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Excerpt of Avanti story

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Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:15 am

I'll tackle this as multiple posts, breaking between owners or at convenient chronological breaks.

While I was hanging out with Stalker yesterday the topic of an Avanti II came up. I haven't done this before so I'll post a bit of the Avanti story. Believe me, as long as this story is it's still not complete.

Briefly covering the Studebaker years of '63 and '64: It was the second American car with factory equipped front disc brakes, Preston Tucker's Torpedo was the first. The Avanti was also factory equipped with a rollbar integrated into the B-pillar, concealed in the interior by a cover which complemented the headliner's color. Three transmissions were available, two manuals (a 3 and a 4 speed) and an automatic transmission, all made by Borg-Warner. The rear end was a Dana 44 with "Twin Traction" (Studebaker's positraction), and the car's base engine was a naturally aspirated Studebaker 289.

The car's drag coefficient was estimated to be in the high 0.30s at a time when most American cars were in the 0.5s. Raymond Loewy didn't have time to test the shape in a wind tunnel, he simply guessed. To be honest, he was smart and had a good idea of how air flowed around an object. He also knew Sherwood Egbert (Studebaker's President) was quite interested in aviation, which is why the instrument cluster is bathed in a soft red light (as in private planes). Some of the car's lighting switches and vent levers could be found in private planes at the time.

The lighter-weight and slippery-shape combined to help the car attain the speeds it did in its competitions at the hands of various people: official Salt Flat records under Studebaker, Due Cento aiming for 200, and others.


Last edited by Avanti 63r1025 on Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:46 am; edited 7 times in total
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:17 am

After Studebaker went belly-up in America, two men purchased the rights to the Avanti. Nathan D. Altman was a Studebaker dealer in Studebaker's home town of South Bend, Indiana. His partner was Leo Newman. In February of 1964, Altman and Newman bought six buildings in the Studebaker complex. One of the buildings had been used for final finishing of the original Avantis. Next, Altman asked Molded Fiberglass, of Ashtabula, Ohio, which had supplied the original Avanti bodies if they would be willing to do the same for an Avanti revival. Molded Fiberglass still had about 150 Avanti bodies on hand that it had been stuck with when Studebaker suddenly ceased production. So, Obviously, Molded Fiberglass had a vested interest in working with Altman.

The first Avanti II cars to be sold under Newman and Altman were assembled with mostly Studebaker and original Studebaker-sourced parts. Avantis built after the pure Studebaker years have been known to be called Chevy-bakers. Ironically G.M. was not Newman's and Altman's first choice, originally they wanted engines sourced from Ford.

These cars were made in limited numbers from '65 through '82. They kept the Studebaker frame which was originally used for the Studebaker Lark convertible (hence the X-brace), and they kept the same body supplier. For power they sourced engines from Chevrolet, which were first 327s from the Corvette and later were 350 and 400. The Chevy engine was lighter than the Studebaker it replaced. It was also slightly taller. To make this engine fit, it was necessary to raise the front fender line of the Avanti II about two inches. This gave the Avanti II a distinctly different stance, eliminating the aggressive rake of the Studebaker Avanti.

Side note: If you're finicky, you really, really like the front fender lines of Studebaker's Avanti. It's 'only' fiberglass though, so making a correction to cars with the thicker fenders isn't a huge project.

Newman and Altman weren't going to live forever. On April 19, 1974 Altman passed and on March 20, 1980 Newman passed.


Last edited by Avanti 63r1025 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:44 am; edited 6 times in total
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:20 am

Stephen Blake was only an Avanti enthusiast but he made some money in real estate and bought the company on October, 20, 1982. Once he took over, he dropped the "II" designation from the car. The engine sourced became the G.M. 305 and although rare, it was possible to get the car with a T-5 transmission.

I like Blake's mindset and where he was taking the car. An Avanti raced at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a separate car was raced at the 24-hours of Mid-Ohio Enduro. He was getting the car back into the public's eye.

Also courtesy Stephen Blake, we were given the blended bumper Avanti. The first of these was the 1983 20th anniversary model, though the standard 1983 model was still of the former appearance with the chrome bumpers. Starting in 1984 all Avantis were of the blended bumper style; Blake terminated the chrome bumper appearance upon the end of the standard 1983 model.

