If you’re like me then maybe you haven’t heard of Studebaker or “coke bottle design” for cars before now, it turns out both were pretty influential, so before jumping directly into how awesome this car was I’m going to quickly give you some background on both.
If you want to learn more about the Studebaker Avanti and the whole story, then check out this complete story book on Amazon.
Studebaker began in 1852 and was started by five brothers, they focused on building horse drawn wagons and by the 1870’s they were the largest of these producers in the world, pumping out more wagons than you can hitch a horse to. Sorry. However in the early 1900’s it was time to move into cars and they did in a big way.
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Starting in 1902, they began as a lot of other automakers had with electric vehicles which, ironically given today’s push for electric, were the more popular choice over gasoline engines at the time. This would quickly change and they started dipping their toes into gasoline cars in 1904 and then went all in around 1912. Over the next 50 years Studebaker Automobiles had varied success however it couldn’t keep up with others and closed its main South Bend, Indiana plant in 1963 and the last ever car was produced in 1966 in their Canadian plant.
Fortunately for the world, Studebaker in a throwback to its history which included on massive fire, went out in style with their last car being the 1962 Studebaker Avanti. This leads me into Coke Bottle car design which was introduced on this car to the world when it was unveiled in April 1962. The designer of this car, Raymond Loewy, had also designed the new bottle for Coca Cola earlier in the century which is world famous now and he decided cars should have similar contours. Essentially it is a body design with a narrow center surrounded by flaring fenders which bears a general resemblance to a Coca-Cola classic glass contour bottle design. This design would go on to the Mustang and various other world famous sports cars.
Loewy put a team together and they designed the Avanti in a 40-day design sprint where they developed a radical new fiberglass body and mounted it on the chassis of the Studebaker Lark. They then took an engine from the Studebaker Hawk which Loewy had also been instrumental in and fitted it to the prototype. Loewy was striving for 2a low-slung, long-hood-short-deck semi-fastback coupe with a grilleless nose and a wasp-waisted curvature to the rear fenders, suggesting a supersonic aircraft.” This meant building the complex shape in steel was out of the question and they outsourced production of the fiberglass body to the same company who had worked on the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette.
The final product was incredible, it was the first production car with disc brakes and it had no grill instead allowing air to pass to the engine under the front of the car, this is known as a bottom breather nowadays and wouldn’t be popular until the late 80’s. The engine fitted was the 289 from the Hawk which was a 4.7 liter V8 which was tweaked to output a whopping 240 hp, a massive amount for such a light car in the early 60’s, it was also straddled with a 3 speed automatic which you would have to be crazy to choose over the wonderful 4 speed manual. Sadly only 1,200 were produced in 1962 and then 4,000 in 1963 before the company closed its doors in December of that year.
Although I wish more were built, it was a hell of a way to go out. They took this car in 1963 to the Bonneville Salt flats and broke 29 speed records, putting its name down in the history books and it isn’t surprising when you look at the performance figures. It was the fastest production car of all time when it was released as a completely stock version of the Avanti could reach a top speed of 178 mph which let’s be honest is fast even today. It had a 0-60 of 8 seconds and would go on to 100 mph in just 12 seconds, which I will admit by today’s standards isn’t that fast but in 1963 that was a damn fast time and it broke various quarter mile times, running it in 15.8 seconds. h
It’s a shame that Studebaker left this world for greener pasture but I’m glad that unlike so many defunct automakers, this one went out on a Kieth Richard’s style high.