The Studebaker Avanti was a sports coupé built by the Studebaker Corporation at the direction of its president Sherwood Egbert between June 1962 and December 1963. It has been described as "one of the more significant milestones of the postwar industry", gaining iconic status with enthusiasts and collectors.
"The car's design theme is the result of sketches Sherwood Egbert "doodled" on a jet-plane flight west from Chicago 37 days after becoming president of Studebaker in February, 1961." Designed by Raymond Loewy's team of Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews and John Ebstein on a 40-day crash program, the Avanti featured a radical fiberglass body design mounted on a modified Studebaker Lark Daytona 109-inch convertible chassis with a modified 289 Hawk engine. The car was fitted with front disc-brakes which were British Dunlop designed units, made under license by Bendix, "the first American production model to offer them." A Paxton supercharger was offered as an option.
The plan was to build the car bodies at Molded Fibreglass Body Co., at Ashtabula, Ohio, the same company that built the fibreglass panels for the Chevrolet Corvette back in 1953. Egbert planned to sell 20,000 Avantis in 1962 but could build only 1200.
The Avanti was publicly introduced on April 26, 1962, "simultaneously at the New York International Automobile Show and at the Annual Shareholders' Meeting." Rodger Ward, winner of the 1962 Indianapolis 500, received a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize package, "thus becoming the first private owner of an Avanti." A Studebaker Lark convertible was the Indianapolis pace car that year and the Avanti was named the honorary pace car.
In December 1962 the Los Angeles Times reported: "Launching of operations at Studebaker's own fiber-glass body works to increase production of Avantis." Many production problems concerning the supplier, fit and finish resulted in countless delays, as well as cancelled orders.
After the closure of Studebaker's factory on 20 December 1963, Competition Press reported: "Avantis will no longer be manufactured and contrary to the report that there are thousands gathering dust in South Bend warehouses, Studebaker has only five Avantis left. Dealers have about 2,500, and 1600 have been sold since its introduction." This contrasted with Chevrolet which produced 23,631 Corvette sports cars in 1963.
The iconic Avanti name, tooling and plant space were sold to two South Bend, Indiana, Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman, the first of a succession of entrepreneurs to manufacture small numbers of Avanti replica and new design cars through 2006.