Courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • Very rare factory 4-speed supercharged Avanti R2
  • Sold new in Berkeley, CA, later a resident of Tucson, AZ, where it was acquired by Colin Comer
  • Copy of the original build sheet
  • Matching engine, chassis and body numbers
  • Original 289/290-horsepower V8 engine
  • Original Paxton centrifugal supercharger
  • Original Borg-Warner T10 4-speed manual transmission
  • Original 3.73:1 Twin-Traction rear end
  • Power steering
  • Power disc brakes
  • AM radio
  • Excellent original body with perfect “hog troughs”
  • One repaint in its correct Avanti Turquoise color in the 1980s
  • Two-tone Fawn-and-black interior
  • Fitted with four new replica 7011 Halibrand wheels and spinners — which were a rare
  • dealer-installed option — and new radial tires
  • The original steel wheels and hubcaps are included
  • One of 1,883 total supercharged R2 models produced in 1963 and 1964
  • One of fewer than 500 total factory 4-speed R2 Avantis
  • The 1963 Avanti was the first American production car to have factory disc brakes
  • The Avanti was promoted as America’s Most Advanced Car and was more expensive than a Corvette when new
  • Supercharged Avantis set 29 speed records at Bonneville when new

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Studebaker Avanti R2
Years Produced:1962–64
Number Produced:4,643
Original List Price:$4,445
SCM Valuation:$28,500
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$12
Chassis Number Location:Right side frame member, rear of engine bay
Engine Number Location:Top right side of cylinder block
Club Info:Avanti Owners Association International
Alternatives:1953–67 Chevrolet Corvette, 1955–66 Ford Thunderbird, 1954 Kaiser-Darrin
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot F79, sold at $126,500, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s auction in Monterey, CA, on August 18, 2017.

Among all American collector cars, the Studebaker Avanti stands somewhat apart. It’s not only the strange pug-like front end, although that’s part of it.

The Avanti was a futuristic design that owed much more to European sensibilities and the Space Age than to the solid and respectable American cars that Studebaker built for decades.

Strange history

The story of the Avanti is as unique as the car itself.

Studebaker was dying when Sherwood Egbert was hired as president in 1961. The story goes that Egbert doodled an idea for a personal luxury car on a plane and gave it to a design team under Raymond Loewy’s direction.

In 40 days and 40 nights, they birthed the Avanti onto the existing Studebaker Lark platform.

The company gave the first production car to Rodger Ward for winning the 1962 Indianapolis 500, and Egbert swore he’d sell 20,000 Avantis in the first year. In fact, just 1,200 Avantis were made in 1962. They were sold as 1963 model-year cars.

Then Studebaker built about 3,400 more Avantis in 1963, with about 800 tagged as 1964 models before the factory in South Bend, IN, shut down and Egbert was forced out. Other Studes continued to be made in Canada until March of 1966, but that was the end of Studebaker as an automaker.

After Studebaker’s demise, Avanti passed into a bizarre afterlife.

A group of Studebaker dealers bought the tooling and designs, and they made a small number of “Avanti II” cars until 1982. The Avanti II was based on various GM platforms, and about 2,241 were made through 1983.

In 1982, a real-estate developer bought the rights and ran the company until 1986, and the cars built during that era are simply called Avanti.

In 1987, another set of new owners moved Avanti production to Ohio, then Georgia, and finally to Cancun, Mexico. Alternate designs, including a convertible and a 4-door, were tried, and the Avanti moved to a Ford Mustang platform in its final years. At the end, the last owner of the brand, Michael Kelly, was convicted of Ponzi-scheme fraud and sent to prison.

The final Avanti-derived cars were made in 2006.

Record-setting performance

To understand the Avanti in context, remember that Andy Granatelli set 29 Bonneville speed records with an Avanti in production and modified form in 1962. The Avanti went 168 mph in stock form, and up to 196 mph as a modified car. You can find the “Bonneville Record Breaker” promotional film that Avanti made in 1963 on YouTube. It’s worth watching to understand how significant this car was in its day.

The Avanti came with a fiberglass body, and it was the first American production car to feature front-disc brakes. Studebaker gave the Avanti its 240-horse/280 ft-lb, 289-ci “Jet Thrust” V8 engine from the Hawk line. That model was called an “R1.” A Paxton supercharger was available as the “R2” option that gave the car 290 hp/303 ft-lb.

The Granatelli Brothers produced nine “R3” Avantis with 334 hp/320 ft-lb. Those were the record-setting cars.

The Avanti came with a 3-speed manual as standard equipment, but you could (and should) look for the optional 4-speed manual. There was also a 3-speed automatic. A limited-slip rear end was optional.

Collecting the Avanti

The most important thing about selecting an Avanti is recognizing that the original production under Studebaker is distinct from later models.

The Studebaker cars are the ones you want, and you need to be prepared to pay for them. An R1 Avanti needing attention sold last year for $16,500, (ACC# 6803831), but you should probably expect to pay about $30,000 for a decent supercharged model (ACC# 6812125).

Those prices have been steady for the past five to seven years, so don’t look for huge appreciation going forward. Depending on the year, the ACC Pocket Price Guide lists the R2 Avanti between $28,500 and $32,000, and the R1 between $14,500 and $21,500.

The later models are different. Our price guide rates all the 1965–83 models at a $13,800 median price, and that’s about on par with auction results. Of course, there are exceptions, but they’re more rare than the cars themselves. Raymond Loewy’s personal 1972 Avanti sold for $52,100 in 2012 (ACC# 201777), but the majority are trading around $10,000–$12,000.

The previous high price paid for an Avanti was $89,250 (ACC# 215906) in 2013, but it’s worth noting that the same car failed to sell in 2011 on a bid of $101,000 (ACC # 169022). This example had been extensively modified, with hand-tooled leather interior, custom airbrush graphics and gold plating on all kinds of parts including the oil pan, transmission case and differential housing.

Different strokes for different folks, right?

Against that backdrop we have our subject car, which set a new high-water mark for Avanti auction prices at $126,500. This 1963 factory 4-speed R2 is as close to perfect as it’s possible to get. All of the important numbers match, and it comes with excellent provenance because it’s been carefully kept all its life. If you wanted the best possible example of an original Avanti, this was it.

Looking ahead, the market for the Avanti is likely to remain steady. If you like them, a reasonable original example is still affordable. What’s certain is that there’s nothing else like an Avanti on the market — and there never will be.

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