Tag Archives: Raymond Loewy

Studebaker’s sportiest car the 1963 Studebaker Avanti

Another of the sportiest cars in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

1963 Studebaker Avanti
1963 Studebaker Avanti

In retrospect, it appears that Studebaker saved its best for the last—the Avanti. In early 1961, Sherwood Egbert began concept drawings for a new car that would repair Studebaker’s tarnished image. With his desire to introduce a new car at the New York International Auto Show in April 1962, he enlisted Raymond Loewy to look at his drawings and return with a new model proposal. In the first part of April, Loewy’s one-eighth scale clay model and styling drawings were in South Bend. Egbert introduced the Avanti full-scale styling model to the board of directors on April 27, 1961. By the fall of 1961, orders were placed with outside suppliers for items that Studebaker could not produce internally. The Avanti is best known for its under-the-bumper air intake and “Coke-bottle,” wedge shape design. The fiberglass body sat on a modified Lark Daytona convertible chassis. Avanti’s safety theme was prominent throughout with a recessed and padded instrument panel with red lights for night vision, built-in roll bar, and safety-cone door locks. The car was also one of the first American passenger cars to use caliper-type disc brakes.

In January 1962, Studebaker suffered the longest strike in its history over “personal-time” per shift. The company and labor union finally settled on 34 minutes per shift, which still exceeded the industry norm by 10 minutes. When the new Avanti was unveiled to the public in April 1962, production problems crept up with the fiberglass body. Production for 1962 moved up a little to 86,974 units produced. In addition to the Avanti, another unique model debuted for 1963—the sliding rear-roof, four-door, Wagonaire station wagon. Plus, the Lark and Hawk lines were slightly restyled.

As the 1963 calendar year opened, Studebaker started with a little over $50 million cash on hand. Production of the 1964 models started in August. The Lark with a squared-up design and new model names were the only new additions. The Hawk and Avanti remained unchanged for 1964.

Sales for the 1963 model year closed out at 67,918 cars produced, but the cash position shrank to $8 million. In October 1963, with an 86-day supply of unsold cars on hand, the production lines were stopped. On November 25, Egbert resigned. The halt of production in South Bend was made public on December 9, 1963. Automotive operations would shift to Hamilton, Ontario, closing there in March 1966.

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Indiana Cars in My Four Car Fantasy Garage

What would be the cars in my “Four Car Fantasy Garage?”

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know my selection will be heavily slanted to Indiana-built automobiles. In fact, my selections are three Hoosier autos plus one domestic built one ranging from 63 to 82 years old.

Twenty Grand Duesenberg
Twenty Grand Duesenberg

My first pick is the “Twenty Grand” Duesenberg build for exposition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The regal Duesenberg Model SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan is probably one of the most well-known Duesys. Designed by the legendary Duesenberg stylist Gordon Buehrig, the car was bodied in Pasadena by the Walter M. Murphy Company and aptly named for its staggering price in 1933. That price the “Twenty Grand” would buy you 40 new Plymouth business coupes with change to spare! It was the most expensive automobile of the year. This was the ultimate motorcar of the era. No other American car, not Lincoln, or Packard, or even Cadillac, had so powerful an image. Today it resides in the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California.

1936 Cord Model 810 sedan
1936 Cord Model 810 sedan

My second choice was also designed by Gordon Buehrig, the 1936 Cord Model 810. The car debuted at the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The first Cord 810 rolled off the assembly line in Connersville on February 15, 1936. Innovations on the Cord 810 included disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column mounted-electric gear pre-selection unit), and factory installed radio. Some of the internationally known celebrities purchasing Cord automobiles were movie stars Sonja Heine and Tom Mix. In fact, actress Jean Harlow ordered a Cord with paint and upholstery to match her platinum blonde hair. The 1951 New York Museum of Modern Art exhibit regarded “the Cord as the outstanding American contribution to automobile design.”

