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GREG D. LOWRY

CREATING A "RETRO"COUPE

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I AM CURIOUS AS TO WHAT OTHERS THINK OF THE IDEA OF DEVELOPING A "RETRO"COUPE AND OR CONVERTIBLE.WHAT I MEAN AS TO "RETRO" IS,AN AVANTI STYLED AS THE ORIGINAL...BUT USING A DRIVETRAIN OF TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY.I WAS KNOWN AS THE DESIGNER OF THE YOUNGSTOWN AVANTIS...BUT I'VE NEVER CONSIDERED ANYONE THE DESIGNER(S) OF THE AVANTI OTHER THAN RAYMOND LOWEY AND THE MEMBERS OF THE ORIGINAL DESIGN TEAM.I APPECIATE THE STYLING OF THE LATEST AVANTIS...BUT,I LOVE THE ORIGINAL AND WANT TO PRESERVE IT.I HAVEN'T ANY IDEA AS TO THE LEGALITIES OF THIS.HOWEVER I DO THINK THAT THE CURRENT STATUS OF MIKE KELLY AND AVANTI MOTORS MAY POSSIBLY MAKE IT POSSIBLE IN THE FUTURE.I DON'T WANT TO OFFEND ANYONE,OR BE MISUNDERSTOOD AS CRITICIZING THE NEWER AVANTIS....ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING TOM KELLOGG'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE DESIGN.I HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING AND DISCUSSING THE AVANTI WITH MR. KELLOGG .....I HAVE A DEEP RESPECT FOR HIM.

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I think what you're suggesting has been done...at least in a limited way. One member here is fabricating a stainless steel chassis for an Avanti body, utilizing a Corvette rear suspension and Viper rear end. I've seen in a past issue of the AOAI magazine where another owner has installed independent rear suspension to his Avanti. I'm not aware of what front suspension was/is being utilized, or if they went with a stock type. So someone has at least done this to some degree.

As far as the Avanti name, someone won't be able to use the name for new production unless they get permission or buy the rights to the name. If you take an original body and drop a different chassis under it, it's still an Avanti as it was originally registered that way. A particular state my require a different classification, such as a street rod or similar once a car has been substantially modified from its original state of manufacture.

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Greg;

The original design is beautiful, but I doubt it would sell now even with an updated frame, suspension, engine and brakes. I tried to sketch out what the original design would look like if the windshield were more raked - like extending it out to the edge of the cowl. Personally, I think wheel flares also add a 3 dimensional affect that would improve the look (but then you know my sentiment on that as I'm incorporating them into my 4-door).

Interesting question to ponder.

Richard Morris

Renton, WA

1964 Avanti R-1 #5367 (with wheel flares)

1990 Avanti 4-door (with 383 SBC)

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[ Personally, I think wheel flares also add a 3 dimensional affect that would improve the look (but then you know my sentiment on that as I'm incorporating them into my 4-door).

Interesting question to ponder.

Flares are a hard thing to do on the Avanti. Because of there shape. Not that they can't be done. getting the upper half to fit (look) right is difficult.

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Dittos on the wheel flares; could see a better taillight too, with all the modern spacey looking ones out there.

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"Styled as the original"? Do you mean duplicating the body and interior of the 1963 or 64 models, or trying to achieve a close "modern" take on the original look? Something closer in appearance to the original than the 1984 or later Avantis?

Jim Bunting and Tom Kellogg collaborated in producing the late 90's AVX, so named because they didn't hold the rights to the Avanti name. I don't know if the then-dormant Avanti company gave them any legal grief over their pitching it as a successor to the Avanti.

I owned a 1964 Avanti new and today own a 1983 model. For styling, this is my take on the designs' strengths and weaknesses:

First time I saw the car back in '63 I thought it looked too narrow for its length. It still is, plus the original is quite a long car by today's standards. Some of that could be solved by shortening the car a little, using a frame which would allow the seating floor to be sunk inside the frame a couple of inches and lowering the roofline by the same amount.

The steel bumper design is critical. The blade bumpers are useless as bumpers, of course, but their chrome provides vital visual direction in front and rear views of the car. None of the 84-on cars look nearly as good with their composite bumpers. And the front directionals *must* stay on the front fender extensions - otherwise the extensions will just look clumsy as they do in the newer Avantis.

The windshield might look fine with some more rake, but part of the Avanti "feel" comes from having the hood visually closer to the driver than on most modern cars.

