360 West 360 West March 2017 : Page 32

How We Roll The Stylish Studebaker I While the Avanti couldn’t save the American car company, it still manages to turn heads today. By Meda Kessler Photos by Ralph Lauer t’s easy to be dazzled by the Avanti’s looks, with its sharp-edged bumper, grill-free nose and asymmetrical hood design. But fire up this 1964 Studebaker, and you’ll hear why it really turns heads. Designed as a performance vehicle by the struggling American company, this model of the Avanti R2 was fitted at the factory with a performance package including a supercharged 289-cubic-inch engine and a Paxton Supercharger. The throaty rumble you hear — and feel — is pure American muscle car. “It’s what attracts the kids,” says owner Mike Jones. “Lots of people love looking at the Avanti inside and out, but I get a whole new audience when the motor is running. When they made the car, you had to pay $25 extra for a quieter exhaust system.” Mike is a retired air traffic controller who moved to Fort Worth from Florida with his wife, Audrey, four years ago to be near their kids and grandchildren. He is the fifth owner of the Avanti, although it has been in his family since the mid-’70s. “My uncle was a Studebaker fan, and this car was part of his collection. He was going to a car show one time, and I rode with him. The car got so much attention that when I got home, I bought a book about the Avanti, as I wanted to know everything about it.” Mike told his uncle, who lived in Dayton, Ohio, that he wanted that car. Two years later, in 2010, he made it happen. Passionate about his cars (the man cave of a garage in Fort Worth also houses a vivid yellow 2002 Corvette, along with plenty of memorabilia, including photographs, scale models, signs and more), he eventually restored the Avanti to show quality and, for comfort, added insulation to cool down the car, which has no air-conditioning. While living in Miami, he and Audrey were familiar faces at Florida auto shows. They have trophies and other hardware for their efforts, including a second place in class and an excellence in show award in the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance. As a hands-on collector, Mike has done much of the work himself to make sure the Avanti’s restoration 32 March 2017 360westmagazine.com

How We Roll

Meda Kessler

The Stylish Studebaker
While the Avanti couldn’t save the American car company, it still manages to turn heads today.

It’s easy to be dazzled by the Avanti’s looks, with its sharp-edged bumper, grill-free nose and asymmetrical hood design. But fire up this 1964 Studebaker, and you’ll hear why it really turns heads.

Designed as a performance vehicle by the struggling American company, this model of the Avanti R2 was fitted at the factory with a performance package including a supercharged 289-cubic-inch engine and a Paxton Supercharger. The throaty rumble you hear — and feel — is pure American muscle car.

“It’s what attracts the kids,” says owner Mike Jones. “Lots of people love looking at the Avanti inside and out, but I get a whole new audience when the motor is running. When they made the car, you had to pay $25 extra for a quieter exhaust system.”

Mike is a retired air traffic controller who moved to Fort Worth from Florida with his wife, Audrey, four years ago to be near their kids and grandchildren. He is the fifth owner of the Avanti, although it has been in his family since the mid-’70s. “My
uncle was a Studebaker fan, and this car was part of his collection. He was going to a car show one time, and I rode with him. The car got so much attention that when I got home, I bought a book about the Avanti, as I wanted to know everything about it.”

Mike told his uncle, who lived in Dayton, Ohio, that he wanted that car. Two years later, in 2010, he made it happen.

Passionate about his cars (the man cave of a garage in Fort Worth also houses a vivid yellow 2002 Corvette, along with plenty of memorabilia, including photographs, scale models, signs and more), he eventually restored the Avanti to show quality and, for comfort, added insulation to cool down the car, which has no air conditioning.

While living in Miami, he and Audrey were familiar faces at Florida auto shows. They have trophies and other hardware for their efforts, including a second place in class and an excellence in show award in the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance.



As a hands-on collector, Mike has done much of the work himself to make sure the Avanti’s restoration was true to form. “Parts are readily available, so it wasn’t that difficult.” What isn’t original — the battery, the Firestone whitewall tires — is an exact copy.

He revels in the car’s history and design, both part of an interesting chapter in the story of Studebaker. While most car fans are familiar with the blocky designs of the ’50s, the sporty Avanti (Italian for “forward”) was heralded as Studebaker’s future in the early ’60s.

It was designed in 40 days in a rented house in Palm Springs, California, the brainchild of Raymond Loewy, a Frenchborn industrial designer. Loewy had worked for Studebaker once before but sought more autonomy in coming up with the aesthetics of the Avanti, which was to be introduced at the 1962 New York International Auto Show.

To make the car sleek and low-slung, the body design was basically trim-free, with unusual curves. To save time, the Avanti was built on a modified Lark convertible frame. Instead of steel, the body was composed of fiberglass panels made by the same company that made them for the Corvette.



Mike and Audrey Jones in their Fort Worth garage, which houses not only the cars but plenty of memorabilia and collectibles as well as Mike’s tools. Below, a detail of the Avanti’s sharp-edged bumper.



Cockpit-style controls — and the iconic “lazy S” emblem — are design touches unique to the Avanti. This model also featured round headlight bezels rather than square ones.



To avoid sacrificing safety, an integral roll Bar and padded panels and dash were incorporated into the design.

The four-seater also featured bucket seats, aircraft-style toggle buttons and toggle switches, and a pullout tray complete with vanity mirror, which remains a conversation starter today.



The restored interior includes new carpet and upholstery. Not seen is the insulation inside the door frames and the floors, which helps with the car’s climate control.



Studebaker’s efforts were for naught, as the Avanti lasted for only two years. Only 809 of the 1964 Avantis were produced, 281 with the R2 supercharged engine.



The front view shows the smooth lines of the hood, broken up only by an asymmetrical panel on the driver’s side.



Mike purchased replica white-wall tires to match the originals. Below, the Avanti’s vanity pulls out via the glove box.



Mike has carefully replaced or restored everything under the hood.



While it’s not the most highly sought-after collectible in the world of vintage cars, Mike and Audrey treat the turquoise Avanti as a prized possession. It was carefully trailered by a professional car hauler when they moved to Fort Worth, and it’s carefully maintained in the garage. (Audrey smiles as she points out her small corner of the space, where she keeps a treadmill.) The car is driven weekly, although the couple know they must budget extra time on outings for impromptu show-and-tell sessions.

“We now spend a lot of time educating people about what it is and the history,” says Mike, who will be showing the car April 23 at the Concours d’Elegance of Texas in Arlington (concoursoftexas.org). “We let anyone who wants to sit in it, and that includes little kids. The women, especially, love it. Who can blame them?”

Read the full article at http://digital.360westmagazine.com/article/How+We+Roll/2715537/385493/article.html.

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