The CEO’s Car: 1990 Avanti Touring Sedan

There’s always a lesson to be learned and here’s mine for today, a 1990 Avanti, four-door sedan, located in Columbus, Ohio and available here on eBay for a current bid of $4,450. The lesson for me is that while I am very familiar with the Avanti continuation cars, I did not know there was a four-door sedan version.

I first encountered an Avanti many years ago while out hitch-hiking (yeah, I know not a smart practice) and I got a ride in a new Avanti that was being driven to a large indoor car show. I remember the driver telling me that it had a Corvette 350 CI-350 HP engine under the hood; it sounded like it and ran like it. Avanti was a Studebaker creation and went into production in 1963. After Studebaker shut down their South Bend, Indiana assembly plant, the Raymond Lowey designed Avanti and its production rights were sold to a couple of Studebaker dealers who continued to produce the model under the guise of the Avanti Motor Corporation. By 1965, the Avanti became known as the Avanti II and ultimately passed through a succession of owners before production ceased in 2006. While the listing refers to this car as a Studebaker Avanti, it is really just an Avanti. The four-door sedan was introduced in 1989 and only 90 were constructed – this is a pretty rare car!

The seller tells us straight up that the Chevrolet 305 CI V8 engine, good for 170 net horsepower, does not run. The cause is electrical gremlins under the dash due to water immersion – there’s a red flag. Avanti’s of this generation used a GM four-speed automatic transmission and the underside image shows a GM 8.5 inch corporate (live axle) differential. No word as to whether the non-running status is due to just the electrical problem(s) or some other issue with the engine. At 95K miles, the seller claims that the top end of the engine and the transmission have been rebuilt – it seems premature for a GM engine and transmission of this era.

The interior presents well with its “smoking room” creased black leather seats. There is no mention made of the interior’s condition other than to say it doesn’t smell like mold; there’s some faint praise for you. The reference has to do, I guess, with the aforementioned water intrusion which may have had something to do with the windshield replacement. Where am I going? Look for rust! Check the cowl, floors, windshield channel and everywhere else. The seller states that nothing electronic on this Avanti works so it sounds like this car encountered a tsunami more than a leak.

The images of the underside show no evidence of invasive rust or holes but with the observable surface rust and considering what we already know about this Avanti, I would recommend a very thorough inspection  The seller’s openness is definitely appreciated but it’s just all the more reason for a very close study.

The body panels and paint on this car look fine, the finish is deep and non-faded while the panels appear to be straight and well-aligned. The seller claims that the body is “very, very nice” and the paint is “very good”. This being the case, along with the recent engine and transmission work, it sounds like the real critical path to reviving this car is a deep dive under the dash.

So, what to do? Electrical problems can be very, very frustrating and difficult to find. Sometimes, it’s a minor problem but you have to take the entire blasted car apart to find it and that can take a very long time. And the fact that Avanti has been out of production for thirteen years adds to the angst – parts and knowledge fade with time. While this is a rare model and was previously owned by the former Avanti CEO, those two facets probably won’t enhance its value. This Avanti is a risky proposition though 28 bidders are game; how about you?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Immersion vs wet is two kind of cats by anyone’s definition and the cats smell wet.

    Like 3
  2. Arthell64 Member

    I know a lot of people liked the Avanti style but I personally didn’t understand the attractiveness.

    Like 6
    • That AMC guy

      I like the original but don’t care much for this 4-door version. It just doesn’t work. Interesting though how the design mimics the oddly-shaped rear door windows of 1950s Studebakers.

      Like 3
  3. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice write-up, Jim! Four-door Avantis are rare but, unfortunately, not necessarily super valuable. I shudder to think what it would cost to drop this car off at an automotive electrical specialty shop and tell them to fix it. If the bidding stops at $5,000ish it would be worth a gamble for sure. It sounds like maybe a cracked windshield or bad windshield gasket may have caused the trouble? The wheels look incredible lost in those wheel wells, maybe a little bit bigger wheel/tire combo is in order if there’s enough meat left on the bone after diagnosing and fixing the electrical issues and whatever else needs to be done. I would love to have one of those things, they’re really unique and would draw a crowd every time you got gas or groceries.

