What makes the 1965-1969 Avanti II so unique? Not many cars get a second chance at life after the original manufacturer expires.
When Studebaker left its long-time home at South Bend, Indiana, early in 1964, to make a final stab at success up in Ontario, the futurethink Avanti seemed doomed after a mere two-year existence.
After the Canadian venture fizzled in 1966, the Avanti should by all logic have been dead, if not forgotten. Even the greatest cars, after all, cannot survive unless someone chooses to build them.
Leo Newman and Nathan (Nate) Altman, long-time partners in a South Bend Studebaker-Packard dealership, had a great notion -- and wound up saving the dramatically different coupe from extinction.
Not only did the two buy the rights to the Avanti name and its manufacture, they purchased a portion of an abandoned Studebaker factory, forming a brand-new Avanti Motor Corporation.
Late in 1965, production began at the revitalized plant on Lafayette Avenue, with a goal of building 300 Avanti IIs yearly. That goal never was reached, but the Avanti stayed alive through the 1960s and 1970s, and even beyond the 1980s.
Such success is all the more surprising when you consider that the original Avanti wasn't exactly a sizzling seller. Attention it drew, enhancing Studebaker's image; but as other manufacturers also have learned, sales don't necessarily follow achievements on the race course or record-setting 170-mph jaunts.
Had the original Avanti been made of steel instead of fiberglass, its resurrection might have been impossible. Using body panels supplied by the Molded Fiber Glass Body Company and a mini assembly line, the revived Avantis could be built for a reasonable cost.
Spread along that line were a host of former Studebaker employees, willing to work for modest wages in exchange for an opportunity to turn out custom-built sport-luxury touring cars.
Not only did Avanti compile an option list that would be the envy of rival automakers, but a customer could dicker for just about anything his or her heart desired.
Colors? The rainbow was the limit. Fabrics? Just about anything that could be sewn into seats might be ordered -- with stitchwork performed by a former Studebaker craftsman.
Power-shift automatic allowed manual runs through first and second gears, but plenty of buyers opted instead for a fully synchronized Borg-Warner four-speed, often accompanied by a Hurst shifter.
To learn how the 1965-1969 Avanti II compares to the original Avanti, go on to the next page.
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Only a true aficionado could tell the difference between a 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 Avanti II and an original, without searching for a "II" in its nameplate. Profile and detailing changed little, except that the new one sat more level on the ground.
The early "rake" (front end lower than the rear) was gone. Otherwise, the revived coupe displayed the same grille-less nose, sharp-edged front fenders, slim bumpers, and "Coke-bottle" profile, with only a slight narrowing of front wheel openings.
Lighter weight gave the car better weight distribution. Front disc brakes provided fade-free stopping power. Road-testers gave it high marks for safety, silence, and a firm but comfortable ride.
While the original Avantis had focused on performance, the new ones qualified as four-seat "personal luxury" machines, partly due to higher prices. Whereas the original had sold for $4,445, the Avanti II started at $7,200 -- or as little as $6,550 if the buyer agreed to do without a few standard items.
Throw in a full load of options, and the sticker could approach 10 grand.
Inside, $200 bought an upgrade to textured "Raphael vinyl," while $500 was the price for all leather. As later literature proclaimed, there were "more than 400 ways to 'spoil yourself' inside an Avanti."
This is not to say, however, that the Avanti had become a slouch. Top speed registered at around 125 mph, and a "II" with automatic could accelerate to 60 mph in less than nine seconds.
Eugene Hardig, who'd been the last Chief Engineer at Studebaker, was responsible for keeping the engine "legal" as it grew to 350-cid displacement in 1969, and later to 400 cid.
Following the death of Nate Altman in 1976, a succession of owners have manned the Avanti helm. And though the future of the company has at times looked bleak, the car itself has remained true to the styling theme penned over four decades ago -- a convincing testament to its timeless design.
For 1965-1969 Avanti II specifications, go on to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 Avanti II Specifications
The 1965-1969 Avant IIs were custom built touring cars with luxury spoils and sporty acceleration. Only true connoisseurs can tell the difference between Avanti IIs and the original Avanti by Studebaker.
Engines: all, ohv V-8; 1965-1969, 327 cid (4.00 × 3.25), 300 bhp; 1969, 350 cid (4.00 × 3.48), 300 bhp
Transmissions: Borg-Warner 4-speed manual or “power-shift” 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front discs, rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 109.0
Weight (lbs): 3,181-3,217
Top speed (mph): 121-125
0-60 mph (sec): 7.5-8.8