1963-Avanti-Front
1963 Avanti

My third draft is the 1962 Studebaker Avanti. Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert enlisted Raymond Loewy’s group to design this remarkable sport coupe for introduction at the New York International Auto Show in April 1962, By the fall of 1961, orders were placed with outside suppliers for items that Studebaker could not produce internally. The Avanti is best known for its under-the-bumper air intake and “Coke-bottle,” wedge shape design. The fiberglass body sat on a modified Lark Daytona convertible chassis. Avanti’s safety theme was prominent throughout with a recessed and padded instrument panel with red lights for night vision, built-in roll bar, and safety-cone door locks. The car was also one of the first American passenger cars to use caliper-type disc brakes. Iterations of the Avanti and the Avanti II were produced until 1985. You can still find reasonably priced Avanti’s in today’s vintage automobile market.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
Copyright © 1957 General Motors

Of course, I still have a soft spot in my heart for my first car, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe. One of these would be the other car in my fantasy garage. What drew me to my 57 Chevy in 1965, was what still draws me today – styling. I believe this styling of the 1955-1957 Chevrolet’s is the best execution of this “everyman’s car.” From the anodized grille to the sleek tailfins, this car talks to me. My two-tone hardtop had a Canyon Coral body with an India Ivory Top and black interior with silver accents. It was powered by a 283 V-8 and Turboglide transmission. This was one sharp set of wheels. If only knew then what I know, I would have put this automotive icon in a time capsule for today.

So, what would you choose for your “Four Car Fantasy Garage?” Tell us about it.

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Raymond Loewy Industrial Design Icon

Many recognize Raymond Loewy as one of the founding fathers of industrial design. Loewy and his company had a hand in designing everything from cars, streamlined railroad locomotives, refrigerators and Coca-Cola’s classic bottle.

Broadway Limited w 38 Stude Pres
Broadway Limited with 1938 Studebaker President
Courtesy Dennis E. Horvath archives

Loewy had always enjoyed drawing automobiles, and in 1932 he restyled the Hupmobile line. The 1938 model year marked the beginning of one of the most famous affiliations in Studebaker’s history. By then, Loewy, one of America’s most famous industrial designers, consulted with Studebaker and developed the all new line-up. These full-width bodies were offered in Commander and President versions. Studebaker’s innovation of windshield washers premiered in this model year. Thanks in part to the popularity of Loewy’s designs, Studebaker sales rose. Studebaker moved to tenth place in domestic auto sales with 92,200 units.

It is interesting to note that the streamline design for the 1938 Studebaker President was influenced by Lowey’s design of the 1937 Pennsylvania Railroad Broadway Limited Locomotive #3768.

Loewy with 53 Studebaker
Raymond Lowey with 1953 Studebaker
Copyright © 1953 Studebaker Corporation

The all new “Studebaker Century Models of 1953” were previewed to dealers in January of that year. The Loewy-influenced Starliner hardtop coupe is probably one of Studebaker’s most recognizable post-war offerings. The coupes are known for their sleek low profile that flows in an unbroken line from front to rear. They have improved weight distribution and a reduced center of gravity.

Visibility was improved by about 33 percent with wrap-around windows at the front and rear. The sedans were not quite as stylish and complicated as the engineering requirements for working on the same chassis. When the dust settled, a total of 186,484 cars were built.

1963-Avanti-Front
1963 Avanti
Copyright © 1962 Studebaker Corporation

In retrospect, it appears that Studebaker saved its best for the last—the Avanti. In early 1961, Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert began concept drawings for a new car that would repair Studebaker’s tarnished image. With his desire to introduce a new car at the New York International Auto Show in April 1962, he enlisted Loewy’s firm to look at his drawings and return with a new model proposal. In the first part of April, Loewy’s one-eighth scale clay model and styling drawings were in South Bend. Egbert introduced the Avanti full-scale styling model to the board of directors on April 27, 1961. By the fall of 1961, orders were placed with outside suppliers for items that Studebaker could not produce internally.

The Avanti is best known for its under-the-bumper air intake and “Coke-bottle,” wedge shape design. The fiberglass body sat on a modified Lark Daytona convertible chassis. Avanti’s safety theme was prominent throughout with a recessed and padded instrument panel with red lights for night vision, built-in roll bar, and safety-cone door locks. The car was also one of the first American passenger cars to use caliper-type disc brakes.

In spring 1962, the Avanti was named the honorary pace car with a Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible selected as the official Indianapolis 500 pace car. I clearly remember Pole Day 1962. What a sensation! I was drawn to the Avanti’s aerodynamic Raymond Loewy styling, which I believe is timeless even today like his other industrial designs are.

