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Dave Arland with his 1963 Studebaker Avanti, which he acquired less than a year ago.
RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By A.J. Baime
July 2, 2022 10:00 am ET

Dave Arland, 58, of Carmel, Ind., president of public-relations firm Arland Communications, on his 1963 Studebaker Avanti, as told to A.J. Baime.
To me, the Studebaker Avanti looks like no other car ever made, and it has a story unlike any other car. In the early 1960s, Studebaker was on the verge of going out of business. The company contacted Raymond Loewy, often called the father of industrial design, and asked him if he could design a new model incredibly quickly. [Loewy designed the Exxon and Shell logos, and the Lucky Strike cigarette package.] This was like a Hail Mary pass to try to keep the company afloat. Loewy had famously worked with Studebaker in the past. He put together a team and came up with the design for the Avanti. The car went on sale in 1962.

Mr. Arland and the Avanti were born around the same time and in the same state, Indiana.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Avanti’s restored interior, including a built-in makeup mirror and ‘60s-style sunglasses.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Avanti was designed by Raymond Loewy, often called the father of industrial design in the U.S.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
You can see Loewy’s hand all over this design. It’s often said that there is not a straight line on the Avanti. And there’s not. It curves and undulates. It is truly striking. But the plan didn’t work. Soon after it went on sale, the company shut down.
I have always had an affinity for the Avanti. Studebaker was from South Bend, Ind., and I am from Indiana. I was born in 1963—during the short time when the Avanti was in showrooms. When you get bit by the classic car bug, there’s a process. First, you join the club. I joined the Studebaker Drivers Club, the Avanti Owners Association International and local chapters of both of those clubs. Then, you buy a model car; I bought a model Avanti and put it on my desk, so I could look at it every day.



The Avanti was like a ‘Hail Mary’ by Studebaker to stay in business, says Mr. Arland. It didn’t work.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Avanti’s distinctive logo.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The 1963 Studebaker Avanti in full profile.
PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Then one day in October of 2021, I got a call from a guy named Mike Baker, who lives in Indiana and whose job is repairing and restoring Avantis. He knew of one for sale 5 miles from my house. It was sitting in a barn and had only been driven about 250 miles in 20 years. I bought this car for just under $20,000. The car’s interior had been replaced with this horrible shag and velour 1970s look, and the car needed work under the hood.

Incredibly, through a search of records, I was able to determine that this car was originally purchased in West Virginia right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when it literally felt like the world could be ending. Obviously, the original owner was an optimist.

The license-plate number for Mr. Arland’s Avanti speaks to its vintage.


Mr. Arland on the road in his 1963 Studebaker Avanti.PHOTO: RYAN KURTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
My goal was to get the car ready for the 2022 Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet. Every five years, this meet returns to Studebaker’s hometown of South Bend, not too far from where I live, and where the Studebaker National Museum is located. I had my Avanti’s interior restored to what it looked like when it first rolled off the assembly line, plus a lot of other work done. And I was able to drive it to the international Studebaker meet in early May.

Next weekend, both the Studebaker National Museum and the local chapter of the Avanti owners club will mark the 60th anniversary of the Avanti. Owners will be coming to Indiana from all over with their cars. I am proud to get to bring my Avanti to the party.
 

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I saw 'Avanti' and clicked as soon as I could. Absolutely stunning cars, and one of the very few American cars I've ever liked. My grandfather loved them as well, as he had work friends who were restoring one, and when they'd come over for dinner, he'd ask them to bring it with them. He would actually back his car out of car port so the Avanti was in a safe place.

I've been looking at the values recently, and was shocked at how reasonable they seemed.
 

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Wonderful example of great design, timeless and innovative. Were these available with a standard transmission or all automatics?
 

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Such a beautiful little car, it always makes me smile to see one driving around. I see a white Supercharged one driving around from time to time.
Wonderful example of great design, timeless and innovative. Were these available with a standard transmission or all automatics?
They were available with both originally, I’m not sure if the very late models were or not.
 

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Wonderful example of great design, timeless and innovative. Were these available with a standard transmission or all automatics?
Yes, and different transmissions depending on the trim level. The "R1" was a 289-ci V8 and was available with a three-speed manual or a three-speed Automatic. The "R2" was a 289-ci Paxton supercharged V8 and was available with a Borg-Warner 4-speed T10 manual or the same three-speed automatic.

All the manuals have a slightly different center console with a round, corrugated shift boot and a white cue-ball shifter on a straight chrome stalk:

Car Vehicle Motor vehicle Steering part Automotive design


The later Avanti IIs had a manual up until the early 70s, if I recall correctly. They were extremely rare, and I'm 99% sure that the Avanti IIs in the 1980s, which just used the Chevy 305 from the Monte Carlo, were automatic only.
 

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I've never really cared for them but I can appreciate having something that's eye-catching and the example from the article looks well restored. But what do I know, I like old CItroen cars so I can't tell anyone anything.
 

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kinda funny that engines seem to be off camera these days on the ´my ride series


Paxton superchargers were a fun addition to the OEM selections
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Other than the flat panel between the headlights I love these things. I just keep looking at that starkness, though.

I'd love to have one, weird nose or not. Make mine a supercharged 4-speed, please. :)
 

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What was the top speed of the Studebaker Avanti?

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Called “the fastest production car in the world” upon its introduction, a modified Avanti reached over 170 mph (270 km/h) with its supercharged 289-cubic-inch (4,740 cm3) R3 engine at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
 

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Another fun Avanti detail is that all the instrumentation was illuminated red. Some of the coloring in these pictures is off because the original bulbs have faded to a light orange over time, but you get the idea:

Speedometer Trip computer Gauge Tachometer Fuel gauge


Things were pretty basic as far as HVAC - the "L.H. VENT" and "R.H. VENT" levers just opened flaps in the kick panels that meant your ankles got a gentle breeze at speed. "TEMP" either opens or closes a valve to allow coolant through the heater core, and the split-lever for "DEFR-HEATER" quite literally either opens or closes the windshield vent or the floor vents, independently of each other. Yes, it's possible to run the fan with both closed.
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The headlights and - for some reason - the blower controls have toggle switches mounted in the windshield header:
Audio equipment Electronic device Musical instrument accessory Gas Electronic instrument


I suppose I should have prefaced this by saying that I keep jumping in because my latest toy is a '63 Studebaker Avanti, 63R1358, which is a supercharged four-speed model in Avanti White over a "Regal" red interior. I think this makes me the youngest Avanti owner in the U.S. at 43.

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There are exactly two Studebaker forums — AOAI, which the WSJ article mentions, and Studebaker Drivers' Club. SDC has an 'in memoriam' forum that gets more traffic than any of the model-specific forums, to give you an idea of how wild and crazy the world of Studebaker owners is. Most Stude parts vendors don't have websites, and if they do, they still insist on you calling them because they're never updated.

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There's a ton of institutional knowledge about these cars among the owners who are still with us, but most of it is locked away behind some angry, misanthropic bastard who lives in Michigan (they always live in Michigan, though I would also accept Indiana or Ohio) who refuses to share anything with the forums. Remember the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona? In it, Javier Bardem's father hated humanity so fiercely that he would write poems that were considered to be the most beautiful in the world, purely to deny them to us out of spite. The Avanti world is a lot like that.

But seeing as I'm not miserable a bastard in Michigan, I am more than happy to answer any Avanti questions you may have. So, uh, feel free to ask away!
 

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All full up in here
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