Tag Archives: Studebaker Avanti

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 Auto Advertising in the 1960’s

Studebaker was the pinnacle of Indiana auto advertising for the 1960’s.

1963 Avanti
1963 Avanti

Studebaker President Sherwood H. Egbert proclaimed in the 1962 Avanti initial offering brochure, “The advanced styling and engineering of the Avanti are intended to please individuals desiring an automobile of great distinction.” Brochure taglines announced, “The Avanti is elegance, and Avanti means advance.” Nine photos with corresponding descriptive paragraphs describe instrumentation, comfort and interior beauty features, large doors, and panoramic vision. Six additional photos with copy present safety items, performance and engineering enhancements. One front three-quarter view is of the coupe in a setting outside a stylish party at a western home. Another is a side view of a sharply dressed woman with pearls and a fur elegantly lounging on a gold Avanti. This brochure probably represented the state-of-the-art for the time with its presentation.

1964 Studebakers
1964 Studebakers

Studebaker’s 1964 full-line brochure is restrained by its 3 7/8″ x 6 3/8″ size. The brochure uses a mix of color illustrations and photographs to display its seven models. One showed three Lark Challenger and Commander models in a snow scene. The copy read, “Family cars built to Studebaker’s high quality standards, yet priced with budgets in mind!” Photo pages show, the Grand Turismo Hawk and the Avanti. Additional illustrations show interior choices, convenience, safety, and construction items. The back cover denotes Studebaker’s Great 28 Extra-Value Features like, body-on-frame construction, seven proven engines, fully padded safety instrument panel, and dual brake system. The inside front cover closed with, “Drive a beautiful 1964 Studebaker. Experience the many ways they are ‘Different…by Design’ to give more comfort, economy and true car value for your new car dollar!”

This last quotation may best reflect automotive advertising of the early 1960’s. Manufacturer print advertising competed for the customer with distinctive styling and emphasizing comfort, economy, and car value for the dollar.

Looking back over six decades of automotive advertising for Indiana-built automobiles demonstrates the evolution of print advertising and brochures across America. Early advertisements used illustrations and claims for ease of use to entice buyers. The use of color and lifestyle advertisements ushered in a new era in the mid-teens. Lifestyle illustrations with lavish scenes and liberal use of color became the norm in the late 1920’s. In the 1930’s, ads were more reserved with tangible sales points tied into product features. Postwar advertising reflected the seller’s market for automobiles. Automotive advertising became more opulent and lifestyle oriented in the 1950’s. In the early 1960’s, manufacturer ads continued to stress their points of differentiation.

These materials are part of the sales process in creating attention, interest, and desire in the prospective customer’s mind. Some early auto advertisements made some outlandish claims. With the evolution of automotive advertising, we saw these types of claims muted somewhat over the years. Auto advertising over the years was a good barometer of the health of the economy and marketplace.

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Another Car Culture Web Resource

Earlier this year I discovered a Studebaker National Museum video resource. This should be interesting to anyone studying Indiana car culture.

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

In this video, Andrew Beckman, Archivist of the Studebaker National Museum gives you an overview of Studebaker’s history from 1852 to 1963.

Check out this You And Me This Morning overview of the Studebaker National Museum.

Here’s an interesting video of a 1955 Studebaker Conestoga wagon.

This Avanti documentary shares early Studebaker history and then a comprehensive Avanti story. Wouldn’t you love to have one of these fine Studebaker autos? I know I would.

I invite to check out these Studebaker videos to get an idea of this great Indiana-built automobile.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

Studebaker pacing the field in 1962

Recently, I was reminded about Studebaker pacing the field at the 1962 Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was there, so, I’d like to share what happened at the Speedway in May 1962.

First, here’s some background. The Studebaker Avanti was simultaneously introduced on April 26, 1962, at the New York International Automobile Show, a shareholders meeting, and at a press preview in South Bend, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, the company flew an Avanti prototype to 24 cities in 16 days to introduce Studebaker dealers to the new car. The first production Avanti was ready for delivery to dealers by June.

1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible
1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible
Copyright © 1962 Studebaker Corporation

With these production realities in mind, the 1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona convertible became the “Official Pace Car” and the Avanti was the “Honorary Pace Car.” The Studebaker Lark was given a highly successful makeover for 1962 by Brooks Stevens and launched as the Lark Daytona available as a two-door hardtop and a convertible. The Lark Daytona was the first compact car to pace the Indy 500. The 4-bbl, dual-exhaust 225h.p, V-8 convertible, demonstrated credible performance pacing the race. Today, one of the two Daytona convertibles would be an ultimate collectible. One paced the race, and the other was the backup.

What a sensation! I can remember the Avanti being demonstrated during the on-track festivities on Pole Day in May 1962. There was a great deal of chatter up and down pit lane as the Avanti drove around the track fulfilling its honorary role. I’ve also seen publicity photos of the Avanti with Studebaker officials behind Tower Terrace at the track.

Roger Ward receiving his Studebaker Avanti
Roger Ward receiving his Studebaker Avanti
Copyright © 1962 Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Rodger Ward, winner of the 1962 Indianapolis 500, received a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize package, “thus becoming the first private owner of an Avanti.”

So, that’s the story of Studebaker pacing the field in 1962.

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Studebaker’s innovation continued

With the addition of the Wagonaire station wagon for 1963, Studebaker’s innovation continued.

The company brochures promoted the versatile Wagonaire as “A smart family wagon, open-top sedan, and a handy hauler for mile-high loads! Great for work or family wanderlust. Lark models with 6 or 259 V-8 – Daytona has Power Thrust 259 V-8. A non-sliding roof also available.”

1964 Wagonaire ad
1964 Wagonaire ad

For 1962-63, Studebaker instituted a crash-program to invigorate its product line with updates of the Lark and Hawk models and the new Avanti. Industrial designer Brooks Stevens revisions for the Wagonaire were one of the biggest surprises. He redesigned the existing station wagon aft of the A-pillars for a taller roofline.

The Wagonaire was special because of the sliding sunroof in the back over the cargo area. With the help of a one-piece tailgate with roll-down glass, the cargo area could be opened up to turn the Wagonaire into a convertible pick-up truck for carrying over-sized loads. One advertisement showed a refrigerator upright in the cargo area. Interiors boasted new instrument panels with a slide-out vanity that included built-in drink holders and a pop-up makeup mirror.

1964 Wagonaire dash
1964 Wagonaire dash

This innovation preceded the 2004 GMC Envoy XUV’s announcement of a sliding roof section and the 2008 Ford Super Duty’s offering a tailgate step.

Unfortunately, the Wagonaire sliding roof design presented some potential problem areas. Four drain tubes were designed into the channels along the roof opening, but they sometimes clogged sending debris and water into the passenger area. Later on, the weather stripping around the top occasionally developed leaks.

For those interested in a factory muscle car, the purchaser could opt for one of two high-performance engines originally designed for the Avanti sport coupe. The R1 had a high compression 289 V-8, producing 240 hp with the R2 supercharged version yielding between 280 and 300 hp.

From 1963-66, Studebaker produced 19,585 Wagonaires. Nearly 12,000 rolled off the line in South Bend before the December 20, 1963 shut-down. Canadian Wagonaire production continued until March 1966 when some 418 were produced.

Studebaker’s automotive innovation continued for over sixty years with the Wagonaire serving as the capstone to this Indiana automotive pioneer. Occasionally, I used to see a Wagonaire tooling around Indy’s north side. I wonder where it is today.

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