Avanti Automobile: Iconic Sports Car for Collectors

The Avanti automobile is known as one of the classic cars that continue to be popular, even if the automaker ceased production in 2006. Despite running through different ownerships and features, Avanti offered unusual looks and exciting power that pleased drivers.

Avanti Automobile

The Avanti car came after the Studebaker, which was named the “World’s Fastest Production Car.” This guide covers all you need to know about the Avanti, especially if you’re looking to add it to your collection of classic cars.

What Is the Avanti Automobile?

The Avanti automobile is an American performance sports coupe that came in three body styles: a 2-door coupe, a 2-door convertible, and a 4-door sedan. The car was based on the Studebaker Avanti and went through different ownership arrangements while it was active from 1965 to 2006.

When Studebaker closed its South Bend factory in 1963 and also discontinued the car with the 1964 model year, all cars with the Avanti nameplates made afterward were produced with leftover components from Studebaker. After that, the Avanti car was made with components from Avanti Motor Company, General Motors, and Ford.

Avanti cars usually came in a small number and were increasingly modified as the model years passed. Production of the car ended in 2006. The Avanti car had mixed reviews as it was a custom-built personal luxury coupe. This also meant that it was a pretty expensive option.

Magazines and newspapers praised the car for its safety, structural rigidity, and quietness when on the road. It was definitely a fantastic option for drivers that wanted a firm and comfortable ride. The classic Avanti is a popular choice among collectors today, but the limited production means it’s also rare.

History of the Avanti and Changes of Ownership

When Studebaker ended in 1963, the automaker business was taken over by Leo Newman and Nathan Altman, who focused on reviving the Avanti. The car was designed by Raymond Loewy but did not gain a lot of popularity in the car marketplace. Instead, it was more popular among enthusiasts and racers.

History of Avanti Cars

Newman and Altman knew that Avanti was too good to lose, so after buying the company and a portion of the factory, they released the revised version called Avanti II. This was a commercial success, especially since they built the cars by hand. While the base price was $6,550, customers could customize the cars and spend over $10,000.

There were also different options that drivers could get, like unique interiors and paint colors. Since these cars were custom-made, the Avanti made some bizarre cars during this time. As for the engine, they adopted the Chevrolet 327 cubic-inch small block engine.

Under the hood, the mechanics of the II was similar to the original Avanti. But the major changes were visual, like the leveled stance, lower-radius wheel openings, and the Avanti logos with IIs. There were also some safety features, and the car was focused on personal luxury rather than performance.

  • Stephen Blake

Ownership of the Avanti changed in the 1980s due to the untimely death of Nate Altman. Before this, Avanti was struggling to meet with federal safety and emissions rules. This led to some design features that did not appeal to drivers. But when Altman died, Avanti lost direction, with workmanship declining even with car prices increasing.


Stephen Blake became the owner of Avanti Motor Corporation in 1982. He was focused on reviving the old Studebaker plant, with a focus on efficiency and quality. He also made different changes, like changing the car’s name from Avanti II to Avanti, changing the exterior paint, using more GM components, and offering an optional engine from the Chevrolet Camaro Z28.

He also released a special 20th Anniversary Avanti coupe in 1983 with most of these features. Blake made plans to release the first Avanti convertible and involved the car in racing competitions. But this was short-lived because by 1985, Blake was forced to sell Avanti because the new car paint he introduced was peeling, enraging customers.

  • Michael Kelly

Fortunately, Michael Kelly purchased Avanti from Blake in 1985 and changed the name of the company to New Avanti Motor Corporation. Under Kelly, Avanti released its convertible in 1987, and this was sold alongside the coupe. There were some changes like new seats, altered bumpers, cockpit dash, climate systems, and enhanced cooling.

Avanti Michael Kelly

Kelly also moved the production to a modern plant in Ohio, although the cars were still hand-built. Kelly added three new models to the Avanti model. These include the Luxury Sport Coupe with a 117-inch wheelbase, the Luxury Touring Sedan with a four-door style and 123-inch chassis, and a jumbo limousine as long as 174 inches.

The Luxury Sports Coupes were designed to look like the original coupe, which appealed to enthusiasts. Kelly also released 50 Silver Anniversary coupes for the 25th birthday of the brand in 1988. They were painted pearl silver with different features like an entertainment center, cellular telephone, reshaped bumpers, and a stronger suspension.

Although Kelly wanted to sell and produce 100 cars per year, he exceeded expectations and built 300 in two years. Despite this, he was forced to sell in 1988 due to some challenges and legal problems. It was purchased by JJ Cafaro, changed to the Avanti Automotive Corporation, and released the four-door classic coupe.