First time I saw the Avanti, I thought the designers had done a great job of making the car look graceful from all angles - except the direct rear view. The rear view still looks awkward to me. It's not nearly as bad as many fastbacks of the 60's, but could be improved. Better width-height ratio, maybe?

The car, if redesigned, should be a Hardtop instead of a coupe. It should have been a hardtop design from the beginning. It's "roll bar" is just a roof brace which should be eliminatable by proper design. (and of course a hardtop coupe design would be more compatible with the convertible version)

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I agree the front turn signals should have been incorporated in the front fender blades in the newer editions of the Avanti. I have an '02 as well as a '70 and like the original turn signal design better. If there was an engineering or cost reason for the change I'm not aware, but it may be due to the lack of working room inside the fender blades compared to the bumpers for installing the lights and housings.

I also agree the original Avanti design seems a bit narrow compared to its length, but the need to adapt a frame for cost reasons outweighed the desire to design a chassis that could have been superior for the purpose. That is one of the compromises that had to be made or there would likely never have been an Avanti at all. It's also been reported that the original design was somewhat shorter, but Studebaker management wanted it longer and the front fenders were extended creating the long overhang. From some angles, that is about the only part of the design that has any clumsy elements at all...at least to my eye. The visual clumsiness in that overhang is worse in my '02...likely the result of having to adapt that lovely Avanti shape to the Firebird chassis with its shorter wheelbase.

Wheel flares are an individual like or dislike. The original sketches by Loewy's team showed flares, but were eventually deleted. Loewy himself liked the flares but left them off for "purity of line". Regardless, a good fiberglass man can add them if someone wanted.

The windshield rake is also part of Avanti lore. The early mockups had more rake until Sherwood Egbert banged his head getting in and demanded a change so taller drivers could get in more easily. The change definitely made for better interior headroom but at some loss in streamlining and a bit greater drag. The worst aspect to the more vertical windshield I've notice is that instead of deflecting, bugs tend to simply squash and splatter when striking the glass. Stones do the same...chip the glass instead of deflecting.

Hardtop or coupe?...design could definitely eliminate the roll bar, but again, costs made the roll bar necessary. It was cheaper to incorporate a roll bar than design a new chassis or build the car out of steel rather than fiberglass. Yes, Corvettes were fiberglass and had no such roll bar, but they had a dedicated chassis plus the money and large engineering resources of GM.

From my point of view, the urgency with which the Avanti was designed and created, the financial condition of Studebaker that prompted Sherwood Egbert to conceive of such a car and the abilities of Raymond Loewy and his design team, made the Avanti what it is and has always been...a magnificent design, warts and all. I consider the GT Hawk as done by Brooks Stevens under similar constraints and urgency much the same. If Studebaker had been in a stronger financial condition, it likely wouldn't have happened at all.

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First time I saw the Avanti, I thought the designers had done a great job of making the car look graceful from all angles - except the direct rear view. The rear view still looks awkward to me. It's not nearly as bad as many fastbacks of the 60's, but could be improved. Better width-height ratio, maybe?

The car, if redesigned, should be a Hardtop instead of a coupe. It should have been a hardtop design from the beginning. It's "roll bar" is just a roof brace which should be eliminatable by proper design. (and of course a hardtop coupe design would be more compatible with the convertible version)

:( Beauty must be in the eye of the beholder!

For my tastes, the BEST part of the Avanti design is the rear end - from all angles.

The front end, stills looks awkward with it's steep design without a grill. (I DON'T want a grill, but the lack of a grill needs a more gradual slope.)

Not having fender flares keeps the design "fresh," as flares come and go in auto designing.

Well, that is my 2 cents. No one is right or wrong in this discussion, that's why where are over 1,500 makes and models available in 2008, for the motoring public. We all like/appreciate different styles! :rolleyes:

Edited by Ernie

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Gunslinger, I should have prefaced my remarks by noting that I know the circumstances that led to some of the design's peculiarities. Studebaker, for all intents and purposes, had all but disappeared by the time they hired Egbert. What I'm suggesting is that if there's a new design (or interpretation of the Loewy design) rather than an exact copy body, that there are areas that can be improved without losing the Avanti's original design impact. That impact for some of us (OF's now, young then) was as great as that of Jaguar's XKE had been when it had been introduced shortly before.

