1963 Studebaker Avanti Sport Coupe R1
Original price: $4,445.00 (In 1963: average car cost $3,233.00; average household income, $5,807.00; average house cost $12,650.00; gallon of gas, 29 cents)
On loan from: Jim and Micki Kaufman, Kearney, NE
Previous owner: Original owner: General Robert D. Knapp
Number made: 3,834 built in 1963: R1 – 2,282; R2 – 1,552. This car built on 4/1/1963.
Engine, etc.: 289 cu. in., 240 h.p., (R1), V-8, “Jet Thrust” engine, high-lift camshaft, dual-breaker distributor, 4-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts. R2 – 290 h.p., supercharged. Wheelbase: 109″. Weight: 3,195 lbs.
The original owner of this car was General Robert D. Knapp, a brigadier general in the U. S. Air Force and an aviation pioneer. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1918 and served during World War I although he didn’t see action. During World War II he led the first aerial Allied attack on Rome. He received a Silver Star for leading an unescorted bombing raid on a fighter-defended Axis convoy in 1944. General Knapp died in Alabama on April 25, 1994.
Designed by Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews, John Ebstein, and Raymond Loewy (The Father of Industrial Design”), the Avanti (Italian for “forward”) was approved by Studebaker for production just five weeks after the design team began work on it.
The design of the 1963 – 64 Avanti was among the most daring of 1960s cars with totally unique American styling that even Italian auto stylists hadn’t attempted.
Advanced safety features included a built-in roll bar, padded interior, and door latches that became structural body members when closed.
The supercharged V-8 Avanti was one of the fastest 1960s cars. It could do 168 mph and a modified version reached 196 mph which was an amazing speed for a production street car. Twenty-nine Bonneville Salt Flats speed records were broken by a supercharged Avanti.
The Avanti was the first mass-produced fiberglass body four-passenger American car and the first to use caliper-style disc brakes. Production problems resulted from the new fiberglass body. When the bodies first reached the production line and workers tried to install the back window, it fell through into the back seat: the opening was too large. The public was very interested in the new car and many people put $1,000 down for a new car. Six months later, they still had no new car because of various production issues. The reputation of Studebaker suffered.
Author Ian Flemming, who created the James Bond character, ordered a black Avanti and shipped it to foreign countries he visited outside his native England. Ricky Nelson, rock and roll singer, also owned an Avanti.
Unfortunately, the Avanti didn’t last long enough to keep Studebaker from going out of business in 1966. It lasted over 100 years after starting as maker of horse-drawn wagons in 1852. It produced its first cars, electric models, in 1902. By the 1950s Studebaker was in deep trouble because it lacked the economy of scale of larger U. S. automakers and its cars, though good, weren’t cost competitive against giant automakers such as General Motors.
Sources: Information furnished by current caretakers, Jim and Micki Kaufman: e-mail of 10/9/19 and print out from Wikipedia, “Robert D. Knapp”, 12/22/16.
Information from George Krem, Holdrege, NE, Classic Car Collection, conversation on 10/10/19.
The Studebaker Avanti, Production Data: Detailed Production Analysis, George Krem and Bryan Hendricks; 51 p.; Studebaker National Museum, 2011.
http://oldcarbrochures.com/new/120311/1963%20Avanti%20Brochure/dirindex.html (Original dealer brochure)