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The Avanti was originally produced by Studebaker in South bend, Indiana. Although they were not a huge company by Detroit standards, Studebaker had long been in the transportation business. They even built some of the original Conestoga covered wagons used to settle the West.
The concept for the 1963 Studebaker Avanti was conceived by Sherwood Egbert, the president of Studebaker, who took over the company in February of 1961. He felt that an exiting and daring line of cars would help Studebaker's struggling automotive division. What the dynamic Studebaker president wanted was a sports car or powerful "Grand touring car that was futuristic".
Something to really catch the public's attention. He hired a famous industrial designer of the day, Raymond Loewy, who assembled a styling team in his Palm Springs home. In a week they had finished a 1/8 scale clay model. In April of '61 a full sized clay model had been completed, taking only 5 weeks. The mock up featured a smooth grille-less nose, contoured hood, fenders that flowed back to a Coke bottle shaped body, and ended in a fastback truncated rear. It speaks of cars that only now are showing the same styling themes, taking their cue from aerodynamic knowledge unknown in the early sixties. Contoured leather bucket seats, big round dials sitting in a hooded instrument panel, a leather padded roll bar, all speak of sporting elegance in the Avanti interior. The sleek body was made of fiberglass.
The Avanti V-8 produced 240 horsepower from its 289 cubic inches. This was the normal R-l engine. For a few dollars more the R-2 option could be had with a Paxton supercharger on the V-8 putting the Avanti in the same performance league as fuel injected Corvettes and the sleek Jaguar XKE sports cars. The hotter Avanti R-3 used the same engine block bored out to 304.5 cubic inches. Still hotter was the R-4 with dual superchargers. Avanti stock cars broke records at Bonneville both In '62 and '63. The Avanti enhanced it's sporting image with a set of throaty dual exhausts and the natural "rake" it had when viewed from the side, sitting nose down and tail high. The sleek body set on a solid separate frame. It was the first American four passenger car to have front disc brakes as standard equipment so it could stop as well as it could go. The doors featured "cone" locks and the fuel tank was tucked up between the back seat and trunk wall. A lot of original thinking went into the Avanti making it a unique and beautiful American car.
Initial response to the Avanti was strong and preproduction orders poured in. The Avanti established numerous speed records and won the praise of the automotive community. But, while Studebaker as a company prospered, the automotive division was doing poorly. Avanti sales were hindered by production problems and orders were canceled by impatient buyers. Studebaker decided to end the production of automobiles in the United States in 1964.
(source: Avanti Source)
-Raymond Loewy. The Birth of Avanti.
The birth of Avanti is a short happy story. Sherwood Egbert, president of Studebaker, phoned Raymond Loewy in Palm Springs early in March 1961 to ask if he would design a sports car. Loewy agreed and flew to South Bend. On March 6, with Gene Hardig present, Loewy got the assignment: The car had to be built on an existing chassis, and Hardig gave him a full-size blueprint to take back to California. Although Egbert promoted the sports-car idea for a specific market, he had never actually had a specific concept in mind, and he never showed any conceptual sketches to Hardig or Loewy.
On March 9, and for the next few days, Loewy began work in his studio on sketches for the car he envisioned. He provided side elevations, front and rear views, as well as a horizontal projection, and mounted the group on 36x18-inch cardboard panels. Then he rented a two-room building in the desert where the designers he had selected as colleagues could work and sleep. Rented drafting tables were installed and the wood and clay purchased.
On March 19, conceptual panels were taped to walls and Loewy explained Studebaker's mandate and his design notion. Loewy emphasized: minimize chrome; avoid decorative moldings; accent wedge-shape; stress long, down-slanted hood; abbreviate rear and tuck under; place instrument panel overhead, above windshield as in aircraft; install aircraft-type levers on the console; pinch waistline, as le Mans-type racing cars; design hoods with off-center panel; accent spacecraft "reentry curve" wheel openings; simple disc wheels; above all, think aerodynamics.
Seven days later, a 1/4 size clay model and perspective renderings were ready, and Loewy flew to South Bend to show them to Egbert. He and Gene Hardig gave their approval, and Loewy flew back to Palm Springs to complete work on the detailing. Piloting his own small aircraft on April 2, Egbert arrived in Palm Springs, liked what he saw, stayed only an hour, and flew back to South Bend. Two days later Loewy flew to South Bend where work began on a full-size clay mock-up, an amazing fifteen days from the project's inception. Loewy supervised its development, modeling some areas himself.
On April 27, they presented the clay mock-up to the Studebaker board, it recieved a standing ovation and was enthusiastically accepted.
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