The Studebaker Avanti has become familiar to us in the 50 years since its introduction, so it’s hard for many to grasp just what a revelation its styling was when it burst onto the scene in 1963. The company’s finances were in rough shape as the 1960s dawned, and President Sherwood Egbert was looking for something flashy to turn the company’s fortunes around. He put a call in to legendary designer Raymond Loewy who as director of styling for Studebaker from 1941-1956 had been responsible for, among other models, the beloved 1953 Starliner. The Avanti was to be Studebaker’s halo model, so a sporty, fastback coupe was prescribed. It needed to be one-of-a-kind, but it had to be made quickly and without costly steel stamping dies. The designers and engineers decided on a fiberglass body, subcontracted by the same manufacturer that made Corvettes for Chevrolet. Power was provided by Studebaker’s 289ci V-8, and came in standard 240hp (R1) and supercharged 300hp (R2) configurations, backed by either a 3-speed automatic or a 4-speed manual transmission. With pioneering features like front disc brakes, integrated roll bar, padded dash, and standard seat belts, the Avanti’s performance and handling was superior for its day as multiple speed records proved in 1963 and 1964. Heralded as the car that would save Studebaker, the Avanti became a design icon of the 60’s.
Sadly, the Avanti was not enough to save ailing Studebaker, which closed its doors in December of 1963, barely 18 months after the Avanti’s arrival. But so forward-thinking was its design that two Indiana Studebaker dealers bought the tooling and the rights, and continued to build the Avanti. The operation changed hands several more times, allowing the Avanti to be available in some form all the way up to 2006. But it is the original Studebaker models that are most coveted by enthusiasts, and that is what Automodello brings to collectors of fine 1:43 replicas.
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