Rare Ride: 1985 Avanti II

We here at Barn Finds love a truly rare vehicle in good original condition, and this Avanti II looks like it would live up to that. It just so happens to be for sale here on craigslist out of West Chester, PA. Read on to see more about it!

In the early ’60s, Studebaker was in a bad way. They had started with an electric car way back in the 1900s, but times had changed. Studebaker needed something exciting to get people back into the showroom, and designer Raymond Lowey had an idea, sketched on a napkin, which had real potential – a fiberglass body over existing underpinnings, but with radical new styling – much like the first Corvette. The Avanti was different, though, it was a high-performance, V8-powered, FOUR seater fiberglass coupe with radical new styling and a name that translates loosely to “forward” in Italian. It ended up being a decent, if unique, machine, with multiple engine and transmission choices, as well as the option to add a Paxton supercharger. The orignal Avanti lasted only about a year, putting out about 4,600 units before Studebaker finances had reached their end, and the South Bend, Indiana plant was shuttered. Multiple people tried to resurrect the Avanti with fresh capital and enthusiasm afterwards, but the hand-built Avanti and Avanti II as we know them were finally put to rest in 2006. There’s talk of an all-electric Avanti III, but that has yet to materialize. If my research sources are correct, a total of around 5,000 Avanti and Avanti II have ever been made, including some convertibles and sedans, and one somewhere with a Ford V6 engine.

This particular car looks, from what we can see of it, to be in very nice physical condition. The seller is rather shy with details, other than to tell us that it has 24,000 miles, automatic gearbox, and was allegedly driven for a while and stored in a barn. We’re not shown anything of the interior or engine compartment, which gives cause for concern. The body is fiberglass, so there’s no worry with rust on that end of things, and if it’s really a 1985, then it most likely came with Chevrolet Monte Carlo chassis and running gear, so those parts won’t be too much trouble to obtain. With so few of these cars out there, though, trim and interior might be a bit tricky.

In high school, I dated a girl whose father had a blue original Avanti in storage and a silver Avanti II much like this one on the road and looking sweet. I never did get to sit or ride in either of them, she found someone else more interesting and moved on before I could get to learn about them. I don’t blame her, though, I wasn’t much of a catch back then! Ever since, though, these cars always remind me of her and those fun, carefree times with her, and both she and the cars have a special place in my heart. She’s happily married to a great guy now, but if she’s reading this, she probably has a smile on her face at this point in the story, so I’ll leave it at that. Moving “forward” (See what I did there?), what do YOU think of this car, or Avanti in general? Let me know in the comments!


  1. CoolHluke

    Planes, trains & automobiles:Raymond Loewy truly a unique & prolific designer. Avanti: The Complete Story , good car guy read ..

    Like 3
  2. Steve R

    There are more than a few listed on eBay, but not many takers. Even the Studebaker built ones don’t have interest at this asking price. He’s going to have to try harder if he want this one to go away anytime soon.

    Steve R

    Like 2
    • whmracer99

      Agree — have never quite understood the concept of listing a 5 figure car with an ad that was probably thrown together in 5 minutes. No interior, underhood, or chassis pictures and precious few details as if he feels that folks are going to be fighting over each other to buy this — and that’s not happening at this price. I also have a tendency to look at the other stuff in the background in these types of ads just to get a feel about the seller and this also doesn’t impress.

      Like 7
    • JP

      Double agreed. For this price you can get a fairly nice *real* Avanti. Also, who knew Avanti owned Studebaker, per the seller’s comment? I think Imperial once owned Chrysler, and Mustang used to own Ford, but I may be mistaken…

      Like 3
  3. JP

    In that case the Avanti makes me a pro-lifer since I think it’s one of the best American designs ever. Other than the late Packard-bakers, Stude. was light years ahead of most manufacturers. Just my fact-based opinion, of course…

    Like 6
  4. Al

    Your ex may be happily married to a great guy now but I’ll bet he’s not as humorous as you! I recall my ‘1st’, who’s father was well off owning a coal mine in Kentucky along with his namesake, Pantages Studios, was a car buff collector. Along with his ’76 Eldorado conv brandy new then with literally every conceivable option, we had to ‘wash’ his cars before going out on Saturdays. Two of them were those 50’s if I’m right, Mercedes Gull wing door coupes. Unlike you, I got to sit in them. Strange looking cars but wasn’t until a few years ago that I realize how rare & high dollar these cars are now. I’ll never forget the ‘so which one of them do you want’ line thrown at me ! At the time I was saying ‘neither’ under my breath as In ’77 I loved my ’75 Formula & saw nothing nicer. Like you, she moved on few mos later & I heard 3-4 years ago, her brother sold one of them for almost $1M! Hindsight….

    Like 2
  5. Paul L Windish

    The Avanti, in all editions elicited responses like Sanityfactor’s above. One either loves them or hates them. This polarizing design fits right in with today’s political views! I happen to be in the love them category, currently owning a ’76 Avanti II coupe with a warmed up SBC 400 TBI and 200R4 AOD trans along with an ’89 convertible Resto-Mod with a 383 crate motor and 4L60E AOD trans. I was captivated by the introduction of the original in Fall ’62, getting a ’64 four years later. The design still looks good going down the road today.
    The seller needs to do a much better marketing of the car if he is really eager to sell it. Asking price suggests that’s he’s not motivated to move it yet.

    Like 3
  6. Lew

    Two corrections in the authors report: The designer of the Avanti last name is spelled: LOEWY. Not Lowey as you wrote.
    And the 1985 model is the last made on the original Studebaker designed chassis. The Monte Carlo chassis did not appear under the body until the 1987 model year. (there were none produced for 1986). So this 1985 Avanti should have come with the GM 305 cid engine.

    Like 2
  7. BR

    I never knew that Avanti owned Studebaker at one time. Wow.

  8. Fogline

    There was a guy that had 3 or 4 of the originals sitting in his yard when I was growing up back in the early 80’s. We would drive by in the school bus and I would look at those cars lined up wondering what the deal was. I asked my dad at one point, and he said the guy was saving them for when they were worth real money. Wonder if they are still sitting there.

  9. Rick

    Never seen it, but West Chester is basically my back yard. If anyone wants eyeballs on it, just let me know..

  10. SubGothius

    Studebaker automobiles remained profitable right up to the end; the company’s directors just lost interest in car manufacturing and decided to quit while they were still ahead — a real shame, as Sherwood Egbert had commissioned fabrication of some remarkable Avanti-inspired sedan prototypes from the Loewy design team. BTW, Raymond himself primarily had just a supervisory role, while Tom Kellogg was responsible for most of the Avanti’s actual design.

  11. Roseland Pete

    Love these cars. I bought a 63 Avanti back in 64. It was made by AMT but still…

    Like 1
  12. PatrickM

    I love the Avanti’s! but, with no interior, engine bay or underside pics, I am not interested in this one. If ya wanta sell it, ya gotta show it. I also think the price is too high. Makes me wonder what the seller did not say or show, may lead to a lot more work than any off us want, especially for the asking price. I’m out.

    Like 1
  13. John

    I used to work in in an Avanti dealership in1975 in West Long branch New Jersey, I’ve always had a place in my heart for them also!

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