But maybe any new Avanti design would turn out like the newer Jag coupe - a beautiful car, yes, but not with the E-type's impact.

There are a number of "small" elements in the Avanti design that can blunt the impact of a more modern interpretation. The front marker light placement is one. The "gunsight" - windshield bottom - top of instrument panel continuity is another. Bumper regs and "safety" requirements will also have their effects.

I have perhaps an unusual perspective. As a 21 year old college student with just enough inherited money to get myself in trouble, I traded a '62 TR-4 (now *that* was a narrow car) and $3,000 cash to custom-order a 1963 Avanti. I expected to get a '63 model, but by the time South Bend actually produced the car it was turned out as a '64.

I didn't expect a grill, and at first didn't like it. I expected round headlights, and at first did not like the "square" ones. But within a week, I realized that my car looked a lot better with those two changes. The "square" light covers match the car's design better, and after a week of living with the grill, I realized that the car looked unfinished without something to keep the eye from being drawn to the radiator opening.

I've had my '83 for almost a year now; what about it do I like better? Well, it's 20 years newer than my old '64, wherever that may be now. I do appreciate not having the rake of the '64. Most people at that time considered that to be a negative design factor and I agreed with them. It looked like, and apparently was, a mistake. Its interior looks nowhere near as good as my '64's, but that's mainly the thick, high-back squarish Recaros that don't fit the original Avanti design, and the lack of the keystone emblems which did help tie the interior together. Safety regs killed the low-back front seats that looked so good on those 60's cars, and safety regs would really bulk up interior fixtures of a "new" Avanti design.

Taken in good humor, this could end up as an interesting discussion of what we as individuals, see as attractive/unattractive in each of the Avanti models.

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Mike...I wasn't disagreeing with you at all. In fact, I thought I was expanding on your comments. There's just so much open to individual interpretation I guess one could think I was merely being argumentative which was not the case.

I love the Avanti design, but it's not perfect. As you said, any changes would have to take into account gov't safety regulations, etc. I meant that the Avanti, with whatever flaws it did have, was the result of an unusual set of circumstances...Stude's financial straits, Sherwood Egbert being made the company's President, Raymond Loewy's agreeing to take on the project and the men he picked to do it, etc. If it wasn't for that set of circumstances the Avanti would never have been a reality. The same can be said for Nate Altman and his decision to build the Avanti II. A lot happened because of a few men with vision, determination (maybe even desperation) and perseverance that I doubt we would see today.

Like you, I like the squared headlight bezels of the '64 and later Avanti's, but have never really warmed up to the square headlights after they went to the rubber bumpers. I think the '64 style gives the car a more elegant look.

I will differ with you on the seats. My '70 has the high back "Command Center" bucket seats...nice looking, but they give no support. The original design the the '63 I used to own were more comfortable. I'm replacing the high back seats with a pair of Recaro's I found at York last month, once they're reupholstered.

You mentioned the Jaguar "E" Type. To my eye, that's the most beautiful auto design ever...not a bad line in the entire car...particularly the early ones. It has sensuous lines.

I think we could spend many hours discussing our likes and dislikes about the Avanti design, its changes over the years. That's what makes this design so great...the emotions and passions it creates.

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From the first time I saw an Avanti, I feel in love with the sweeping lines and the curves, oh the curves. It reminded me of the E-Type Jag's of the day, and the exotic Italian cars on the race tracks. I just knew I had to have one. And now I have one, not a Studebaker Damn It, But a Newman and Altman car. But , the thing is, the Avanti, no matter what year or manufacturer, is a car design you either love or hate. As for me, I love all the sweeping curves and sexy lines, from all angles.

George Wendell, RQB 1600

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And I could even nitpick the E-Type one one thing - the windshield, like the Avanti's later, was maybe too vertical for the design's sleekness.

Far as the Avanti's seats are concerned, I loved the ones on my '64. They were the "thin" design originals - apparently my car was assembled slightly before the factory went to the "thickback" seats in the final batch of '64 models. I don't think either the (Avanti II) stock highback seats or the Recaros look as good as either of the Studebaker seat designs but of course the highback/headrest nonsense was a mandated change.

I've always looked at the Avanti as Egbert's car (what a name for the poor man to have been saddled with!) instead of a "real" Studebaker.

