Few cars survive their maker's demise, but the Studebaker Avanti seemed so advanced perhaps it managed to exist on borrowed time. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe 4-door Avanti is uber rare, but is its price worth borrowing for?
Jalopnik 5.0 is here, and like a Mustang 5.0 in the snow, you can bet it's initially going to be a wild ride. Wild too was yesterday's 1998 Mitsubishi Pajero which was so JDM you half expected it to be sporting an Elvis pompadour rather than batman ears, but still a lot of you couldn't click the Nice Price button fast enough. Some of you couldn't click it at all, nor the contrarian choice, as the new layout ate the original poll like a census-taker's liver with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti – fiff, fiff, fiff, fiff. Once we got the polls open however, 68% of you went the Nice Price route, and democracy was saved.
Today, things should go much more smoothly, and fittingly today's 1990 Avanti II Touring Sedan is one smooth four door. In case you are unfamiliar with the Avanti story, here's the after-the-commercial re-cap so you can catch up:
1961-Newly installed Studebaker president Sherwood Ebert sketches his vision for a new personal coupe while waiting for a flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Raymond Loewy, who had a history with Studebaker, is retained to design the car, based upon that initial sketch.
1962- In the fall, Studebaker introduces the fiberglass-bodied Avanti coupe with an available supercharged version of the company's 289 V8. The car looks like nothing else on the road, and sales take off like its airplane-inspired interior suggests the car might.
1964- Unfortunately it's too little too late, and Studebaker-Packard folds faster than Superman on laundry day. Stude dealers Nate Altman and Leo Newman buy the Avanti's tooling and factory from the defunct car maker, and begin hand-building Avanti IIs, sourcing driveline hardware from GM.
1965 – 1991- The Avanti lives on as the II, under a number of owners after both Altman and hello Newman pass away, and the final versions bring the car up to date in terms of safety equipment and the offering of an expanded range that includes both a convertible and a four-door.
Today's car is one of the latter, and in fact is one of only 89 of the latter ever built. Like the German Bitter, the Avanti represents one of the last of an era of coach-built specialty cars based on more mundane platforms. In the case of this 1990 Avanti sedan, it's the Chevy Caprice. That means a GM-sourced 305 V8 and THM350 autobox, plus the ability to have this hand-built car serviced at, oh say Pep Boys.
You may need Manny Moe and Jack should you buy this dusty example, which comes in merlot with bird crap detailing. Sometimes you wonder how much effort it takes to prepare a car for its Kodak moment, and in the case of this Avanti, that effort could be gauged on the nano scale. And as every effort has an equal and opposite force, there should be a corresponding calculation of the cost of de-hanta virusing the damn thing when figuring how much it's worth.
Aside from a general cleaning, the car's lack of use – it has but 15,500 miles on it - has resulted in degradation both inside and out, so says the seller. Newspapers in the footwell make it look like hobos camp there, and the rearview mirror has been felled by what must be the world's heaviest pair of fuzzy dice. The rest of the interior – all hand stitched leather and glossy wood (tray tables!) – looks intact and should be serviceable following a regiment of lather, rinse, repeat. The body may be the bigger problem as the seller claims it has had to endure countless winters in the Philly cold, something that does to fiberglass what bending over does to a plumber's ass. They also say it hasn't been started in 3-years, and should be towed away, but as it's all Caprice under its skirts how big a deal would it be to get it rolling again?
Deep in the bowels of Studebaker's corpse was discovered styling mockups of 4-door Avantis, along with other editions, evidence that the company saw the car as its future, even when the writing on the wall indicated that the company had none. Nearly 30 years later, that original idea found itself realized, if only 89 times. The Four-door Avanti Touring Sedan was the last of the hallowed marque to be made, and this one is looking for a new home where it potentially could simply last.
The current owners, who obviously haven't been the best stewards of this car, want $9,500 for it to go to a good home. Do you share their valuation for this Avanti, if not their utter disregard for automotive hygiene? Or, does that price quell your Avanti amity?
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