1969 Avanti II
This is most likely one of the most original and authentic Avantis in existence, fully documented, with a known history from new.
Hailed as one of the most “significant milestones of the postwar industry,” the Studebaker Avanti was the company’s best last gasp at remaining viable. Designed in a crash 40-day program, the Raymond Loewy-led team created a dramatic fiberglass personal luxury coupe with few rivals. Innovative from the start, ranging from the first use of disc brakes on a production US automobile to the aircraft-inspired interior switchgear, it tantalized the motoring public when it was new, and the design proved so timeless that it remained in production for decades following Studebaker’s demise. For that, we can thank Studebaker dealers Nate and Arnold Altman and Leo Newman, who bought the tooling from Studebaker and continued building Avantis under the Avanti II name. In the ‘60s, they drew from GM’s vast engineering and development, putting Corvette and Camaro components under the dramatic fiberglass body. Hand-built and moving upscale, the Avanti II continued the Avanti legacy and arguably became a better car than the original in every way.
This fully documented 1969 Avanti II shows just 8075 original miles (not a misprint) and like most Avanti IIs, was custom built for its owner who was a tremendous Cleveland Browns fan. This highly original, authentic car was delivered to its first lucky owner only a few months before his untimely demise following a fall from a ladder. As a result, it has remained in untouched condition for decades by the second owner who understood what a special machine it really is and kept it stowed away with only rare forays into the outside world to keep the mechanicals healthy.
The color is Camaro Hugger Orange, and on the Avanti’s sleek bodywork it looks downright aggressive, ideal for the height of the muscle car era in which it was born. The fiberglass body is unmarked and shows very few signs of age. As Corvette owners know, fiberglass ages differently than steel, often cracking and delaminating without provocation, but thanks to careful storage in a climate-controlled facility, this one shows none of the usual issues. The original paint has a lovely patina that comes from time and years of careful polishing (it’s rumored that the original owner waxed it every Saturday during his brief ownership of the car). Fit and finish are actually quite good, owing to the hand-built nature of the car and Altman and Newman’s desire to take the Avanti upmarket, with doors that close with aircraft precision. Chrome and stainless remain excellent, as they were in 1969, and the squared-off headlight housings (actually introduced late in Studebaker production, not, as many incorrectly assume, when the Avanti II was introduced) are clear and bright.
Inside, a luxurious black and tan interior is clearly intended to make a statement, both about the original owner’s football passions and the quality of Avanti’s workmanship. The low buckets are immaculately preserved, showing almost no signs of age or wear, and they’re not only comfortable, but reasonably supportive given the Avanti’s sporting nature. The original wrap-around instrument panel design was retained, and it’s full of Stewart-Warner instruments including a tachometer and a vacuum gauge. Studebaker’s aircraft-inspired secondary controls for the heat and A/C, as well as overhead switches for lighting, remain a big part of the Avanti’s appeal. There’s also a Blaupunkt AM/FM stereo in the dash, as well as the famous glove box-mounted vanity. Carpets, door panels, and headliner are unmarked, and the back seat has probably never hosted a passenger. The trunk is fully carpeted, with a handy storage pouch on the bulkhead. Note the key-activated alarm system on the driver’s rear quarter panel, and yes, that’s the original Firestone spare tire under the neatly fitted cover.
Avanti’s new owners knew their personal luxury coupe had to be a performer, and for that they turned to General Motors who supplied 350 cubic inch engines with either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. Given the Avanti’s luxurious ambitions, the car is especially well-suited to an automatic transmission, especially one as quick-witted as the GM TH350. Horsepower comes from the Corvette’s 300-horsepower 350 cubic inch V8, which also features a 10.25:1 compression ratio, so it’ll run just fine on today’s premium fuels. The engine bay will surely look familiar to Corvette aficionados, and it’s complete right down to the original emissions controls and Quadrajet carburetor. It is a little scruffy, since apparently the original owner only cared for external appearances and the second owner has chosen to preserve it as-is, but a weekend of detailing will pay large dividends under the hood. Finned aluminum valve covers and raw cast iron “ram’s horn” exhaust manifolds are big tipoffs that this is not a Studebaker 289 anymore, and every single nut, bolt, and quite likely many of the hoses and belts, are original to the car.
The chassis is nicely preserved as well, in much the same condition as the engine bay: original, but undetailed. It starts easily with a traditional V8 bark, and rumbles through the original dual exhaust system with a muted, powerful sound. The transmission shifts smoothly at part throttle, and is easily prodded into an aggressive downshift with a boot of the throttle, and though driving is limited due to the 100% original 1969-vintage Firestones, it moves down the road without a squeak or rattle from the structure. GM disc brakes and rear end are included, making it as easy to service as any Camaro of the period, and parts for the all the car’s mechanicals are inexpensive, reliable, and plentiful. And as I mentioned, it wears original hubcaps inside 43-year-old 205R15 Firestone whitewall radials, among the first of their kind.
Documentation is extensive. Every piece of paper that the car has ever collected is included, plus manuals, maintenance and repair receipts, brochures, and anything else related to this car and the 1969 Avanti II. In all, it makes a stack about eight inches thick that will delight any historian.
Only 103 Avantis were built in 1969, making them exceedingly rare, considerably more-so than even the originals. The market hasn’t reached a final verdict on their values, but few will argue that this isn’t a gorgeous vehicle and a similar 1972 Avanti sold at auction in May 2012 for more than $50,000. This is also most likely one of the most original and authentic Avantis in existence, fully documented, with a known history from new. Exemplifying all that was great about the marque and none of the later downfalls of shoddy construction and questionable performance, this 1969 Avanti II is a pedigreed performer and a great footnote in automotive history. It’s also a pleasure to drive if that’s your inclination.