Striking Appearance: 1963 Studebaker Avanti

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This 1963 Studebaker Avanti is anything but standard and original, and in its current form, it is nothing if not distinctive. It will be interesting to see how our readers react to this car because I’m pretty sure that we will receive a pretty diverse range of opinions. If it’s a car that really grabs you, then you will find it located in Arlington, Texas, and listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN price of $18,500 for the Avanti.

Advertised by Studebaker as “America’s only 4-passenger high-performance personal car,” the Avanti was first shown to the world on the 26th April 1962 at the New York International Automobile Show. Its startling styling garnered a significant amount of attention, and it really appeared that Studebaker had created a winner. Sadly, it was not enough to arrest the plummeting sale of new Studebakers, with the production of the Avanti ceasing in December 1963, and Studebaker itself ceasing all vehicle manufacturing in December of 1966. This Avanti has been the recipient of a repaint at some point in the past, but the owner is unsure when this occurred. The finish itself looks quite clean and consistent, with no obvious issues with the panels or paint. Likewise, the exterior trim and the glass appear to be in fairly good condition. I can’t say that I’m completely sold on the color, but the wheels definitely don’t look right to me. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste.

What should be hiding under the hood is a 289ci Studebaker V8 engine, but this is long gone. What you actually get is a 400ci Chevrolet V8, which is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. Once again, this work was performed at some point in the past by a previous owner, and the current owner is unsure about the history of the engine. The owner says that the engine runs well, but that he hasn’t actually driven the car, as it currently isn’t registered. The owner also says that the engine seems fresh, but that he is unsure whether it has recently been rebuilt. Further complicating matters is the fact that the car was purchased from an estate. This means that with the previous owner having passed away, it will be hard to get any relevant information.

I will say that the interior is very neat and tidy. The seats have new covers to match the exterior color, while the door trim inserts also match. the rest of the interior trim and carpet seems to be in good condition and does provide a fairly nice contrast. The only real unknown is the state of the top of the dash, as it has a cover over it. The car is also fitted with power windows, and it does look as though the original radio is still in place.

There is no doubt that the appearance of this Avanti is striking. I guess the question is whether you will find it striking in a good way, or in a bad way. With only 3,834 Avantis built in 1963, my preference would have been to leave this car completely original, but someone has chosen to make some pretty substantial changes to it, and that was their choice. So, it’s is time to hear from our readers. Is this a car that you don’t like because of the changes that have been made? Or is this Avanti a car that you really like, and would be very tempted to buy?

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  1. Gunner

    I have always had a soft spot for the Avanti. It has beautiful styling and in my opinion , was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, to late. This example appears to be a good start to finish to taste. As a purist, I would return it to stock form, especially considering how many were produced. The first thing to go would be those hideous wheels. They are so wrong for this car. Additionally, I am not a fan of the valve covers, much less the choice of engine. Can anyone say “R3”?

    Like 11
  2. Jack Hammer

    I don’t have a problem with the engine swap. A 400 ci. Chev is better than a 289 ci. Stude no matter how you look at it. The color and interior are a bit daring, but ok. I think the wheels look much better than “period correct” Keystone or Anson Sprint, or even Kelsey wires on this car. At least this is runner, driver car. Something you might miss if you spent a lot of bucks making it “original”(not possible) and couldn’t drive it to the grocery store. The Raymond Lowey design is still in place, and the improvements make it more useful. Just my opinion.

    Like 21
    • WayneCMember

      Look in Hemmings, March 2015 (available online) an article about what this article claims as America’s best V-8 engine: the Studebaker V-8. It is very difficult to blow one up. I have owned over 40 different Studebakers over the last 55 years, several R-2’s, a couple R-1’s but mostly the 259 and 289 inchers. I bought a new Studebaker Commander 2dr in February of 1966 with the McKinnon 283. I was very disappointed in everything about that engine and had to do a valve job in the first 18 months. I was also unimpressed with the gas mileage even with the overdrive transmission. I traded it off 2 years later for a 63 Lark which I was much happier with, but the body and interior was much superior in the 66. I have owned Chevys, one Ford and a couple of Volkswagons, but now have Chrysler products for a newer car, (for my wife) so I can compare them as I have had them and over all, I have had less engine problems with the Studebaker Engine than I have had with any other make. I still drive them almost daily and it wouldnt bother me to take off in the morning and go across the country.

      Like 1
      • Jack Hammer

        @wayneC: I now stand corrected on the engine. My dad had a ’55 President, and now I remember that he commented on the ruggedness of that 289.

        Like 2
  3. MurrayMember

    Love the car. Hate the wheels and valve covers. But WOW. What a car. Of course I really dig AMC Pacers.

    Like 9
  4. Mountainwoodie

    Everybody duck! Incoming…………….

