Owned By Ricky Nelson? 1963 Studebaker Avanti

The Avanti was the forward-thinking car from Studebaker that came too late and in too few numbers to help save the company. It was built for 1963-64 until Studebaker ceased production of cars in the U.S. (they lasted through 1966 in Canada). This first year Avanti, an R1 (not supercharged), is said to have been bought new by entertainer Ricky Nelson, but no evidence of that is provided. And its original color has been changed, which could negate some of its value today. Located in Lewiston, New York, this rare car is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $15,100. The reserve, however, is still looming. Thanks to Mr Tinwoodie for the tip!

Studebaker President Sherwood Egbert had high hopes for the Avanti when he conceived the concept in 1961. Based on a Lark chassis and drivetrain, the Avanti’s fiberglass bodywork was designed by a team headed by famed designer Raymond Loewy. The car was in production by the Spring of 1962, but delays occurred after a lot of fanfare about the car was already in the market. That stymied hopes that 20,000 Avanti’s could be built per year. Only 4,643 were assembled before Studebaker’s South Bend, Indiana plant was shuttered around Christmas, 1963.

The seller’s ’63 Avanti is one of just 2,282 R1s built for 1963, plus 1,552 R2s which were the supercharged editions. Actor/singer Ricky Nelson supposedly strolled into a Studebaker dealer’s office in Beverly Hills, California in late 1962 and signed a deal for this car. No documentation is offered to substantiate that nor does the seller mention how long the entertainer owned the car. A subsequent owner liked Corvette Yellow better than Avanti Gold, its original color, and had the car stripped and repainted. No rust is said to be present in the car today and it presents well, though it’s not perfect.

This Avanti has 98,000 miles on it and the engine (289 cubic-inch V8) and transmission were rebuilt about 5,000 miles ago. Some suspension components were changed or upgraded, and Diamondback radial tires were installed on all four corners. The brakes have been redone, the fuel pump is correct, and a new stainless exhaust system is present along with a ginormous 3EEE battery. However, a few things on the car are not currently working, including the radio, clock, and air conditioning.

The seller makes a generous offer to cover shipping costs anywhere in North America or Europe. That suggests that the unmet reserve may be high for the seller to recoup those expenses. It looks like a beautiful car that would best be served refinished once again in Avanti Gold. The condition and originality of the car should be more important to this car reaching its Hagerty top dollar potential of $60,000, not whether it was celebrity-owned at one time or another.


WANTED 1960-1964 Chevrolet corvair WTB Gen1 Chevrolet Corvair Contact

WANTED 1965-1985 Chrysler Fullsize Roadtrip car for crazy swede Nice original fullsize US car, up for a 5000 mile trip. Max 10 k USD. Contact


WANTED 1966 – 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Project car. Mechanically fine North East Contact

WANTED 1987 Mercury Merkur Ideally rust free, nicely optioned, solid running car w/ man. trans. Also consider 85&86. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad


  1. Barry Levine Member

    An ideal vehicle for a travelin man to the next Garden Party! Seriously I want one of these but need a Golden Hawk more! To dream, perhaps to sleep☮️

    Like 10
  2. Barry Levine Member

    An ideal vehicle for a travelin man to the next Garden Party! Seriously I want one of these but need a Golden Hawk more! To dream, perhaps to sleep☮️

  3. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Sounds like another George Stanza buying a John Voight car. Only this time instead of LeBarron it’s Avanti. At any rate I doubt Ricky Nelson ever owned this car.
    God bless America

    Like 8
    • Steve

      The serial number matches documentation the Studebaker Society states was Ricky Nelson’s.

      Like 2
    • Bamapoppy

      John, it was George Costanza. Any Seinfeld fan knows that. And I’ll take the Studebaker Society word over George’s or yours. *Full disclosure; I was born in a Studebaker so I’m partial to them. And Howard, Ricky Nelson? Like his music. Alice Cooper? Not so much.

  4. Howard A Member

    Come on, you have to admit, the stories are as good as the cars,,Ricky Nelson, that’s the best they could come up with? Don’t get me wrong, Ricky Nelson had some great hits, and the TV series, “Ozzie and Harriet” was a popular show, but who cares what they drove. I saw an episode of “Counting Cars”, and they redid an Avanti for Alice Cooper, now THAT, has some zing. Regardless, I think the Avanti, the car that should have saved Studebaker, was an ultimate flop. Studebaker poured their heart into this car, with features others copied later,( that vanity tray in the glove box signaled high end buyers) but it’s styling was just too far out in left field. That, and people knew Studebakers days were numbered. Even the Addisons, the neighhhhhhhhbors of Mr. Ed, who drove an Avanti on the show, couldn’t convince the public it was a cool car.

