Daily Driver: 1979 Avanti

The age-old debate of dailying a classic or otherwise vintage vehicle continues in many enthusiast circles, with proponents saying it’s the only way to fly and those against the idea recounting numerous negative experiences of being stranded on the way to work. Personally, I’d have a hard time daily driving any of my projects simply because I’ve grown to like modern conveniences, but this 1979 Avanti here on eBay may be the ultimate compromise between classic and comfort. 

Technically, I believe this is an Avanti II, representing the multiple ownership changes and engineering tweaks the original Avanti endured over the years. It didn’t change much, styling-wise, but what was beneath the skin seemed to shift with the weather, or depending on who owned the company that week. In this Avanti’s case, it comes from the era where GM’s venerable 350 replaced the original’s Corvette-sourced 327 motor. This is a point in favor of daily driving an Avanti, as parts sourcing will be a breeze.

Another benefit of driving an Avanti to the grocery store or the gym is that you’ll be entirely comfortable while in the car and not lacking for features. This example was even spec’d with an optional moonroof and leather seats, two fairly pricey options back in its day. You’ll also find cruise control, power windows and locks, an electric trunk release, and AM/FM stereo with cassette. The seller says there’s no rust but the paint could use some work; overall, there’s a lot pointing in favor of using a car like Avanti for even the most mundane of chores.

And you’ll even get to stare at that beautiful switch gear while you do it! I would promptly lose the Chip Foose-branded steering wheel cover, but perhaps it has kept the original covering is preserved condition. While the original Avanti with Corvette power will always be more desirable, the later examples maintain the company’s iconic looks and muscular proportions. This particular Avanti is listed with an opening bid of $8,950, but no takers as of yet. Would you daily drive a car like this?

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Comments

  1. T Mel

    I like em but they’re a little funny looking in the front

  2. Jim O Member

    Love the original Avanti’s but the GM powered ones like this one are daily drivers. The comment made about original ones with Corvette power is a incorrect statement. The original Studebaker Avanti’s were powered by Studebaker built 289 V-8s. Most were normal aspirated engines but limited versions were available with Paxton superchargers

    • grant

      Thank you for that,Jim. I was a little disappointed the author didn’t seem very familiar with these.

    • John

      Original Studebaker made Avantis were indeed powered by Studebakers 289. The author may have been referencing the original Altman built cars from 1965 – 1969 which would have had 327 Chevy engines.

      Like 2
  3. David Frank David Frank Member

    About classic cars vs modern cars; I enjoy my daily drivers with all the conveniences, but those cars are more like appliances. There is nothing like driving a classic. My favorite to drive, for example, is the 1936 Plymouth. Classic cars are about much more than looks. It’s like it is really nice sitting on your comfy couch drinking a beer and watching basketball but not nearly as much fun as actually playing basketball.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      I agree my daily driver has about as much soul as a loaf of bread, but I have to admit – as the first relatively “new” car I’ve driven in years (it’s a 2013), there’s a lot to be said for not worrying about what’s going to fall off of it on the way to work.

      Now that said, I try not to touch the thing on the weekends!

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        That’s interesting, guys, because my daily driver is all about soul and love of life. It sure as heck isn’t practical! But I drive it around 60-70 miles daily and I’d go stark raving nuts if it were just an appliance…

  4. 86 Vette Convertible

    If my memory hasn’t failed, I once had a run-in with an Avanti. It’s was about 1967 and I was working in a parking lot where the customer pulled in and you parked the car. One came in, parked it just fine then went to turn off the headlights (with the customer gone). Do you suppose I could find the headlight switch! I finally grabbed a pair of pliers I had and removed the battery cable. When the customer came back, I explained what I did and why. He then showed me the headlight switch was in a roof console by the rearview mirror. Felt pretty stupid but then again he didn’t have a dead battery either.

    It was a neat car but I’ve seen maybe 3 or 4 in the last 50 years.

    • Dan h

      I feel your pain! When I first started working on a customers ’63 Avanti, it took me damn near 20 minutes to find that headlight switch! Didn’t think to look up. It was real embarrassing since I’m a pretty seasoned mechanic that supposedly knows his way around a classic car! Damn you, headlight switch,damn you!

  5. Tirefriar

    I wouldn’t be so confident about zero rust until I’d have the car up in the air and have the pig troughs thoroughlyinspected.

    Alas, with intake mods this car may have issues passing smog in Kommiefornia directly affecting its ability being registered in the state.

    • Dick in SoCal

      CA still requires biannual smog inspection on anything 1976 and newer. Almost all ’79 engines were really choked up and wimpy. Navigating the exceptions is perilous without an expert on your team.

