (pre-2001) Avantis, you couldn't tell what the car was built on until you opened the hood. the 2001-up models were an instant giveaway when you looked at the dash.

      • 8 Years Ago
      I wonder if this is the same car we saw this weekend in Ohio on our way to Lakeview, OH.
      • 8 Years Ago
      As an owner of an original 1963 Avanti, I can tell you that all I get is positive feedback (and trophies), especially from those that remember when the car debuted (I'm 34, so I don't). The car is so far ahead of its time, many people who have never seen one think it is a new car. Read the feature list. This car had so many safety features it trumped cars 10 years into the future. I know it's a polarizing design, but the comments here reek of ignorance rather than taste. Appreciate the history of this car, and you'd change your mind.

      1963 Studebaker Avanti R-1 290
      • 8 Years Ago
      Bill, you're not the only person who feels that way. The Avanti is still compared to Chevrolet's Corvette Sting Ray, as the cars debuted around the same time. The Avanti was fiberglass coupe and an unusual style compared to the geometrically plain American passenger cars of the period. The Avanti outlasted the Studebaker company, with incarnations of the car going on and off from the 1970s to the present day. Avanti Motors of Georgia produces coupes and convertibles in small numbers, even though the company's business state has been unstable.
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