    Arguendo, someone didn’t live long enough to enjoy all the modifications they foisted on this truly rare car Sic transit Gloria.

    That said, if you can take it for what it is and enjoy it at a reasonable price it might be worth waiting for the original bits to show up.

    I say this as a purist and original freak but only in the breach as I have bought a 911 and a ’47 Ford in that past that have had substantial changes, some I reversed and others I lived with.

    Like 2
  5. Francisco

    Everybody always talks about how nice the Avanti looks. And I agree with that. But I never hear about how they drive. Can anyone out there comment on how they handle? Are they more a sports car, or a grand tourer? I like the idea of a stick shift, as I don’t believe Studebaker ever offered one.

    Like 2
    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      Studebaker offered a 4 speed in the Avanti, Hawk and Lark. First offered a 4 speed in the Hawk starting in 1962 IIRC.

      Like 5
      • Kenny

        Actually Studebaker first offered the 4-speed in the 1961 Hawk, although only around 400 were equipped that way. It was a Borg-Warner T-10.

        Like 0
    • John

      The Avanti was built on the same basic platform as full size Studebakers as far back as the early 50’s, but they did make upgrades to steering & suspension to enhance handling. I’ve spent a lot of seat time in cars like this one, (I owned a ’59 Silver Hawk and currently a ’52 Transtar pick up) as well as several other Studebakers over the years. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Avanti has “sports car handling”, but they are fun to drive. They corner well, but beware of over-steer. They cruise down the highway with the best of them and quite comfortably.
      As far as the engine is concerned, (please get rid of those hideous valve covers!!!), it depends on how you want to use the car, right? For a life of show, the original Stude engine performs and looks just fine and needs to be replaced. For a long distance road cruiser, I have no problem with the Chevy. (Keep the hood closed and it’s our little secret) I can tell you first hand how much easier it is to obtain parts for a small block Chevy, compared to a Studebaker engine, when you’re out in the middle of downtown “where-the-heck-are-we” and need parts for a roadside repair.
      The interior looks pretty nice, the 4-speed is just more fun to drive and I like it!
      The color is, as many have stated, a matter of taste. I’d have to see it in real life sunshine.
      The price is a little on the steep side for a non-original Avanti, but it does look like it’s in nice shape. It’s worth what ever the next owner will pay…

      Like 5
    • Vince

      Studebaker ended production March 1966. A 3 speed was the standard transmission in 63. 4 speed and atuo. were optional. I have only seen 1 with a 3speed.

      Like 1
      • Dave Balek

        I have one of the 60 produced with the three-speed floor shift. However, the previous owner added an overdrive to it. Very fun to drive

        Like 4
    • stillrunners

      Francisco – check one Bonneville records for 1963 – 1964. Some of them held I believe until the 90’s for a stock body car. Although a straight line – kinda gives you a feel for how they handled with the 50’s frame under them.

      Like 2
    • Robert Pineiro

      I own 1963 4 speed R2. My opinion is great driving car. I go on a lot of long distance runs with my car you can cruise comfortable at 75 to 80 mph. Yes they handle well just like with any old car you should understand the characteristics of it when driving aggressively. I have the original 289 and it is a solid engine. Very low maintenance compared to other cars that have owned.


      Like 2
  6. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I had the chance to drive one for about 50′ back around 1967. Working as a parking lot attendant at the time had one come in. Driver pulled in, dropped off the car and left so I then parked it. One thing they didn’t do was turn off the headlights and do you suppose I could find the switch! After about 10 minutes of looking I finally grabbed a wrench from my car and unhooked the battery cable. When the owner returned I apologized for doing that but explained my issue. He just reached up to a console on the roof and showed me where the switch was (boy was I embarrassed). I wasn’t even close to looking there for the headlight switch instead concentrating on the dash area.

    I was surprised that at 6’4″ I was able to easily get in and out of it along with parking it.

    I like this one overall. The rims I can live with but those valve covers would have to go IMO.

    Like 5
  7. Neil

    I like it… Always had a soft spot for the Avanti design. It’s a nice colour and I even like the wheels (maybe a European thing) In one way its a pity about the engine/trnsmission but in another its good having a dependable drive train as it makes the vehicle useable (and fun). If I had the money I’d take the risk and go for it.

    Like 6
  8. bobhess bobhessMember

    Thing about a modified car is you can drive it. Friend’s got a totally original car that only goes to weekend shows and back on clear days. Agree on the wheels, there are better options. Jacked up stance says gas shocks and stock suspension. Cars don’t handle well unless in a straight line so subtle modifications to the suspension would really make a fun car out of this.

    Like 4
    • Jeff DeWitt

      You can drive a stock one too. That Chebby motor has nothing on a Stude V8 for reliability. I would upgrade the cooling and ignition systems though, technology has improved just a bit since 1963.