  • Avanti Experimental AVX

After Avanti went through bankruptcy under JJ Cafaro, the company did not exist. The caretaker for the Ohio factory, Lucarell, sold the leftover parts to enthusiasts and fans, and he told newspapers that Avanti is still an ongoing project. One of the fans of Avanti was Jim Bunting, who decided to build a real Avanti.

He worked with Tom Kellogg, a team member that did most of the design and renderings for the original Avanti work. He also sent sketches of his modern idea for the Avanti, which Bunting decided to bring to life. When the car was completed in 1996, many people were interested. It was finally unveiled in 1997 and named AVX or AVanti eXperimental.

Although Buntin was ready to provide these cars to others with custom designs, the luxury car boom of the 1900s meant he could not handle it. So he sold AVX to John Seaton, who teamed up with Michael Kelly. They founded the Avanti Motor Corporation again, to the happiness of their fans.

  • Avanti Gains More Popularity

Michael Kelly is often praised for reviving Avanti from 2001 to 2006. Kelly and Seaton set up their factory and sold 52 convertibles and T-top coupes in 2001 for $83,000 and $79,000, respectively. They continued to use the Firebed rolling chassis even if GM had canceled the model since Avanti had stockpiled it.

Popularity of Avanti Cars

By 2002, Avanti had sold 77 custom cars and 88 in 2003. The company sold 102 in 2004, and most of its sales came from convertibles. By 2005, only convertibles were available, and 46 cars were sold in that year. Then by 2006, the car was improved with a V6 engine. This was the final model year for Avanti, especially since Kelly was arrested on fraud charges.

By 2011, the factory and showroom were emptied and sold. All the rare Studebaker and Avanti concepts and racing vehicles have been sold or moved somewhere else.

Studebaker Avanti Features

The Studebaker Avanti was a success, although its unique design divided many car owners. While some loved it, others hated it, and there didn’t seem to be any middle ground. The car was offered as a coupe with two doors and four seats, a rear-wheel drive layout with a front engine, and no grille on the front end.

The Studebaker was based on the Lark 109” convertible chassis and powered by the Studebaker 289 Hawk V8 engine, combined with a manual or automatic transmission. The body was constructed with fiberglass rather than steel for reduced costs. The Paxton supercharger was an option, which would improve the 240 horsepower to 289.

It came with power brakes at the front, while the rear offered finned drum brakes. As for the suspension, the car offered independent suspension with coil rings and live axles with leaf springs in the front and rear. Both sides came with anti-roll bars.

The weight of the car was 3,095 pounds, and it was dubbed the fastest car in the world. This was clear in the speed, as it went from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds and provided a top speed of 120 miles per hour.

Avanti (II) Features

The exact features of the Avanti and Avanti II car depend on the time period you are purchasing, as it ran from 1965 to 2006. The Early Avanti IIs came with the original Lark convertible frame but changed the engine to a 327 cubic-inch 300-hp small block engine from the Chevy Corvette. It also offered a four-speed manual or PowerShift automatic transmission.

Avanti II Car Features

There were multiple optional features like Hurst four-speed manual transmission, electric window lifts, fog driving lights, Magnum 500 chrome wheels, power steering, limited-slip differentials, and air conditioning. The car could go from 0 to 60 mph in less than nine seconds and had a maximum speed of 125 miles per hour.

In the 1970s, the car was powered by the Chevy 400 V8 engine and an optional 305-cid V8 engine from the Camaro Z28. The anniversary models in 1988 came with the Chevy 305 V8 engine with 250 bhp. By 1991, it changed to the Corvette L98 engine with four-wheel disc brakes and all-independent suspension.

By 2005, the Avanti convertible was equipped with a Mustang 4.6-liter V8 offering 300 horsepower, manual and automatic transmission, traction control, 17-inch polished wheels, all-wheel antilock disc brakes, Traction-Lok limited-slip rear differential from Ford and leather interior.


The Avanti automobile is one of the best cars from the late 1900s, offering drivers unique exterior and engine types from Chevrolet and Ford.

Check out this summary before you go:

  • The Avanti or Avanti II is a performance coupe that was released between 1965 and 2006 under different ownerships.
  • The Avanti was based on Studebaker Avanti, which was released in 1962 and 1963 and was marketed as the fastest production car in the world.
  • Avanti has been owned by different people, including Nate Altman and Leo Newman, Stephen Blake, Michael Kelly, JJ Cafaro, and John Seaton.
  • The Avanti models were made by hand and offered custom features, including options like power steering and fog driving lights.
  • The car was discontinued by 2006 after Kelly was arrested on fraud charges, and you can still find the rare concepts and racing vehicles today.

With this complete guide, we’ve offered any dream owner of an Avanti or Studebaker all they need to know. Keep in mind that the Avanti was expensive in its time, so it won’t be cheap to add this to your collection.

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