All 20th anniversary cars were black from the factory but it's possible to tell them apart from Blake's later cars if the colors match. The anniversary cars have the front turn indicators in the original Studebaker position, vertical and outboard of the headlights. Later cars integrated the turn indicators horizontally into the bumper.

Then Stephen Blake got into trouble. Big trouble. Big financial trouble. He used a new formulation of paint without first testing it. The formulation was intended to provide a more durable show quality finish. Instead, angry customers were returning their cars with sheets of paint literally falling off the doors. Blake repainted 270 cars, some of them several times. Sales dropped and suddenly Blake was unable to pay his taxes or creditors. Oops! He tried to reorganize the company under Chapter 11 but failed. The company was seized and its assets were auctioned March 30, 1986.

So Blake can't pay his creditors and there were no 1986 Avantis built. There are also no more Studebaker frames remaining.


Last edited by Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:24 am

Enter Michael Kelly. He bought the rights to the New Avanti Motor Company for $722k. Up until this point Avanti and Avanti II were produced in South Bend, Indiana and they were still until he moved the company in April of 1987. This was when Kelly relocated the company to Youngstown, Ohio. Both the city of Youngstown and the state of Ohio gave Kelly grants totaling one-million dollars. Kelly claimed the move was necessary to support added models and production volumes.

Michael Kelly needed to reorganize relationships with suppliers and work under new government regulations. G.M. was just burned by "Avanti" in the past so they'd have nothing officially to do with the company. Kelly's solution was to buy whole Monte Carlos and re-body them. The 1987 Avanti is nothing more than a re-bodied Monte Carlo or El Camino. Convertible 1987 Avantis are out there but they're rare. More convertibles were available under this next owner …

Michael Kelly had a partner, John J. "J. J." Cafaro. Cafaro wanted to take the car to the luxury end of the spectrum whereas Kelly wanted to focus on the marque's performance roots. Cafaro's finances spoke volumes and on September 1, 1988, Kelly sold his 47.5% share of the New Avanti Motor Company to J. J. Cafaro.

So now the company is Cafaro's and he promptly changes the name to the Avanti Automotive Corporation (A.A.C.) Under Cafaro and his desire to bring the company to the luxury end of the spectrum, Cafaro brings us the 4-door Avanti (trim LTS) Cafaro was aiming for Avanti to become the American version of Jaguar, Mercedes, or BMW. The body made use of fiberglass, but also used Kevlar and carbon fiber in key areas for reinforcement. Remember, this was '89 into '90. To use those materials on a road car at that time was rare.

Problems soon plagued Cafaro. N.H.T.S.A. was mandating passive restraints, airbags and motorized seat belts and the small A.A.C. couldn't keep up with federal mandates. Bigger problems plagued Avanti as a whole … they depended upon the availability of other manufacturers. The Monte Carlo quit being produced after 1988 and the reason the Avanti LTS was discontinued was because the platform on which it was based (the Caprice) also underwent a change. Despite the federal mandates, and despite the lack of a dedicated frame, the car was still chugging along. However, a fire in the Avanti factory in August of 1992 wiped out the remaining hope the car would continue.


Last edited by Avanti 63r1025 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:36 am; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:26 am

So what happened after 1992? Well, there was a caretaker for the Youngstown Avanti factory, you know, the one that burned. Robert Lucarell was his name and he continued to sell inventory to die hard owners.

One of the die hard owners was Jim Bunting. What culminated was an Avanti AVX named for "Avanti Experimental." Experimental because the Avanti name was in limbo. This AVX was based on the '93-'02 Firebird. Tom Kellogg, one of the men on the original Studebaker Avanti team, was brought in. Final assembly was moved to Villa Rica, Georgia. The would-be AVX owner bought a Firebird, and the crew in the Villa Rica plant would rip off all body panels and replace them with AVX panels.

The notion of the AVX first started trickling out in '97 though after the fire of '92 no Avantis were built for the remainder of the 1990s. Ultimately 77 AVX cars were produced in '02, another 88 in '03, and 102 in 2004. Most built were convertibles.

An-deeeeeennnnn? NO AN-DEN! Just kidding, there's more! And wait, this is just classic. Michael Kelly comes back to the helm.

