If you love classic cars, you’ll know that 1963 is one of the most important years ever. Porsche presented the first 911, Chevrolet debuted the C2 Sting Ray, arguably the best-looking Corvette… Studebaker released the Avanti? That’s right, this reclusive creation of the 1960s is very important. In this case, we’re talking about the Avanti R2 California Barn Find.
What makes a good Studebaker barn find? Well, the usual culprits: rarity, desirability, quirks, and powerful numbers-matching engines. The Avanti R2, believe it or not, has all those things, and Dennis Collins just found one in California to buy and document.
The “barn” isn’t present, but between 1980 and 2016, this thing didn’t see the light of day. Its charismatic owner (the seller) did briefly start the engine a few years back, but the Avanti has been mostly stationary.
The engine is the thing that makes this rare. In 1962, the Los Angeles Times announced the start of production of the Avanti. The company wanted to make 20,000 that year, but only managed about 1,200. 1963, saw about 4,600 units produced, and of those cars, only 1,552 were in this R2 configuration.
Studebaker made just 1,220 gold Avantis that year
What made it so special? Well, the 289 cubic-inch (4.7-liter) V8 normally made about 240 hp. But Studebaker owned the Paxton products division and so they fitted the car with a dual-belt supercharger, which lifted the power to oer 290 hp at 5,000rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque. It was called the fastest car in the world on its debut. A modified version of the car hit 170 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats and set 29 land speed records.
It’s worth noting that this car was also quite exotic back in its day. It cost $5,300 back when an average car was about $3,200. The Avanti featured a full fiberglass body, which was lightweight and radical at the time. It had flush-mounted glass covers over the headlights and a bubble streamlined rear window for better aero. The Avante was also the first American car with front disc brakes, so they really wanted it to be like a locally-made Italian car.
Studebaker was really strapped for cash, so it had to use existing components wherever it could. It had a Lark chassis with a 109-inch wheelbase and a brace in the middle because it came from a convertible. They used some heavy-duty components from their wagons in the back and Lark bits for the front.
The car was styled by Raymond Loewy, one of the most celebrated industrial designers in history. He was known for doing company logos in that era and started by giving the Avanti its new “Lazy S” emblem, locate don that asymmetrical hood bulge. The design was rumored to have been completed in only 40 days, and the development of the car only lasted a couple of years, very unusual at the time.
So what is the Avanti worth? Well, Collins doesn’t want us to know what he paid, but it was a packaged deal with that Jeep. A Studebaker like this might sell for $30,000 on Bring a Trailer, but it’s hard to judge because of the condition.