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.
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.
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.
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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