Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where I highlight fascinating cars I found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
People tend to think that the American auto industry consists of the "Big Three," no matter how big or small they may be, and, sometimes, maybe Tesla? Could be? But if you look into the past you'll find that the American car industry was not some sort of automotive oligarchy consisting of only three companies, but a thriving segment filled with all sorts of automakers that odon't exist today.
One of those automakers was Studebaker. Founded in 1858, it started out as a carriage company, but switched to cars once those were finally invented. It lasted for over 100 years, industriously building American cars for American people, until automotive production ceased in the 1960s. One of the last cars they made those was this, the Studebaker Avanti.
To be totally truthful, this isn't a real Studebaker Avanti, but an Avanti II, but its story is tied into the history of the company. Originally sketched out on a flight by Studebaker president and awesome name-holder Sherwood Egbert, the Avanti was supposed to save the company when it debuted in 1962.
Sleek and modern, the car's styling was ahead of its time. You might not think that it's so forward looking, as its looks may be a bit dated now, but you have to remember that this thing debuted only a few years after Greasers were cruising the streets in brand-new 1957 Chevy Bel-Airs. That rear angle is pure Jensen Interceptor, a car that didn't debut until 1966.
Unfortunately the radical styling wasn't enough to save the company, and in its first year only 1,200 Avantis sold. By 1963, production was finished, with a little over 5,000 built total.
Sometimes, though, cars outlive their makers. After original Avanti production ended, two Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman, bought the rights to the car and started hand-assembling them instead, and thus the Avanti II was born.
Built on an original Studebaker chassis, the Avanti II featured slight upgrades, like bigger V8 engines. To be honest I'm not really sure what kind of person would buy a random car from a zombie company, but people did, and the Avanti II was sold in near-as-makes-no-difference original condition until 1987, when the new company exhausted its supply of Studebaker chassis.
Avanti IIs have sort of ambled on throughout history, going through a mix of owners and engines and chassis, and the last "Avanti II" rolled off the line in Mexico in 2007, with a Roush V6 engine.
This particular model is a 1968, and it's in beautiful condition. The seats are great, the fiberglass body looks solid, and that wood-rimmed steering wheel features style you just can't get anymore.
But hey, if you can't get it anymore, maybe there's a reason for that. But the Avanti was so ahead of its time it was able to last for decades.