      • Mountainwoodie

        Or you could live like I do in an area that, counter intuitively, doesn’t require bi annual smog inspections………..even in Trumpofornia. You would think that living in the mountains at 4,000 ft you’d want to keep the air clean! Instead every geezer with a handicap placard is driving the biggest noisiest diesel truck they can buy. No mystery why.

    • waynard

      Agreed on the hog troughs. A real weakness on these cars and danged expensive to repair.

  6. Derek

    When it comes down to it, a car’s a box with wheels for moving stuff around in. Some of the older stuff is a challenge to drive in busy traffic (single-speed motorbikes/veteran cars spring instantly to mind as an example), but to my mind you have to be able to use a car for something otherwise it’s difficult to justify.

    Shifting large rollcabs around in daft wee cars, for example…

    Devil’s advocate, perhaps.

  7. Vin in NJ

    Great looking car that I’d love to have for a daily driver, but I’d get rid of the wheels and tires and opt of blackwalls and spokes

    Like 1
    • jw454

      I agree, the wheels would have to be replaced with something else. Otherwise, I like it. As for a DD, I guess it would be fun if you had all the bugs worked out.

    • JimmyinTEXAS

      I would have to get rid of that Chit Fooze steering wheel cover, or I would certainly go blind and be sick all the time if I had to look at it…

  8. RoselandPete

    I always loved the design of these cars. I had one back in 1964. It was made by AMT, but still…

  9. MoparMatt

    No one seems to have pointed out that of course there is no rust. It’s fibreglass

    • SubGothius

      Sure, the body is fiberglass, but the chassis is not, and that’s where rust can be a problem for these — notably the “hog trough” chassis outriggers (U-section torque boxes) used to reinforce the narrow Lark chassis for rigidity and adapt it to the wider Avanti body.

      Looks like replacement troughs are readily available for replacement without removing the body from the frame, so any deficiency there is more a negotiating point than a deal-breaker, as long as the rest of the frame is sound.

      • San Jose Scott

        Helped a friend replace the hog troughs on his. There are several vendors so our experience might not be the same for all.

        It was true that we did not have to remove the body. We did have to separate and lift the body to install them. If we did not have access to a lift we could not have done the job.

        From my understanding every Avanti with a Lark frame will have rust in the hog troughs. Dirt and mud get up there and corrode them.

        I do like the body design and the rake of the originals. Even more I like the interiors. They are something.

      • waynard

        …and not cheap to replace those troughs. And complicated.

  10. Adam

    I’ve been daily driving my ’66 Avanti II since I got it 4 months ago. So far so good and you are right, the GM powertrain should be reliable and easy to maintain.

  11. Gloin

    At least it’s not a 4 door, (very awkward look) and with the exception of the headlights, it could pass for a 63

    • Andy

      I think the four door Avantis are very rare–they’re all pretty rare, going all the way back to the Studebakers, and the four door wasn’t introduced until pretty late, when they were hardly even selling any of the coupes.

      • Dave Debien

        All of the post Studebaker Avanti’s are rare only a few hundred made each year!!!

  12. Rustytech Member

    I wouldn’t worry at all about daily driving an old car. I’ve had more parts fall off modern cars than any of my older ones, ( plastic parts held on by plastic clips ). Never had that problem with any of my older cars! I have always like the Avanti, though I would rather have the older Studebaker models. This could definitely be a great daily driver.

    • BMW4RunninTundra

      Speaking of “parts falling off”. I have a (to me) humorous antidote. Pulling out of our Church parking lot in our 91 Chevy Caprice Wagon, that we keep at a second home as a “beater”, I stop, shift into drive, and hear a loud clunk. Didn’t concern myself about it due to having just backed up to a high curb and envisioned having just rubbed the undercarriage. As we are pulling out, I see a gentleman in his “Sunday Best” chasing after us carrying something. I roll down the window, he comes up and asks if I wanted this??? This would be the rear half of the exhaust system that fell off when I backed into the curb. Everyone,of course, is standing around watching, as I pop the tailgate hatch and meekly asked him to throw it in there. THAT was embarrassing for multiple reasons, 91 Chevy Caprice wagon (before wagons were “cool” again), filthy because our house was off a dirt road, and just the fact that this Gentleman had to sully himself in order to return a rather large section of my exhaust. (if you don’t find this humorous, then it’s one of those “you had to be there” moments)

  13. Graham Line

    The Avanti II is identified by the rectangular headlight housings and the reprofiled front wheel arch. One would not expect much in the way of rust on the fiberglass body but the underpinnings can be a different story.

