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1964 Studebaker Avanti Art Car "Tribute"


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For those that don't know, I painted my 2007 Z4 M Coupe (Scatha) as my first Art Car in 2011. It has it's own website (www.myartcar.com) which will be revamped to similarly house the Avanti's pictures.


For now I will post here the first public pictures of the Avanti at this year's Cruisin' For A Cure carshow. Understand that in order to meet the date of the show a lot of the painting time was devoted to restoration of the trim and interior. So the paint is not quite finished as you see it here. Those of you who know my style will notice the unfinished areas. Those who do not know my style, please understand that the layout is finalized and that shiny = finished.

Stylistically Tribute is a polar opposite to Scatha. The Z4's surface treatment made it very easy to use its lines as part of the artwork. The Avanti's broad, simple contours necessitated a concept that would pull the viewer's eye from the surface and into the piece. This is one reason why everything is portrayed in reverse. The surface of the Avanti is reflecting its history to us.

Similarly to Scatha, "Tribute" is primarily a diptych with the horizontal surfaces acting to bridge the two contrasting sides. The Driver's side honors the Studebaker Avantis that set records racing, while simultaneously reflecting the landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats through their respective panel sections. These are:
Paula Murphy's #9 and "Sears-Studebaker" cars
Granatelli's Due Cento and #8 cars
Ron Hall's 1963
Bill Burke's 88 then 90 (actually 6 of this cars liveries are represented in some way)
David Livesay's 1112 (unfinished)
Dave Bloomberg's 1963 (unfinished)
Jim Lange's 9431
Bill Brandt's 60



The Passenger's side honors the artistic and lifestyle elements, in a semi-chronological fashion from rear to front, that produced, inspired and/or embraced the car in its time. Specifically:
Loewy House
The Riviera Hotel
The Coechella Valley Bank building
Salton Sea North Shore Yacht Club
The Monkey Tree
The Chi Chi Room
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Mission Inn
Mann's Chinese Theater
The Brown Derby
The Biltmore Hotel
Playboy Club LA
The Broadway
Griffith Observatory
The Hollywood Bowl
The Troubador
Musso-Frank's Grill
Cinerama Dome
Walk of Fame
Pink Pu$$ycat
Town Hall
Union Station
Capitol Records
Pandora's Box
Victory Drive-In



The concept continues onto the front with a shift towards entertainment:
Route 66
ABC's Vine St. Theater
El Rey
Pacific Ocean Park
NBC studios
CBS (custom riff on their first, animated color TV logo)
2nd Street tunnel
Miracle Mile


The driver's side of the hood has two important components. 1st is the superimposed crusts of salt, doubled and blurred progressively toward the rear, that lay over the reflection of sunrise at Bonneville. As it proved difficult to use a representative technique to illustrate the salt's surface in this context I chose to go with a more stylized approach, fixating on the energetic visual movement of the salt's texture as speed increases. 2nd is the depiction of the six original Avanti colors, intermingling, coming off the hood badge. The badge itself kicking up a rooster tail from its two points as a further nod to the speed of those portrayed on the driver's side.


The front and rear are divided; day contrasting with night. In the front this is done with the overlapping centerlines of a city street and Bonneville's black chalk. Across the roof the border is less severe with the driver's side sky slowly blending into the passenger's side swimming pool. This in-turn is carried down to the trunk in a curve (with shadows and lights) from Loewy's pool. The trunk itself is conceptualized as looking at the view from Loewy's house into the surrounding desert through a section of distorting privacy glass that highlights the view itself in the architecture of his home. This section is currently a refined sketch - far from finished in its current condition.


The roof has its own significant details. On the driver's side is a Cessna 411, a nod to civilian aviation. A B-52 is launching an X-15, to reference the high level of technology and ground-breaking vision appreciated by Avanti owners. The woman diving into the pool is Ursula Andreas wearing the signature Dr. No bikini. The palm tree and lattice shadows are from Loewy house. The roof is also unfinished, so expect the colors and contrasts to pop more strongly when completed.


The interior is mostly finished will be restored to stock condition. This meant completely replacing nearly every tactile surface. Tito from Bon-A-Rues was essential in this part of the project and the car simply would not have been ready to show without his tireless efforts.


A few detail shots:
I chose to leave some of the metal cowl vent natural, only clearcoating it. I really liked its subtle metallic glint, and I think it will go nicely with the surrounding black areas. I also left part of the driver's side door bare fiberglass (also clearcoated), to show the structural material of the car. But that section isn't finished yet so I'll post a pic when it is.


The turned letters and numbers are actually leaf that I turned after laying on top of the acrylic. The original cars' leaf was white gold, but since I needed to have more control over the final color of each little section through tinting I chose to use imitation silver leaf. This was then glazed, where appropriate, to look like white gold. The other areas glazed to appear as white gold overlapping the respective background colors.


