Running Project: 1980 Avanti II

This listing has some nostalgia value for me because an Avanti was the first car I tested as an automotive writer. I didn’t yet know that the manufacturers would lend cars, so I borrowed it from a local dealer. This may have been in the late ’80s, when the car was produced in Youngstown, Ohio. The Avanti’s history is complicated!

What we have here on eBay is a post-Studebaker 1980 Avanti II. It’s down in Tavares, Florida, and spirited bidding has gotten it to just over $2,000. There isn’t much information in the listing, but Doug, who runs a rod shop, tells me he helped clean up a friend’s car collection two years ago when he went into a nursing home. This Avanti was on the premises, along with a 1934 Hudson Terraplane, a 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 (already sold), a 1946 Pontiac, and more. They were stored in a garage and under a lean-to.

“It’s been sitting for years,” Doug said. “It needs to be restored, but it’s very restorable.” And it runs! “Last night I went out there with a can of gas, and it spun over once and fired right up,” he said. “I put it into gear, and it moved forward.” But it wasn’t going far on four flat tires.

Doug points out that fiberglass doesn’t rust. Is the chassis rusty, though? Doug hasn’t really gone over the car. It’s as-is. So what can we see in the photos? The body does look pretty straight, though it definitely needs paint. It’s complete—there’s even a trunk rack. The hubcaps are missing on the driver’s side, but maybe they’re around somewhere. The chrome bumper on the back of the car is badly peeling and rusty. There’s rust around the gas filler, which might be a steel part. That working automatic transmission should be a GM Turbo 350.

What we can see of the interior doesn’t look half bad, either. The dash and instruments—familiar from that long ago test drive—appear intact, as is the wooden “GT” steering wheel. Even the carpet is still there. The car has a sunroof. I think I’m seeing 28,000 miles on the odometer, but it’s the second time around—the listing says 130,000 miles. Doug has a clean Florida title with the car (see the blurry evidence below).

It’s definitely a candidate for restoration—if you want one of these. The GM mechanicals are widely available, and most of the unique body parts seem to be present and in reasonable condition. Of course, the Studebaker versions are much more collectible. Here’s the history:

Studebaker dealers Nate and Arnold Altman, with Leo Newman, took over the company after the model was orphaned at the end of 1963. The first Avanti II cars came out in 1965, using a 327-cubic-inch Corvette V8. The later cars had 305 or like this car, the 350 V8. The ownership was steady, with Arnold Altman running the company, until 1982.

New owner Stephen Blake added a convertible to the Avanti II lineup, and a new chassis with independent suspension and an aluminum rear end sourced from the 1985 Corvette. The headlights (never the model’s strong point) went rectangular. This version of the company lasted through 1986, after which it was briefly taken over by Michael Kelly, who dropped the II designation. John Cafaro next built 405 Avantis in Ohio and added a four-door version (90 were built) in 1989. Re-enter Kelly in 1999. He gave Avantis Ford Mustang power and built cars in Georgia until moving production to Cancun, Mexico in 2006. He had legal problems at the end of that year, and that was it for the Avanti.

So a long and colorful history. Do you want to dip your toes into Avanti II territory? The cars are a lot of fun and attention-getting when they’re working properly.

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Comments

  1. Vince H

    This is a South Bend car. Avanti also used the 400 small block in the 70s. The pictures are not good and not enough. The hog troughs are always a big problem. No mention or pictures of them. At the price it will make a good project . Never liked the luggage rack.

    Like 1
  2. car39

    There is a saying in the Studebaker community, “Nothing is more expensive than a cheap Avanti.” Frames and hog troughs (the part that connects the frame to the body) are common rust items, and repairable with enough money

    Like 3
  3. Joe Haska

    It seems like a good buy, but I would opt for the previous listed one. I think in the long run ,you might be better off. Just like the above comment, nothing is more expensive than a cheap Avanti.

    Like 3

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