    Like 9
    • Jim ODonnell

      Thanks Scotty!

      Yes, it’s all about the labor charge. And the time that could take would make “War and Peace” look like a short story.

      Like 5
  4. Bakyrdhero

    Is it me or is the interior kind of a letdown for such a unique looking car. I’ve had two different cars with a leaky windshield and the amount of water that came in was astounding! I don’t think I have the stomach for the electrical issues this probably has.

    Like 1
  5. Michael D. Rogers

    If I didn’t have toooo many ‘wonderful’ projects, I’d grab it in a flash! $5k for such a rarie is chump change! I didn’t see evidence of a LED screen or such, again if there are totally unique electronics a good electronics technician could work around them. Whatever is in there probably came out of the GM parts bin. Seems someone is going to get a real fun bargain!

    Like 3
  6. Andy

    Kind of a shame they bothered with the engine work–it’s a natural for an LS swap. Also, gotta say that for a low budget adaptation of a 56 year old coupe design, it could look a lot worse! I hope somebody did something good with this.

    Like 6
  7. Roger Hackney

    To be immersed is to be covered.

    Like 4
  8. Classic Steel

    I am betting its a simple item buried in the car electronic system.
    It will take patience to find starting with a new battery 🔋 and working forward.
    I once had a car battery that had the plates inside separated on a six month old unit . It would charge them discharge etc. then car had no electrical..

    Start with new battery to fuse box and headlights checking grounds etc
    Newer cars are headaches with fuses and relays….

    Its nice looking but still would car fax to see where its been owned.

    Good luck 🍀 to new owner….
    Fyi. Run your Own bypass wires or remote starter etc and bring an old lawnmower gas tank to gravity feed the engine (0r pour a lil fuel-in carb ) to hear it run briefly to validate engine…

    Like 4

      Helps to read the ad first…….
      “The car is currently not running due to water damage under the dash. A new owner will need to remove the dash and replace most of the connectors as they are corroded. Water leaked back there last spring without my knowledge. The car sat and the corrosion happened. Just about everything electrical no longer works. I don’t know the exact cause of the water intrusion. The car was not in a flood. The good news is the interior does not smell like mold.”

      Like 6
  9. Jaymon1962

    Best looking Avanti I’ve ever seen. Much better proportioned that the two door.

    Like 3
  10. BR

    With immersion comes incursion. Plan on a re-wire. At least it appears it wasn’t salt water. Perhaps they didn’t really mean immersion because that means the car had sunk.

    Like 2
  11. Comet

    Water immersion. Such a delicate explanation. So much better than “sunken.” I guess you could also say the Titanic is “damp.”

    Like 3
  12. JMB#7

    As with most cars of that era. Hideous bumpers! I have always liked the Avanti, especially a white one that I saw run at Mid-Ohio around 1982 (give or take a year). It was what the car should have looked like due to the race trim.

  13. Roger Hackney

    Can you say bottom of a pool.

  14. Stevieg

    I just commented on a Mercedes that was similar to one driven by my high school crush’s Dad. Now this!
    Another classmate, this time a guy, used to drive one of these to school. His Dad sold these and other expensive cars (Jaguars & Maseratis) for a living. The kid got to pick a different car off the lot every year. He drove a Jaguar for a while but did something stupid with it. I don’t recall what anymore, I graduated 31 years ago lol. I do remember thinking “wow, that was stupid lol. The Jaguar was replaced with one of these, even a 4 door.
    Last time I saw the spoiled brat was 12 years ago. I went to prison for a year for a drunk driving charge. He was locked up too for drug possession. He was in for a long time. Probably a delivery charge. He was the school pharmacist, after all.

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