Monday, March 28, 2016

Sensational Studebaker Avanti

I find it interesting that many highly regarded automobile designs were on cars that sold in comparatively small numbers.  Examples include: Cords --  L-29s and 810/812s alike; 1940-41 Lincoln Continentals; and BMW 507s.  High price was an important sales-related factor for the cars just mentioned.  And it needs mentioning that a nicely-styled mass-market car often doesn't strike observers as being "special" because they are seen everywhere.

The 1963-vintage Studebaker Avanti (details here) was an outstanding design that only amounted to about 4,600 being built.  It was not a luxury car but, according to this source, its price was a bit more than that of a Chevrolet Corvette sports car.  Not cheap.  The Avanti was essentially a "roll of the dice" for a failing company, a situation akin to the birth of the Cord 810, for example.  Sales suffered because of problems resulted from its being rushed into production, another declining-enterprise symptom.

I wrote about the Avanti here, focusing on two photos I took of a new one in 1963.  Those photos are included below (but here I adjusted the contrast and sharpness slightly).  I mentioned that I would get around to analyzing Avanti styling later.  Well, now it's "later" and my comments are in the image captions below.


Advertising photo.  I've mentioned in my car styling book that, a few details aside, the Avanti could pass as a new car today.  Its bumpers would not pass government standards for impact resistance, for instance.   Vent windows on the doors are another archaic feature.  And the windshield would have to have a steeper rake to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

This is reputed to be Raymond Loewy's personal supercharged Avanti when placed on sale a few years ago.  The photo shows the rake of the body and the haunches over the rear wheel opening that provide a sense of power.  The side crease aligns with the front and rear bumpers, helping to tie the otherwise curvy design together and provide an element of stiffness.  This view also suggests that a modern highly-sloped windshield would spoil the design: the hood would be stubbier and the passenger cabin would seem heavier.  However, a 45-degree slope would probably work well.

Barrett-Jackson auction-related photo showing the rear aspect of the Avanti.  The shapes of the major elements blend with one another in a nice flowing manner.  The main flaw is the tacked-on backup lights that don't relate to the nearby tail lights.  And I don't think the wheels shown here are stock, by the way.

Avanti seen in Baltimore, May 1963.  Note the shapes of the wheel openings as seen here and, especially, in the side view above.  They serve to enhance the raked effect that's both actual (the lower edge of the car isn't parallel to the ground) and in the design massing (the high point of the car is above the leading edge of the C-pillar).  Round openings would make the car seem a bit more static.

Front view of the Baltimore car.  No conventional grille ... instead, an early version of a low-level air intake.  The fender fronts, the central crease on the hood and the asymmetrically placed raised feature in front of the steering wheel provide elements of firmness contrasting an otherwise curvy design.  It's not easy to see in any of these images, but the body is pulled inwards around the doors "Coke bottle" fashion, akin to "area ruled" fuselages for trans-sonic jet fighters.

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