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Rare 1963 Studebaker Avanti R1

On a shoestring budget and with the clock ticking, Studebaker cooked up one of the most iconic cars of the 1960s, the Avanti. It was both beautiful and powerful and – if it had been designed by any of the Big Three – it would have sold quite well. But Studebaker ran out of money not long after the Avanti appeared in showrooms, so total sales numbers were low. From the ID tag under the hood, the seller’s 1963 Avanti is from the first one-third made for that year and appears to be partway through a limited restoration. It’s available in Burlingame, California, and here on craigslist for $10,000 or best offer. Thanks for the tip on this one, Rocco B.

In the early ’60s, Studebaker was looking for something of a hail Mary to help them hold on. As the story goes, Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert had the notion for a new personal luxury car, doodled some ideas on a napkin while on an airplane, and turned the project over to head designer Brooks Stevens to turn it into reality. Stevens assembled a crack team, including famed designer Raymond Loewy and squirreled the group away to pull it together. In record time, the Avanti went from concept to reality and was mostly ready for production.

Some unfortunate production delays occurred, and Studebaker was late coming into 1963 model year for the debut of the Avanti. They managed to build 3,834 Avanti’s for ’63 and just 809 more for ’64 before their South Bend, Indiana plant was closed for good. You can generally tell a ’63 from a ’64 by its round vs. square headlight bezels. To energize the Avanti (which was Italian for “forward”), Studebaker used modified versions of their dated, but sturdy 289-cubic-inch V-8. With a 4-barrel carburetor, these were good for 240 horsepower in R1 mode, and 290 horses as an R2 (supercharged). The seller has the carbureted, R1 version and about two-thirds of all Avanti’s came with this set-up. Kudos to danjedlicka for the history lesson.

The seller’s 1963 Avanti appears to be finished in Avanti Gold and looks rust-free, largely because the body is made of fiberglass, not metal (one of the ways Studebaker got the car to market sooner). We’re told this Avanti is about 85% complete, but we don’t know what the 15% is other than interior door panels and wheel covers. That being said, the seller indicates he has the trim that goes on the car but not pictured. He calls the paint quality a 7 out of 10, but it looks better than that further away.

Much of the interior has already been redone, with black bucket seats (that look aftermarket) and salt and pepper carpet (which is probably not stock, either). The door panels need restoring, but there is no mention if the old ones are still around. This Avanti was well-equipped, with automatic transmission, factory air and power windows. Apparently, the windows don’t work, but the seller is throwing in a wiring harness that we assume will solve that problem.

The gas tank needs to be dropped and flushed out (or replaced) on this 88,000-mile car. The seller tells us it runs but is going to need a tune-up (although it already has new spark plugs, plug wires and a battery). The stamp under the hood says this is unit # 1278 for the model year (out of 3,834). More than 55 years after their demise, these cars are still in demand, in part due to the Avanti II that was in production for years after Studebaker passed away, but that’s another story. Hagerty pegs a Concours R1 at $60,000 (and maybe higher), with one in fair condition at $11-12,000. Let’s assume that’s where the seller’s car falls, which makes it look like a decent bargain at the asking price.


  1. misterlou Member

    I’ve driven by this car quite a few times. Hard to miss an Avanti parked in someone’s driveway! Owner definitely has a Studebaker problem.

    Like 7
  2. Angrymike

    I’m not an Avanti expert at all, but I thought the R-2 was supercharged, not turbocharged. Anyone know if I’m correct ?

    Like 7
    • Conrad

      Correct. I have one. None were turbocharged.

      Like 5
  3. Ralph

    You wrote turbo-charged in your write up, Avantis were super-charged(honest mistake).This car looks to be in solid condition.The front seats and steering wheel are not correct to a 63 Avanti. To my knowledge Studebaker did offer salt & pepper carpets for the Avanti This car looks close to the finish line, but would have to get a look of the underside.

    Like 8
    • Charles A Simons

      THose seats have to go!

      Like 2
  4. bill pressler

    Brooks Stevens had not a thing to do with the Avanti. Verifying basic and widely-reported info prior to writing an article about it is a good idea.

    Like 2
    • Charles A Simons

      Raymond Loewry team (Bob Bourke) did. Brooke redesigned the Hawk and Larks.

      • Vince H

        ii WAS Bob Andrews not Bourke

        Like 1
  5. Charles A Simons Jr

    I’m drooling over this one.

    Like 1
  6. R.Scot

    Where are the original seats? The aftermarket buckets installed in the front are awful looking, in my opinion.

    Like 3
  7. wayneC Member

    The Avanti design team was assembled by famous Raymond Loewy and the first design in clay was shipped in the passenger section of the airline in only 8 days. This clay model actually had different designs on each side. It didnt take long for the board of directors to approve the design and work started immediately and the first full size clay was finished in 8 weeks. Then the first actual car was ready for the NY Auto show in the spring. Most car designs to actual cars take at least 2 years, not the Avanti. Then a fleet of Avantis were shipped to the Bonneville Salt Flats where they broke 29 speed records. The Studebaker Avanti at that time was considered to be the fastest production car in the world with speeds of 179 miles per hour.

    Like 6
    • R.Scot

      From what I’ve read, Loewy had the clay model on his lap during the entire flight back.

      • wayneC Member

        I believe that this is cotrect.

  8. Vince H

    The salt and pepper carpet is correct for this car. I had a R2 in this color combo.

    Like 1
    • wayneC Member

      I bought my first Avanti off a dealership lot in early 1967 with less than 2000 miles My carpet was gold and black. It was an R-2 and 4 speed.

      Like 2

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