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Houston Auto Show - My Dads Avanti


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Forgot to post this before the show - but thought yall might appreciate the story....

For those of you planning to go to the Houston Auto Show - I need you to do me a favor.

Stuck back in the far south east corner of the show they have a small showing of classic cars. In there you will find a white Studebaker R2 Avanti. Take a look at it, have a beverage in your hand - and drink a toast to Mr. Price T Smith.

The car belonged to my father who passed away a couple years ago at age 83. This car was one of his favorites.

He was a gear head from way back - when my folks were married he told my mom the first big purchase they were going to make was a MGA. She said no - it will be a house. So 18 months later they had a house..... And a 1958 MGA. I still have this car, in original condition with 30k on the clock. Learned to drive a manual shift in it - still drive it regularly.

As a kid he was into cars and managed to visit the Worlds Fair a couple times - this is where car manufacturers showed off their new products and concepts in those days. When my wife and I lived in Chicago he made few trips to visit - not a big fan of big cities much less one like Chicago - but made sure it was when the Chicago Auto Show was in town. When we ended up in Houston we would visit the Houston show regularly. He also loved the Texas State Fair - was an OU grad so went to (and took me) to the OU/Texas game many time over the years. There was always an auto display there and it was the first thing we would hit.

He would be flipping out right now to know that one of his cars was in the show. Not because he would want to show it off and brag - he was a very humble man and did not own the cars he had for the prestige value - but because of the uniqueness and story behind the car.

My dad was an architect and engineer and very much into modern design and the designers of that time. He was a big Frank Loyd Wright and Raymond Loewy fan. Loewy designed the Avanti for Studebaker at the time they were struggling for survival. They took it from concept to production in an incredibly short time and, if they could have produced enough to meet orders, would have probably kept Studebaker afloat for a few more years. That is why he was fan of the car - the design, the story, the innovations it had etc. He would be happy to know the car is finally gaining a little popularity and more people are learning about its story. If you are into Auto history you should read the story some time.

As I said - he did not show off his cars. Most were kept in an old warehouse and few people knew he had them. Later in his life he did not have the finances nor health to keep them up. In 1999 the annual Studebaker convention was coming to Austin. At the time he was in bad health and I thought we might loose him soon. I talked him into letting me take this car, and another Avanti (all original 31 K on the clock) and clean them up to take to the convention. I got them cleaned up and running and we hauled them to Austin - won 2 third place trophies. I almost got fired because my boss thought there was something more important going on that week. I drove back and forth from Houston to Austin several times - to satisfy my dad who was *****ing at me to get back to work. When the convention was over they went back in storage.

We had been to several Studebaker conventions as a family over the years. Usually used it as our summer vacation and drove the car to what ever city it was in. I remember going to the one in Denver in the middle of the oil crisis when there was a gasoline shortage ( don't know if many of you are old enough to remember that). There were long lines at the gas stations and some stations would only sell you a limited number of gallons - and we needed premium to run in the Avanti. He would get up early 4am ish and drive around Denver to find enough Premium to get us through the day of site seeing. On judging day we all (me mom and dad) got up early started polishing - we won a First Place trophy.

After he died this car was one of the first I started working on - it has a supercharger after all. Fun car to drive - takes forever to go anywhere though because everybody wants to stop you and talk about the car - and I mean everybody. People that know what it is want specifics, general gearheads want to know about the engine etc, people that have no Idea what it is want to know. I guess I am turning into my dad - I love telling the story to anyone that wants to know. When my dad and I would be out in it and get delayed by lookers I would get impatient and roll my eyes - my kids do the same to me...

I think it is a little Divine intervention that got the car to this show. I don't do the car show circuit much - taken it to cars and coffee and nifty fifties once each - but I do little show in Towne Lake every year. The guy in charge of the Classics exhibition at the Houston Auto Show (Charlie Van Natter) saw the Avanti there. I was away from the car getting a drink and my business partners wife was sitting with it when he came by. Luckily she is a little bit of a car buff too and knew a little bit about the car. She gave him the basics and he asked for my name and number - he told her he was part of a little invitation only car show. She was worried I would be upset she had given out my info to a stranger. That was months ago and I had forgotten about it until I got a call from him in Late November. I was worried that the car was not good enough for such a big show - although it is a very "original" car, it is not a "rotisserie restoration" concours car. The paint is from a late 70's re-paint that was only so-so and has chips and dings, all of the chrome is pitted to some degree, the engine compartment is far from show quality and many components needed to be repainted and touched up. I asked him if he had personally seen the car and remembered how rough it was. He told me he knew what condition it was in and it was fine. He said he believes it is a car that is gaining in popularity and people were asking about them - they had never had one in the show before. I agreed - knowing my dad would think it was great. I also panicked - there was no way I was putting it in the show in its current shape and there was only a couple months to work on it.

I did what I could - I really wanted the engine looking good since it is supercharged etc. I had the valve covers and breather cover re-chromed, re-painted the supercharger and fan blade, and had the wheels powder coated. Before we could pull the bumpers for re-chroming my mechanic had a death in the family and went AWOL for 10 days. When he got back he realized the wheels were the wrong color they had missed some of the chrome - barely got that fixed in time and we didn't have time to get all the black engine components off and painted. I didn't get the car back from him until the Sunday morning before Monday show move in - which meant I had missed my detail appointment. As we pulled it out to load on the trailer it blew the hose to the oil pressure gauge and one of the exhaust pipes came loose. Back on the rack to tack weld the exhaust which scared me - the car is fiberglass and many have been damaged getting exhaust work done. We could not get the fitting needed for the oil pressure line so we capped it the best we could - I was sweating it out pulling it into the show area (would have been a tad embarrassing to dump break fluid all over the carpet and run into someones car). My wife and I started working on the car noon Sunday and worked late that night and a couple hours Monday. Wife spent hours with steel wool and black touch up paint hitting all of the engine components. I went after all of the other chrome with 0000 steel wool and polish. Did the interior, windows, and a final coat of speed shine after we had it in place at the show. It ended up looking better than I expected - just don't look too close.

I know that this is a long post, but I felt like writing the story and thought this was as good a place as any, that some of you could relate and might appreciate it. I hope my dad knew that during all of the times we messed with the cars over years, when I was acting like a typical teenage ass complaining and rolling my eyes, I was paying attention and did enjoy it.

Here's to you Price T.


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awesome, very close to my story. My father passed away nov 5th 203. His 63 has been in Houston since 78 and its been to a lot of shows, its a factory white / orange interior r2 . is yours a 4spd as well?

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