The Avanti lettering from Due Cento was the last I did, and has the highest contrast between sections. I also think it is the most effective. So I will likely go back and glaze more over the 8 and 9 once all other painting is completed.


The materials used are the same as with Scatha: Acrylic paint, brushed on, with Deco enamel markers and brushed acrylic clearcoat. Unlike Scatha I had to sand Tribute down through several layers of factory and aftermarket paint, fix some fiberglass cracks, prime and block sand prior to any painting. Layout was done with Stabillo pencils. This was mostly freehand, using a level to keep text plumb and cardboard stencils (drawn and cut freehand) for the driver's side number boards.

Edited by Palantirion
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Very interesting.

In a side note, couldn't help but notice the 4WD Pinto in the background.

See, all Ford had to do to make 'em safe was get the gas tank up in the air where it didn't line up with other vehicles :D

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  • 2 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

When the Avanti "canvas" is finished, please share with us untalented readers the number of hours that went into the complete artwork.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, up to the September 2014 show I would estimate thusly:

R&D: 100-150

Surface prep: 50

Dissassembly/re-assembly: 40

Interior: 25

Painting: 300+?

Current est.: 500-550 hours.

I'll actually go back and count the days and itemize things more accurately after it's finished. For my own curiosity if nothing else. It's a damn site more time than I needed to do my first art car. But there was no work to do on that one but research and paint, and both were simpler, and the Z4 M Coupe is a much smaller car. It took about 260 hours, counting final polishing.

Btw, I'm back at it. After a longer-than-expected hiatus I touched paint to car again tonight. Working on finishing the trunk currently.

Edited by Palantirion
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  • 3 weeks later...

After some considerable time off I went back to work on Tribute. While there are some physical tasks left unfinished I decided first to tackle the most difficult of the remaining paint areas. The trunklid was unfinished at CFAC in September, while all the surrounding areas were finished. I wanted to make at least one end of the car complete before I went on to work on other areas.

Then I thought I would show some step-by-step pics of my process so those of you unfamiliar with my style could see the before/after.

This is the right (night) side of the trunklid. Note the white numbers I added. "1" is how it looked at CFAC. In "2" the sky and light square segments have final paint. In "3" the rest of the segments have final paint. "4" is fully lined. "5" is gloss coated to better integrate the acrylic paint and enamel lines.

The gloss medium also enhances the luminosity of the colors. The example here shows how much more visible the green and blue tones within the dark sky are with the gloss applied.

The following three layups show the before/after, from CFAC in September when the trunk had only layout color and lines to now, finished.



The trunklid is a special part of Tribute, as the style differs somewhat from the rest of the composition. The basic idea is, in keeping with the right side of the vehicle, architecturally based. The linework is based on the privacy glass panel outside Loewy House, while the curved separation between day and night comes from Loewy's pool - carried down subtly from Tribute's roof composition. The mountains on the left side are from Bonneville which merge with the mountains from the area outside Palms Springs around Loewy House. Essentially it is a view through the glass's distortion of the view out over his pool superimposed with the reflection of the the pool and house's lights as they would be seen from above. This creates windows, glimpses, within the composition that juxtapose the idea of vision and clarity with that of a cloudy, albeit beautiful, vagueness. This references not only the specific details surrounding the Avanti's creation, but a stylistic representation of the struggle of creation itself.


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  • 2 months later...

It's been a while since I've updated the thread. Work has been going well, just taking forever due to the size of the car and complexity of the design.

So much so that I had to open PShop to figure out why it took me two weeks to do the final paint on Bloomberg's 1963 number. Red, white and black = 3 colors right? Nope. Turns out that, painted in the context of this project, the number "1" alone has 42 colors in it! Most of these colors are shared with the other three numbers. Still, it explains why it took so long.

Here is the number "1" with each different color labeled (not counting line color). Note that the differences are more apparent to the human eye than to a camera's lens:

Here is Bloomberg's "1963" in stages from final paint, linework and clearcoat.

Since then I have finished the Studebaker symbol, Livesay's 1112, Burke's 90 and three color stripes. So the entire driver's side is finished. As is the trunk and the areas around all chromed parts and glass. Currently I am finishing the final paint on the hood and hope to have it lined and cleared by the end of next week.

7-4 is my self-imposed deadline, the TMPCC car show at CBS Studios.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

4th of July show went well, then Cruisin' For a Cure was 2 weeks ago. Tribute won "Best Hollywood", which was unexpected and awesome.

Then the engine threw a rod on the way home. So I'm dealing with that at the moment and still can't do a proper photoshoot! Thankfully I have a great mechanic and I hope she'll be back on the road in a month or so.

Pics to follow as soon as possible...

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