GAWen, don't mourn not having a Studebaker Avanti. Even in 1962-63 a lot of people thought it would have been a better car had it had the Chevy 283 in it. Studebaker had earned their "Steadybreaker" nickname by then. I'm quite happy with RQB3371 Chevy drivetrain, particularly since a PO added a Paxton SN2000 blower to give my 305 some decent pickup and passing power.

You know, most of the time it's not great fun being a turkey-necked old geezer, but age becomes enjoyable in discussions like this one. Mentally it takes me back to "when it all happened".

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[ Personally, I think wheel flares also add a 3 dimensional affect that would improve the look (but then you know my sentiment on that as I'm incorporating them into my 4-door).

Interesting question to ponder.

Flares are a hard thing to do on the Avanti. Because of there shape. Not that they can't be done. getting the upper half to fit (look) right is difficult.

HELLO,....YOUVE GOT ME MORE THAN CURIOUS ABOUT THESE WHEEL FLARES CAN I GET A LOOK AT THEM????

"Styled as the original"? Do you mean duplicating the body and interior of the 1963 or 64 models, or trying to achieve a close "modern" take on the original look? Something closer in appearance to the original than the 1984 or later Avantis?

Jim Bunting and Tom Kellogg collaborated in producing the late 90's AVX, so named because they didn't hold the rights to the Avanti name. I don't know if the then-dormant Avanti company gave them any legal grief over their pitching it as a successor to the Avanti.

I owned a 1964 Avanti new and today own a 1983 model. For styling, this is my take on the designs' strengths and weaknesses:

First time I saw the car back in '63 I thought it looked too narrow for its length. It still is, plus the original is quite a long car by today's standards. Some of that could be solved by shortening the car a little, using a frame which would allow the seating floor to be sunk inside the frame a couple of inches and lowering the roofline by the same amount.

The steel bumper design is critical. The blade bumpers are useless as bumpers, of course, but their chrome provides vital visual direction in front and rear views of the car. None of the 84-on cars look nearly as good with their composite bumpers. And the front directionals *must* stay on the front fender extensions - otherwise the extensions will just look clumsy as they do in the newer Avantis.

The windshield might look fine with some more rake, but part of the Avanti "feel" comes from having the hood visually closer to the driver than on most modern cars.

First time I saw the Avanti, I thought the designers had done a great job of making the car look graceful from all angles - except the direct rear view. The rear view still looks awkward to me. It's not nearly as bad as many fastbacks of the 60's, but could be improved. Better width-height ratio, maybe?

The car, if redesigned, should be a Hardtop instead of a coupe. It should have been a hardtop design from the beginning. It's "roll bar" is just a roof brace which should be eliminatable by proper design. (and of course a hardtop coupe design would be more compatible with the convertible version)

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Take a look back at the Stephen Blake Avanti racing program. More info can be found at The avanti dot com. It looks like the "escort" Avanti at the bottom has wheel bulges rather than flares. Plus there is an interesting upward slope to the rear of the top Avanti. It would be interesting to get more and different angles on these 2 cars. It also begs the question WHERE ARE THEY NOW? (boarded up in the mexico plant?)

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According to one of the "designers' memoirs" articles in Avanti Mag, wheel flares were in the original design until Loewy himself ruled them out for complicating the car's "clean lines". I have to agree as everywhere I've seen flares, they were an attempt to cover for inadequate design. On the pictureded Avanti they draw attention to the outside of the tires being out too wide for the car's design.

Then there's the bisected rear bumper. Like the passenger-side gunsight some PO put on my Avanti, it doesn't kill the car's impact but mildly diminishes it. IMO, there's not much if any owner improvement that can be made in the Avanti's looks. Even with Tom Kellogg "designing" the two-seater Avanti conversion some years back, that car's proportions looked "off" compared to the normal Avanti - at least in the pictures I've seen.

People modifying the GM or Ford cars of that era had it much easier since the designs they worked with had been so compromised by company policies that they looked either dull enough that most any mod would improve their looks or a few looked just plain grotesque. The '63 Vette being a good example of the latter. In 1962 I remember thinking that the E-type looked breathtakingly beautiful, the Avanti maybe beautiful, maybe something else, but even stronger than the Jag in its visual impact, and the '63 Vette as a disappointment, a completely blown opportunity by GM's styling department.

Again, just my opinion as an owner and a longtime Avanti fan. But I do think that a talented, experienced industrial designer would agree that it would be devilishly difficult to successfully modify any significant part of a good design. (and in an outstanding design, every part is significant)

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