      Like 5
    • SubGothius

      Original Avantis had a raked stance that made them seem a bit jacked up in the rear. Avanti IIs jacked up the front by about an inch or two to clear the taller Chevy engines, and moved the front wheel arches down accordingly to close the resulting gap, losing the original rake.

      Like 1
  9. Kris

    Those rims are off a V6 Mustang of around 2006 vintage. Nice take on a Cragar but too small for an aggressive look; they’d have to be 17″ or better, and that would be taking this car out of the “driver” realm and into “car show regular” mode, with all the positives and negatives of that crowd.

    Love the colour; it works well with the design, and the interior is very tastefully done. The choice of a Chevy smallblock is actually OK in this circumstance, since 327s were the powerplant of choice once the Avanti II got underway. Sure this one is an original Studey but who knows what it would take to try and source an original engine? Best to enjoy this one as it is.

    All I can do is echo other commenters. The rims have to go, as do the valve covers. Personally I’d deep six a lot of the underhood chrome and replace it with steel parts, perhaps paint the engine a dark green to help disguise it as non original.

    Like 1
  10. Dennis

    As a young boy I delivered newspapers in the small New England town in which I grew up. One of my stops was a garage that had the local Studebaker dealership. I still remember when they received their first Avanti. I was completely enthralled by the very modern design of the car. To me it is still one of the most beautiful cars ever made, especially for American cars.

    I’m not a crazed purist (I own a resto-mod ’63 MGB) but in this case I feel that the engine/tranny switch was not a particularly good move, especially the questionable bling(?) of the engine. I’m sure it is difficult to source an original Avanti engine, but it can’t be that difficult to source a good Studebaker V8 from the same era.

    As to the color, although not an original color, it is not far from the colors offered at the time. The first one I saw was the metallic gold, just beautiful.

    Overall, this is not a bad looking ’63 Avanti.

    Like 0
  11. Gaspumpchas

    I like it. Would put a set of Torque thrusts and a set of corvette valve covers on it, then run the pi$$ out of it. No prob with sbc and the 4 speed with that hurst shifter is wicked cool. Good luck to the new owner!!


    Like 5
  12. SMS

    Would prefer it original, but the color works for me. The wheels, not my first choice but could live with them. Only thing I would for sure change is the motor. The 400 was low power and thirsty. The 289 was a well designed, reliable motor that had decent power. It was also shorter than the sbc so you could go back to the original rake.

    As for handling, these were not track cars even in their day. As a kid from the back seat in my dad’s friend’s car it moved out and embarrassed a few mustangs. Was comfortable in the back for a 9 year old. Not sure about an adult.

    Going to watch this one and may put in a bid if the price stays in this range.

    Like 3
  13. Jeff DeWitt

    Needs the engine upgraded to a Studebaker V8 and wheels and tires… but it looks like it might be a solid car and would be a lot of fun.

    The price seems a bit steep for a car modified like this.

    Like 4
  14. plwindish

    ’61 (last of the finned Hawks) actually debuted the 4 speed trans. It looks like the owner did an Avanti II upgrade to the ’63. Avanti II’s had the 400 as a power plant from ’72-’76. The Avanti buckle on the rear sail panels as well as Avanti and Studebaker chrome was removed on the car and it also looks like something was done to the rear bumper lower pieces. Studebaker Avantis had chrome lower pieces with small rubber strips on the surface. Avanti II’s had a black rubber covering over the lower pieces. The color works for me, Studebaker made quite a few Avantis in the “dream-sicle” combination of white exterior and tangerine interior, though I have seen gray, gold and black cars with the tangerine interior as well. I’m a little surprised the engine transplant is 400, 350 and 327’s were a more common transplant. I would have liked to see what type of air cleaner is on the motor as the Avanti II’s body was shimmed up a couple of inches to accomodate the higher SBC motor, losing the original rake of the car. That may have been done with this ’63 as well. I have a ’76 Avanti II with the original 400 in it, but its been rebuilt twice and is now putting out 470 hp compared to the original 175. This should be a fun drive for a new owner after replacing those bad looking valve covers.

    Like 5
    • SubGothius

      I suspect the missing air cleaner in photos may indicate there isn’t one. Perhaps only after the PO transplanted the Chevy engine, they discovered what Newman and Altman did — there isn’t enough room underhood for it! Perhaps one solution might be to add a low-profile plenum hat on the carb, ducted to a remote filter cone where there’s more room?

      Like 1
      • vincent lattanzi

        maybe a fiberglass cowl like 69 Camaro may do it

        Like 0
    • SMS

      Thanks plwindish and SubGothius. I have wanted an Avanti ever since I can remember. Was thinking this might be the one. You pointed out things such as the chrome and trim. I like the chrome and trim, suddenly this car became more of a project than I can handle right now.