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Studebaker Styling Innovation

For the second time since World War II, the Studebaker Corporation offered styling innovation for 1953. Leading this line-up was the Raymond Loewy designed Commander Starliner hardtop coupe. This design garnered the corporation many accolades.

Loewy with 53 Studebaker
Raymond Lowey with 1953 Studebaker
Copyright © Studebaker National Museum

Loewy’s European influenced design made use of horizontal lines to achieve new contours. One concave feature flowed back from the edge of the headlight along the side to a back angle rake near the edge of the door. The low, sweeping lines of the hood and trunk and the fin-type rear fenders added to the unusually low silhouette of the car. The five-passenger coupe was believed to be lower in overall height than any other American-built automobile.

Two low-profile grille openings located above the bumper extended the full width of the car. Each of the grilles has a horizontal bar with parking and directional signal lights at the outside end. Other styling features included push-button door handles, one-piece curved windshields, and one-piece, wrap-around rear windows.

53 Studebaker dash
1953 Studebaker dash
Copyright © Studebaker National Museum

This styling influence extended to the interior. The Studebaker’s hooded instrument dials and recessed toggle switches set a new trend in instrument panel design. Lighting was designed to give adequate visibility without disturbing glare. The angle of the steering wheel was situated to give a sport car feel.

The front bench seat was an offset design with the driver’s section somewhat narrower than the passenger section. This resulted in a larger entryway into the rear seat for passengers entering from the right-hand side of the car and greater comfort for the middle passenger when three are riding in front. The rear seat area featured two seats divided in the middle with a fold-out arm rest.

At the end of 1953 model year production, coupes accounted for 80 percent of production. Vestiges of this coupe’s styling stayed in the Studebaker production in various offerings through the 1964 model year. This low-slung compact design was also popular for adaptation into streamline land-speed racer designs.

1957 Studebaker Hawk
1957 Studebaker Hawk
Copyright © Studebaker National Museum

This Studebaker styling innovation still looks timeless today. The 1953 Commander Starliner hardtop coupe was one of five designs that Lowey’s design consultancy produced for Studebaker from 1939 through 1963.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Buick Produces a Sixties Styling Icon

Outside of the Studebaker Avanti launched in April 1962, I believe the 1963-1965 Buick Riviera ranks as a Sixties Styling icon. Car & Driver called it “The car that most impressed us in 1963.” The magazine further states “…it stands alone among American cars in providing a combination of luxury, performance, and general roadworthiness.”

1963 Riviera front
1963 Riviera front view
Copyright General Motors Corporation

What makes the Riviera so appealing? For me it’s the cutting edge styling inspired by GM’s chief stylist Bill Mitchell. Some of his inspiration came from seeing a Rolls-Royce cutting through the foggy night while visiting the 1959 London Motor Show.

1963 Riviera rear
1963 Riviera rear view>
Copyright General Motors Corporation

The Riviera features an expansive egg-crate grille, a flowing fender line, razor-sharp hardtop roof, and a classic inspired rear quarter panels. In side view, the Riviera has two rear scoops ahead of the rear wheels and a trim line that flows from the front edge and over the front wheel opening, then horizontally to and over the rear wheel opening straight to the lower edge of the rear bumper. The original plan of placing the headlights in the fenders behind retraceable grilles was not available until the 1965 model. It is a clean European influenced style that leads the eye to this styling icon.

1965 Riviera retractable headlights
1965 Riviera retractable headlights
Copyright General Motors Corporation

Riviera featured two manufacturing “firsts” for a production automobile: 1. Frameless side glass windows. 2. Flush adhesive-mounted windshield and rear window. Buick’s 401 cubic-inch “Wildcat” V-8 engine provided the motive force for the luxurious Riviera.

In a collectible classic review of the Riviera, Automobile magazine recently stated “One of the most beautifully proportioned American cars of the last sixty years; it was reportedly lauded by contemporary cognoscenti including famous designers such as Sir William Lyons, Sergio Pininfarina, and Raymond Loewy…”

It’s nice to see the magazine seems to agree that the 1963-1965 Buick Riviera is a sixties styling icon. You might want to check one out for a collectible classic in your garage.

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