Summer Drives Only: 1981 Avanti II

When it comes to Avantis, the multiple chains of ownership and different styling that appeared over the years forces enthusiasts to think long and hard about which iteration they want to park in their garage. The earliest models, built by Studebakers, are easily the most desirable. Following those, however, it really becomes a matter of what your favorite flavor is in terms of the equipment and styling available with that year’s model. The first change of ownership saw the Avanti continue to ride on a Studebaker-designed chassis with styling closest to the original, as this 1981 Avanti II here on eBay shows, aside from the rectangular headlights. This one is claimed to be a summer-only driver with bidding up to $15,300 and no reserve.

Over the years, the Avanti became more and more ungainly as it attempted to both preserve the original appearance and evolve with consumer tastes. Later editions looked downright odd, but this 1981 model – the final year of production of the so-called Avanti II nameplate under the stewardship of the first owners after Studebaker, the duo of Altman and Newman – still maintains a fair amount of the original details, from the slim chrome bumpers to the polished hubcaps. The interior had also evolved to a decent middle ground at this point, keeping the original styling but updating with desirable leather Recaro seats.

The seller maintains he has used this car sparingly, and that the Avanti was a dream vehicle of sorts for him. He test drove one when it was new, and was immediately hooked. While most of his hobby vehicles have been modified in some way, this one he chose to leave stock, for it did everything just the way it should out of the box (his opinion, not mine). The interior looks very nice, and these Recaros are among the best ever made, complete with power controls. The tan carpeting and door panels look to be in good shape, and the Prototipo-style steering wheel is a pleasing upgrade that definitely looks good and likely makes hustling the Avanti slightly more enjoyable.

As the years wore on, the powerplants became less and less exotic. This year’s model came with the Chevrolet-derived 305 V8, which offered 155 b.h.p. paired to a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. Hardly a rocketship, but certainly cheap to maintain and the type of mill that sounds far more intimidating if a custom exhaust is fitted. The seller simply states that it’s in good shape and runs well, and given how little upkeep an engine like this actually needs, I wouldn’t sweat having a detailed log of annual servicing in order to keep comfortable with the purchase – buying it from this sort of enthusiast should be most comforting of all.

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  1. Major Thom

    Always liked the first design round headlight bezel more. The final iteration of the Avanti did dump the rectangular headlights in favor of round ones.

    Like 1
    • Chuck

      That happened in 64 while S-P still owned them

      Like 1
  2. Rabbit

    Love it, however, that luggage rack would have to go. It’s like a ‘best-of-both-worlds’ thing: Classic unmolested Avanti style, but with a drive line you can readily get affordable parts for.

    Like 3
  3. Joe Haska

    I think, rabbit nails it for me. I have never driven one but don’t care. I still would like to have one and this one would be about as good as it gets !

  4. Vince H

    It is Newman and Altman. I don’t care for the luggage rack either. Quality on the N&A cars is better than the later ones. This car will make a nice cruiser. I have a 73. The crash bumper has been removed. It looks much better that way.

    Like 2
    • Craig’s

      I’ve owned three Avanti’s and the Altman/Newman cars were the best.

      The 305 was a dog of an engine because these cars are relatively heavy.

      Trendsetting styling by the top industrial design of the time, Raymond Lowey who also designed the iconic Coke bottle. Looking down from the sky the Avanti shape is reminiscent of the Coke bottle.

  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $16,650.

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