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drn1965

Could Newman and Altman Have Chosen Another Engine in '65-'66?

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It has been noted that Newman and Altman had Gene Hardig re-engineer the Avanti's front end to accept the small block GM motor and drivetrain, ostensibly to address dimensional differences between the Studebaker 289 V8 and the GM 327 V8. Related cosmetic changes included raising the "rake" of the body, and installing fiberglass inserts to the front wheel wells to address the leveling of the rake. Assuming this was a necessity to use the GM engine, I'm led to wonder if another engine could have been substituted which would not have required cosmetic changes to the original body or its stance.

Would the 225 2bbl Chrysler Slant Six have fit the Avanti engine bay?...it was specifically designed to allow lower hood clearance and was used in sizable vehicles. Was the Ford 289 V8 an option?

A true "what if" question if ever there was one, but...... 

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I'm not sure hood clearance with the small block Chevy was the driving factor for eliminating the rake and changing the stance of the Avanti II.  What I have read suggests Newman and Altman didn't like the nose-down attitude of the Studebaker Avanti and felt that it was unbecoming for a personal luxury car.  I have seen enough Studebaker Avanti's sporting engine-swapped small block Chevies to think the hood clearance issue was not the real reason.

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Avanti didn't have to engineer the Avanti for the Chebbie small-block...Studebaker had already done that for the '65-'66 Studebaker's.  The only issues were whatever body clearances were necessary for the installation.  It's commonly known Nate Altman didn't like the forward rake anyway...some additional body insulators and the fiberglass fill over the wheel arches took care of that.  

Other engines possibly could have been made to slip under the hood but that would have required a much higher investment of finances in place of the already engineered small block engine...plus the idea of using Corvette engines gave it a minimum performance level above what most other engines could've provided per dollar spent.  

My understanding was the Ford small block V8 would have been problematic as the oil sump was set up opposite the Chevy and Studebaker design...much redesign would likely have been necessary for such an installation...plus the parts for the switch from Studebaker to GM for the PowerShift transmission were already available.  It may have been possible for an easy transmission use with the Ford engine as Ford also used Borg Warner trannies.  

In the end it probably came down to finances more than anything else...why rock the boat when the engineering was already done plus the marketing value using a Corvette engine?

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Ditto what Gunslinger said.  The engineering work and necessary parts were already done for the 1965 model year Studebakers.  The rake did not fit in with the customers that N&A were attempting to market the Avanti II to. 

EDIT:  Place yourself in 1965.  NO six cylinder engine would have fit the image of the Avanti II (the Chrysler slant six is a good engine).  

Edited by studegary

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I love the “sloper” in my 81 4x4 stepside, but I can’t imagine having one in my Avanti!  The decision to use the SBC made sense at the time and turned out to be probably the best choice as years went by as folks had lots of options to upgrade their engines. Mike

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Newman - Altman did not like the rake in the Avanti. A small block Chevy fits under the hood of a 63-64 Avanti and many engine swaps have been done over the years. Here's mine in a 1964 using a stock intake manifold and quadrajet carb and R1 air cleaner lid.

Bob Caser

20171124_122855_resized[12829].jpg

20180811_091705_resized[12828].jpg

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Thanks all for your insight, particularly Bob Caser’s photos of his seemingly seamless engine swap of a GM small block into a ‘64 Studebaker Avanti.

It would appear Thomas E. Bonsall’s account of the front end modifications to the Avanti II found in his book,  “Avanti!” (Page 16) was not accurate:

”...The first of four engineering prototypes, serial number one, was fitted with a 327 block from a Chicago salvage yard. The Chevy engine was considerably lighter than the Studebaker V8 it supplanted, but, because it was slightly taller in production form, it was necessary to raise the front fender line of the Avanti II about 2inches, and to add a filler piece to the front wheel cut-outs. This gave the Avanti II a distinctly different appearance from the Studebaker version. The impudent rake of the original was replaced by a somewhat more civilized stance.”

 

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Even though the Studebaker V8 is a small block internally, externally it's a big block , this means any US OHV8 engine would fit in the Avanti engine compartment and most have been transplanted in at one time or another.

I've seen Cadillac, big block and hemi Mopar, Oldsmobile and big block Chevy.  As mentioned, most Ford oil pans are front sump, but there are various truck pans which would have made the swap possible.

As to the slant sick Mopar, we'll have to agree to disagree.  Its reputation for longevity is because it doesn't make enough horsepower to stress even four main bearings.

jack vines

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I have often thought for the base line engine, the Mercedes 230 SE engine might have been a good alternate.  Later on, a Pontiac Sprint OHC six with 4 bbl card would have certainly had the beans for a base or the Buick aluminum V8.

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Put yourself in N&A's position, they wanted to sell cars. They needed an engine that fit, was proven to work in the chassis and fit with minimum modifications and cost. What would you chose?

It had to be the SBC, why - cause it fit. Not only was it already engineered into the frame and attached to the existing drivetrain but also came from it's fiberglass brethren that by now was establishing a performance image of it's own. So the afterglow of the performance of the vette could also shine on the Avanti.

All the other options needed to be fitted into the car and either didn't have enough cylinders to stir the soul of buyers or were just bigger, heavier and under powered compared  to the Chevy.

They had no other choice either engineering or financially wise.

Edited by Avanti83

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Besides the above there was also the fact that advertising the Avanti II as being equipped as standard with a Corvette Stingray engine...even the base 300 hp 327 was a promotional plus that other engines wouldn't be able to match...other than possibly the Ford 289 HiPo which would have required engineering changes Avanti Motors probably couldn't afford and needn't afford.  

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17 hours ago, Avanti83 said:

Put yourself in N&A's position, they wanted to sell cars. They needed an engine that fit, was proven to work in the chassis and fit with minimum modifications and cost. What would you chose?

It had to be the SBC, why - cause it fit. Not only was it already engineered into the frame and attached to the existing drivetrain but also came from it's fiberglass brethren that by now was establishing a performance image of it's own. So the afterglow of the performance of the vette could also shine on the Avanti.

All the other options needed to be fitted into the car and either didn't have enough cylinders to stir the soul of buyers or were just bigger, heavier and under powered compared  to the Chevy.

They had no other choice either engineering or financially wise.

Agree -- no other choice made sense: reliable, powerful, already engineered to fit, could be serviced anywhere, and a reputation derived from use in the Corvette. The "V8 fever" that had started in 1949 had still not subsided. It can be dangerous to view decisions made 50-60 years ago from the perspective of today's mores and standards.  I suspect that no one who wanted a car with a 6 would been interested in an Avanti anyway.  It was clearly aimed as the Riviera - Thunderbird customer.

Edited by Skip Lackie

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12 hours ago, Kennie B. said:

I have often thought for the base line engine, the Mercedes 230 SE engine might have been a good alternate.  Later on, a Pontiac Sprint OHC six with 4 bbl card would have certainly had the beans for a base or the Buick aluminum V8.

Besides the reasons that I and others have previously stated, none of these engines fit the image of the Avanti - you have to think in early 1960s terms.  I am not saying anything negative about your examples, I have owned two of the three.

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Not only would a six not have fit the performance image of the Avanti, the length of the engine would probably been an issue. They might have had to mount the radiator on the front bumper!  Mike

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