    Like 5
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    If it’s changed or not I love the color. Must have pulled the engine to paint the engine bay which really improves the looks of all aspects of this car. Very nice example of a great looking car.

    Like 11
  6. Rick

    First off that is not an Avanti color for 1963-64. Second, here’s the “real story” about Ricky and his gold/black 1963 Avanti.

    Like 9
    • Rick

      I stand corrected, it was repainted in the yellow lounge after Rick had it. Still hate the color.

      Like 4
      • Bamapoppy

        Rick, I love the color! Reminds me of my yellow 1976 Corvette that I sold long ago. To each his own. Let’s go Brandon!

    • Neil Larkins

      Good detective work, Rick (and others)!

      Like 1
    • Buzz

      Another Article states the original Nelson Avanti was Red…
      So we may not know which one was really owned by the Nelson’s…


  7. Steve Clinton

    Love the car, hate the color. (Sorry, Ricky.)

    Like 5
  8. Sam Shive

    Love these cars

    Like 2
  9. jokacz

    Suspension has obviously been “tweaked”. It sits too level to be original.

    Like 1
  10. princeofprussia

    Just a matter of personal taste and preference, but that yellow makes it the best looking Avanti I’ve ever seen! I always felt the styling on the Avanti was, “close, but no cigar.” Something about the proportions always seem just the slightest bit off. Maybe the rear seat section of the roof sits too high. Maybe the whole car needs to sit a little lower. I don’t know; just a little bit funky to the eye. As far as Rick Nelson goes, personally, that might sway me in the “buy” rather than thee “don’t buy” direction. Tragic story, poor guy.

    Like 5
  11. Howie Mueler

    If you tell girls it was owned by Rickey Nelson, they will say who is that?

    Like 11
    • Thomas Janes

      Not if they are in their 70’s!

      Like 5
  12. ray

    His had a black interior, I doubt this was his car

    • Lew

      Interior of this car is black. Early Avantis all had two-tone interiors with fawn vinyl in back, trim and below the side glass.

  13. Troy

    I never cared for these cars much I think they look funny, and I honestly had to look up who Ricky Nelson was, I don’t fallow singers and actors I enjoy their work and talent but that’s about it.

    Like 2
  14. wcshook

    Everybody has an opinion about the Avanti. You either like it or not. Very few fall into undecided. I was about 11 when they came out. I always liked them, still do. Few stop to realize, they were not built for a family car. While they have a back seat, it was more a two seater. It was aimed at the sport car segment. As far as the yellow, I am not the biggest fan of yellow, but that Corvette yellow just makes it pop! Worn interiors don’t bother me. It shows they were used and enjoyed. Abused and used are two different descriptions.

    Like 4
  15. jokacz

    I could take or leave these cars. Just another body on frame, live rear axle, push rod V8, Murican car. They were designed around the windshield, which it shared with all the Hawks that preceded it.On the plus side they did introduce front disc brakes to U.S. iron. Liked the red backlit instruments, aircraft inspired. And lets not forget the fake roll bar. I think what did it in was the fact that it came out the same year as the C-2 Corvette. The supplier of the fiberglass bodies (Molded Fiberglass Company) couldn’t supply both vehicles and GM got priority treatment. Studebaker couldn’t sell from an empty cart.

    Like 1
    • wayneC Member

      Not a fake roll bar. I have seen a couple of Avantis that had rolled and the roll bars saved those cars from the scrap pile. One in particular that had rolled was found down a mountain. The roof was pushed sideways about 10 inches and they were able to hook a chain and pulled it straight.

      Like 1
      • angliagt angliagt Member

        I saw one in a wrecking yard in Roseburg,Oregon
        that was badly burned.I had no idea what it was,until
        one of the employees told me.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Hawk windshields are not the same as Avanti. Hawks have radiused corners, Avanti’s have pointed corners. Hawks have a shorter windshield than Avanti. Google them and compare photos, the difference is so great it can be seen from photographs.

      Like 3
    • jeff

      from loving Stude s and Avanti s I have read that they wanted an independent rear suspension from Mercedes ( they were the import co. for Mercedes,,VW was also an option for them but they chose Mercedes ) but of course money and time was the issue

  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    You know the reserve is high on this one when the seller is willing to cover all shipping costs to anywhere.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      You beat me to the shipping comment! It’s got to be an exceptionally high reserve, now that shipping costs have gone thru the roof!

      Like 1
      • Mrtinwoodie

        The car is listed on Hemmings for 40K

  17. Chuck Neuenschwander

    Love the car; hate the color. How could anyone prefer yellow to WHATEVER color it was? Not to mention downgrading the car’s value.

    Like 1
  18. jwaltb

    If it was Rick Nelson’s that just dropped the value $5K for me.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.