The Henry Ford
Henry Ford Museum Greenfield Village IMAX Theatre Benson Ford Research Center Ford Rouge Factory Tour
Explore & Learn

pic archive  

Studebaker’s Avanti was a bold car calculated to turn heads, generate sales and–with luck–perhaps even save the marque. THF88440


June 2013

1963 Studebaker Avanti Coupe

When Sherwood Egbert accepted the presidency of the Studebaker Corporation in 1961, the future of the company’s automobiles looked bleak. Studebaker’s compact Lark cars—introduced to success in 1959—were aging, sales were slacking, and the company’s board of directors was focused on diversification with an eye toward exiting the car business altogether.

Egbert wanted a dramatic new automobile to lure people into showrooms and revive interest in Studebaker until the bread-and-butter Larks could be refreshed. He turned to the man who had produced stunning designs for Studebaker since 1936: Raymond Loewy.




MORE:  1963 Studebaker Avanti Coupe

The Avanti’s wrap-around rear window was in keeping with Raymond Loewy’s distaste for straight lines. THF88443


In March of 1961, Loewy and three assistants retreated to a rented house in Palm Springs, California. There they set out to create a new car that not only would grab attention, but could be built at relatively little cost to the company—and be ready for launch in little more than a year. In just six intense weeks, Loewy and his team produced a design that met—indeed, exceeded—Egbert’s grand expectations.

The Avanti—Italian for “forward”—was a masterpiece. Its fiberglass body didn’t have a single straight line. The grille-less front end anticipated the Ford Taurus by some 25 years. The integrated roll bar and front-wheel disc brakes suggested performance and safety.  Better yet, from the company’s perspective, the whole thing was built on Studebaker’s existing Lark chassis. With body fabrication outsourced, the Avanti could be built on Studebaker’s existing assembly lines with relatively little re-tooling.

The Avanti debuted as a 1963 model to critical acclaim at the New York International Automobile Show in April 1962. Orders came pouring in. But the car was doomed to be a victim of its own success. Production problems with the fiberglass bodies were almost immediate. As delays mounted, disappointed customers canceled their orders.  Rather than saving the marque, the Avanti’s troubled launch only reinforced public opinion that Studebaker was in its last days.

With sales falling and costs climbing, Studebaker took the drastic step of closing its South Bend, Indiana, plant and shifting all production to its more modern Canadian factory. The Avanti did not make the move and disappeared after the 1964 model year. It hardly mattered, for Studebaker itself ended all auto production in 1966.

The Avanti didn’t save Studebaker. In retrospect, the marque was beyond saving even before Loewy and his team picked up their pencils. Nevertheless, the rakish car provided a glorious high note on which to go out.

-- Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation


Copyright © 2015 The Henry Ford
The Henry Ford is an AAM accredited institution. The complex is an independent, non-profit, educational
institution not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company or the Ford Foundation.