    • SubGothius

      The final year of original Studebaker Avanti had the rectangular headlight bezels as well. The reprofiled front wheel arches of the Avanti II was due to the GM engine substitution, which required a front end lift of an inch or so for clearance, which also reduced the sporty “rake” of the original Avanti’s stance.

      I always wondered how readily an Avanti II could be retrofitted back to the original round style headlights, wheel arches and stance, if a modern lower-profile GM engine with FI were fitted (no carburetor or air cleaner stack to clear).

      Like 1
  14. Mike Williams

    I’d like to have it, but it likely has a big reserve and no chassis photos. It was a $22k car when bought back in 1979 according to the listing.

  15. RoselandPete

    I don’t know if I’m stating this correctly, but I seem to remember reading that these cars had rust problems in some sort of frame rail boxes or something like that.

    • JimO Member

      The “Hog Troughs” or torque boxes

      • RoselandPete

        Sounds right.

  16. Greg Howes

    You have to ask yourself if you’re driving a “classic” car to enjoy it’s original character, or driving it to show off it’s character to others, or both. There is no wrong answer, but this car is one that you can only drive to show off it’s character.

    I love the Avanti, but under everything this is a 1979 GM car. I’d prefer driving the car that was originally designed to be the Avanti – the 63 and 64 models (you can also argue that the 67-70 models were very close to the original). The feel and performance of those was what the designers intended. Yes, they have the faults of an early 60’s car, but that’s their character. I have no problem with someone driving an old car (or old truck) with modern “guts”, but they’re driving it to show off the style of the car, not experience the original.

    I have a 41 chevy pickup that is a restored original version. I might drive it more if I modified the drivetrain and suspension, but I would never be able to capture the originality of driving a 1941 era truck.

    • SubGothius

      The only thing GM about an Avanti II is the engine and its directly related accessories. They were still produced on the original Studebaker Lark chassis design, with bodies cast from the original molds, original-style dash and switchgear, etc., all of which Altman and Newman acquired from Studebaker’s bankruptcy and continued to use during their era of production through ’82.

      During the subsequent Blake era, they dropped the “II” but were still made on the original Lark-style chassis from ’82-87, though the body was modified for a more modern, dechromed look with rectangular headlamps (not just bezels) and body-color integrated plastic bumpers.

      It’s the Cafaro-era cars after ’87 that are little more than rebodied GM cars, built on first Monte Carlo and then Caprice chassis with altered bodies that look a bit softer and chunkier, like maybe they were cast with a cheaper process from molds taken off an original body and modified for the new host chassis, and the interiors changed to a mere ghost of the original style.

      • Vince Habel

        Studebaker was not bankrupt. The were still making a small profit on cars when the stopped in 66. The company lived on for many years with other products STP was ne of them,

  17. Edward Matula

    I loved this design from day one. I always wanted one, Chevy powered or not. Of course a Paxton supercharged Studebaker one would be the ultimate. The the styling was radical and fiberglass was in it’s automobile infancy during that time period.
    Raymond Loewy was one of the best industrial designers in history.

    • RoselandPete

      “Raymond Loewy was one of the best industrial designers in history” Do you have any names on who was as good or better? I’d like to look up some of their work. Loewy is the only name that seems to pop up from time to time..

      • Mountainwoodie

        Brooks Stevens

        Like 1
      • Andy

        Henry Dreyfuss, the designer of the New York Central Dreyfuss Hudsons and the Western Electric Bakelite phone among other things. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Dreyfuss

      • Concinnity

        The last/later Studebaker logo, the colour scheme of Air Force One, the Exxon logo, the Chubb logo, TWA twin globes logo, Shell Oil logo, IH logo, Lucky Strike logo and pack design, the Greyhound Scenic Liner bus, ’59 Hillman Minx and variants, the Coca Cola bottle and white logo and so many others as well as most of the good looking postwar Studebakers is a pretty hard record to beat. I don’t think there has been any designer before or since with such a varied and high quality output. Some advantage in being one of the first in a new field. Arguably, industrial design as we know it was invented by him.

      • waynard

        Gordon Beuhrig. (sp?)

        Like 1
  18. That AMC Guy

    Brooks Stevens is responsible for some interesting designs, including updating the Lark’s styling for Studebaker.

    Like 1
  19. RoselandPete

    Thanks for the leads. I’ll have to look them up.

  20. Mike

    No comments on those horrible buck tooth bumperettes?

    • Mountainwoodie

      I groaned and thought to myself…………..only a ’63.

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