First One Off the Line: 1985 Avanti II

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“Hail Marys” rarely work for carmakers on the brink of failure.  Creating a distinctive car to lure customers into showrooms doesn’t fix the underlying issues that cause makers to exit the marketplace.  Studebaker tried in vain with the Avanti.  However, the Avanti lived on until 2006 in a story that is hard to believe.  If you want an exceptionally nice copy, this 1985 Studebaker Avanti II for sale on Craigslist in the Seattle, Washington area may be the car for you.  With an asking price of $17,000, this car is in excellent condition and is believed to be the first one produced that year.  Is it the car for you?  Thanks to Rocco B. for the tip!

Studebaker could trace its roots back to 1952.  This wagon maker made the transition to horseless carriages after the turn of the century and managed to exist as an automaker until the last car rolled off the production line in Canada in 1966.  When the company was on the ropes in the early 1960s, it decided to produce a vehicle that hopefully would produce positive press and lure customers into dealerships.

The company tapped Raymond Loewy and his team to design this “halo car” for the company based on their previous work for the company.  What emerged was a stunning four-passenger coupe that did draw customers into dealerships.  All of this added publicity couldn’t change the direction of the company, and production that started in June of 1962 ended in December of 1963.

Then, something unexpected happened.  The Avanti name and tooling for the Avanti-specific parts were sold to two Studebaker dealers.  The deal also included plant space in South Bend to hand-assemble new vehicles.  From there, production has started and stopped numerous times over the succeeding years, with multiple owners.  The cars have been assembled in numerous places all over the United States and Mexico.  Finally, under a legal cloud, production stopped in 2006.

The Avanti you see here is advertised to be perhaps the first one to roll off the assembly line in 1985.  It is also listed on the National Avanti Registry.  The seller tells us that it is an older restoration that is driven weekly.  Often those weekly drives are to car shows and outings.  No other information is given except for the mileage.  At 130,000 miles listed, it would be wise to inquire as to the depth of the restoration and when it took place.

From the pictures, it appears that this is a very nice car.  Avantis of this era were equipped with basically the same drivetrain as a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.  This ensures that the local parts house will have or can get any mechanical item you might need to keep this car running.  Body parts are not impossible to obtain, and the fact that they are hand-built should mean a competent owner can do nearly everything needed to keep one on the road indefinitely.

In short, these are comfortable, easy-to-maintain collector cars that will likely always have a following.  They are also interesting from a historical standpoint.  A car living beyond the demise of its parent company is almost unheard of.  The fact that the design is so stunning is just icing on the cake.

Have you ever owned or lusted for an Avanti?  Please tell us about your experience or desire in the comments.

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  1. Big C

    Always loved the style. This one looks beautiful. And no, never had the desire to own one. I’ve heard too many bad things about the recreations.

    Like 2
  2. SubGothius

    I think ’85 was the final year they used remaining old stock of Studebaker Lark convertible chassis and the original-style interior, marking this year as the end of the “continuation” run of more-or-less original Avanti production.

    They skipped production for ’86 as the company changed hands, moved production to Youngstown, and reoriented to fit Chevy Monte Carlo chassis (later changing again to Caprice chassis after the RWD G-bodies ended production), along with an all-new interior and other changes.

    IMO those ’87-on bodies never looked as “crisp” as the original Avanti or Avanti II, leading me to suspect they pulled molds off an original Avanti and altered them to fit the GM chassis and maybe soften the lines to modernize the styling somewhat. At this point, that body styling was the only remaining tie to the original Avanti and Avanti II, so I tend to regard these as little more than Avanti-styled replicas.

    Like 3
  3. Keith Hagerty

    I always felt these cars were ahead of their time. My Dad bought one for my Mom as her daily driver back in the late 70’s. I believe it was a 73 that he purchased used. It had a gm 350 so to me it was a 4 seat Corvette.

    Like 6
  4. SirRaoulDuke

    One of these 80’s continuation models is high on the list of cars I want to LS swap, along with upgraded suspension and brakes. Power to match the looks.

    Like 4
    • SubGothius

      I have often wondered if an LS swap with a modern low-profile FI intake would allow reverting an Avanti II to the original Avanti’s raked stance, since they had to raise the front end by an inch or two to clear the Chevy V8’s taller carbureted intake stack, and lowered the front wheelarches to close the wheel gap created by that lift.

      Like 3
  5. Ralph

    Studebaker started building wagons in 1852.

    Like 8
  6. Glen Lochte

    My uncle sold Studebakers in Fredericksburg, TX. I went with him to Houston in 1965, I believe, to borrow an Avanti to drive in a summer parade in Fbg. It was the most impressive car I had seen or ridden in, as well as getting to drive for a short distance. Although we had Studebaker cars and trucks periodically in the family, the closest I got to owning such a car was my $100 Studebaker Lark that I drove most of the time during college.

    Like 2
  7. Stacey Frank

    I owned a 1985 for about 3 years, enjoyed the car overall. Never saw another one on the road in all that time, this was in 1988, ended up selling it back to the fellow we bought it from. Five years ago ended up buying another one, only a 1991 Convertible. Once again, rarely ever see another Avanti on the road. It has a nice ride, not quick but comfortable. Now it only goes out on nice days.

    Like 5
    • Louis Seiden

      I had a 1982 Coupe and then traded for an 1988 Monte Avanti Convertible. Selling it was my worst mistake. I am looking for a 1991 Caprice Avanti Convertible just in case you know where I can find one.

      Like 1
      • Stacey Frank

        I was told they only built 7 of them in 1991, and I think mine was the last one off the line? I have watched and looked since we got ours to see another one for sale and have yet to find one. The other years come up often but do look different.

        Like 1
      • Stacey Frank

        Yes that was a 6 year old ad, I saw it too. Do not know where it may have ended up.

        Like 1
  8. tadah23Member

    It’s a beautiful piece of transportation. I don’t care if it would blow the doors off of a Prius or not, I would own it to have it to enjoy, bbut my better half tells that since I’ve just bought a 2023 Prius LE that no can do

    Like 0
  9. TheOldRanger

    As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder… I never liked the looks of this car (outside), but the interior was nice and it had a decent engine… but the outside… nope…

    Like 1

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