AN-DEN with Michael Kelly (boooo! *hisssss*) back, he moves the company to Cancun, Mexico. Michael Kelly used the same formula as previous Avantis and built his version of the car off another vehicle. The vehicle this time was the S197 ('05+) Mustang. Under Kelly, Avanti also built the Studebaker XUV which attracted negative attention from G.M. The Studebaker XUV (and the truck XUT) was based on a Ford super duty truck (with the 412 cu. in. V-10) but G.M. claimed it too closely resembled an H2.

So here's where it gets good. Michael Kelly decided to be involved in a ponzi scheme and flood Avanti Motors with dirty money. So now it's the Security and Exchanges Commission vs. Michael Kelly and the Avanti facilities are under lock and chain in Cancun, Mexico, tied up in legal proceedings. This is where things currently stand.

What really blows, the Mid-Ohio enduro. car and a few more cars are still inside. Some of the guys (A.O.A.I. members and more) really pay attention to the Avanti story and keep their eyes on when the assets in Cancun come up for sale.

More links:
Diagram of frame
Another frame view
Production specs by year


Last edited by Avanti 63r1025 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:42 am; edited 4 times in total
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:29 am

So the Avanti has been based: purely on Studebaker, Studebaker with Chevrolet, independents with Chevrolet, independents with Pontiac, and lastly independents with Ford. Stalker, there's where the engine gasket set you saw would have Avanti listed as being compatible.

Personal notes

I like the way the blended bumper cars look, the die hard Studebaker fans don't care if you modify one to fit your style and we have all kinds of goodies that weren't around in the eighties.

I would rip out the 305, replace it with something hotter and supercharge it (maybe a Rotrex, maybe a Paxton for historical purposes), back the engine with a strong T-5, install coilovers in lieu of the stock suspension setup, measure numerous times the amount of room for backspacing and offset to put the widest 17" dia. wheels/tires under the stock fenders as would fit. I'd move the turn indicators back to the Studebaker location, keep the existing turn indicator housings, fill them with Hella driving lights, and convert to the SN-95 ('03) Mustang Cobra brakes. All of this in an '84 or '85 so the frame and general profile of the car was still Studebaker while the rest of the car was enhanced with more easily replaced modern pieces.

The 1990 LTS Avanti is actually the whole reason my step-mom bought a '92 Corvette. She (and my dad) were first trying to get financing for the Avanti sedan. The loaning company said, "What the Hell is one of those? We don't have any data on that brand so um, no." They were able to get the financing for the 'Vette because just about everyone has heard of Chevrolet.

If you ever see the interior of an Avanti sedan, you're in for a treat. It was possible to have a TV in the back and there were small flip-out tables for the rear passengers. If I were to start my own limousine company, I'd get an Avanti LTS. That ought to stand out more than the plethora of Lincoln Town Cars and the Mercedes-Benz S500s I see out there.
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Sun May 05, 2013 2:57 am

Heard from an AOAI member vacationing in Cancun, the building is empty and a new owner is settled in. Word has it the assets have been liquidated and the Avanti name is up for grabs.
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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  StalkerStang on Sun May 05, 2013 1:35 pm

So when are you taking over the throne then?

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Re: Excerpt of Avanti story

Post  Avanti 63r1025 on Sun May 05, 2013 5:06 pm

Ha! It's interesting you bring that up. When I lived in the east bay I had two friends I'd hang out with regularly. One of these friends really liked Macintosh, the other really liked Ford's concepts. They knew I had the Avanti and that Studebaker went under. The Mac guy (Scott) was pissed more games weren't released for Macintosh. The Ford guy (Pat) was pissed because Ford would showcase some pretty awesome concepts and then throw them in the circular file.

It some how came to be, that it was Scott's responsibility to bring Mac to at least 40% of the market. It was Pat's responsibility to make Ford grow some balls. And it was my responsibility to Phoenix Studebaker (bring them back).

I only need the financing because I wouldn't mind heading that effort. First thing would be to absorb Ric W. Reed's company. His logo looks like Steeda's "S" anyway, that's gotta be changed.

I would adopt the Studebaker brothers' early motto of "Always give more than you promise." I gave thought to this September of '11 on forzamotorsport.net. I'd change a few of the things I wrote back then but the overall gist is the same.
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