      Also the issue with the air cleaner has me wondering how well thought out this car is.

      Agree with the advantage of an SBC. I remember with my Hudson. I could order any part, but if anything needed replacing while on a drive the local Napa was usually plum out of them.

      Will keep looking for my Avanti.

      Like 1
      • MikeH

        Always a problem with modified cars—-how well thought out and how well executed. Too often it’s “man this thing just doesn’t work. I’m going to sell it.”

        Like 1
      • Joe Flannery

        I would not worry about the air cleaner not fitting. I installed an Edebrock intake with the factory Avanti 2 Quadrajet carburetor, I can assure you that a standard drop down type , from Jegs, Summit etc. will work fine.
        The fact that it is Chevy powered is great. You can most certainly get parts for anywhere easily. This is actually the Avanti that you should NOT walk away from. I’ve and worked on many. I like this one a lot. You could even upgrade to Aluminum heads and take more weight off the front for better than factory handling ever ! Get some good tires and wheels, Upgrade to a Turner Disc brake conversion to get easy to find GM calipers any where. Get some gas shocks and even upgrade to poly bushings . There are fatter sway bars you can get also, as well as quick ratio steering arms to get the turns down around 3.0 lock to lock. This car has an awful lot going for it.

        Like 2
  15. Tim

    No mention of chassis condition – Studebaker used a modified Lark convertible chassis with steel plates welded to the underside of the frame to make it more structurally viable with the fiberglass body. Frame is very susceptible to rust. Torque boxes used between the frame and body are also susceptible to rust and EXPENSIVE to repair. Buyer beware without extensive chassis photo’s or in-person inspection.

    Like 0
  16. vince lattanzi

    I love those cars ,my uncle had Studebaker dealership in the 60s.i would get in and out of all the call in the show time he had a new Avanti it was white tan interior chrome wire wheels ,just cousin had a golden hawk supercharged.great times, then dad and I got in our 59 lark and went home

    Like 1
  17. WayneCMember

    It’s not worth the price. He is wanting original R-2 equipped price for a heavily modified car. The only advantage to having a SBC in place of the original Studebaker engine is the weight on the front which does help the handling, but the Avanti seems to be promoted more in a straight line, but i loved the way it handled. Compared to my 87 that I have now with che Chevvie frame, I liked the handling of the stock Studebaker better.

    When I bought my first Avanti back in 1968, a supercharged R-2, 4-speed, I used to hunt down Chevvies and Corvettes. I had a ball and won more contests than I lost, but the tickets got expensive.

    Like 3
  18. stillrunners

    Wayne – you can find an RUNNING – R-2 4 speed car – this presentable – for under $20 grand ? I call BS……

    Like 1
    • WayneCMember

      My point exactly. This car is heavily modified which kills the value. I can’t see asking this kind of money for a car that is missing too many parts that would really make it collectable.

      As far as parts, not that hard to find. I drive a Studebaker virtually every day and I keep a spare water pump and fuel pump in the trunk. I am not afraid to take it anywhere as any other parts I might need for a breakdown seem to be available locally. I may have to do some comparison of parts to find what fits, but I have driven them over 50 years and will continue to do so.

      Like 2
  19. stillrunners

    Shout out for a rare R-4 and these beat the Vette – by a year – with front disk brakes….don’t ya know…….this one has an upgraded radiator you can see in one photo.

    Looked it over the other day…..pretty clean car.

    Like 1
  20. Vincent Habel

    There are signs that this was a R2 . It should have kept the Studebaker engine.

    Like 1
  21. Capriest

    Love it. I would rather have the 400sbc 4speed so I could drive it,mod it, and beat on it guilt free. The harley-esque valve covers would have to go of course, but it’s a sbc options are infinite. Same goes for the wheels. They had the right idea, and honestly if I and everyone else didn’t know what they came off of they might not bother me as much. Like the valve covers you’ve got tons of options here as well being that mid 2000’s mustang wheels fit. I would go with something 17″ to fill the wheel wells out better. Dare I say I would even put an aftermarket stereo in it[oh no]!

    Like 0
  22. Kenbone

    Awesome car, change wheels who cares about the valve covers. Make it how you want it, nice stereo……..1963 aint comin’ back. Cars are to enjoy

    Like 0
  23. Tim

    These were built on a modified, beefed up, Lark convertible frame highly susceptible to rust. Torque boxes designed to ad rigidity between body and frame were also rust prone and EXPENSIVE to replace now. Buyer beware without extensive photo’s of chassis or in-person inspection. He’s about 10K high if it has repairable chassis rust.

    Like 2

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