Todays car is a 1974 Studebaker Avanti finished in Champagne Gold Metallic with a unique American Indian theme. This car belongs to Joe Zeiger. Joe is a Studebaker aficionado, especially Avanti’s, and I have had to rely on Joe’s expertise from time to time. Lets start with a little story. Joe’s first car was a 1948 Studebaker Champion that he drove in high school and it was a hand me down from his father. Joe’s connection to Studebakers has history. Joe told me that In mid 1962 that Raymond Loewy designed the 1963 Studebaker Avanti in 40 days in a house that was located in Palm Springs. The 1963 Advanti styling was unique and advanced for its time. Joe quickly found himself on the showroom floor sitting in the driver’s seat and vowed that he would own one. Joe bought his first Avanti was in 1968 in one of those moments that was meant to be and a stroke of good luck. He became the second owner of Raymond Loewy’s personal 1963 R2 supercharged Avanti. It was Joe’s daily driver from 1968 until 1972 when the transmission went out. Joe was living in a rental house with no garage and no place to work on it. Joe like many of us sold that one car that we should have saved. The happy ending to that story is the car is now owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and they are in the early process of research before they restore it.
Joe bought a second Avanti. It was a 1964 R1 non-supercharged version in 2008. It is a numbers matching original car that was drivable, but well used. A few years ago two friends of Joe’s took on the task of restoring it for him as a daily driver. Since both of them work full time it is an ongoing project.
Lets get back to the 1974 Avanti. In 2015 after missing the feel of driving an Avanti, Joe purchased this 1974 Avanti that was modified and for sale on eBay. Someone in San Diego had bought it on Craigslist and was trying to flip on eBay. Joe saw it in San Diego, but decided against it as it was too expensive at $15,000.00 and not running well. Four months later Joe saw it on eBay with 4 hours to go in a no reserve auction. Joe bid $8,355.81, but lost! The next day Joe received an email from the seller. The winning buyer had backed out and Joe was the new owner for his bid price.
The car came to California from Washington state were it was owned by a tribal member of one of the 23 Indian tribes in Washington state. That owner gave this Avanti the Indian theme. The interior has tribal fabric on all seats and door panels. Indian rocks on the wood trim on the doors and rear side panels. The hood has a checker board pattern and a feather painted on it. The car was originally powered by a 400 cu in Chevrolet engine, but had been replaced by a more powerful 350 Chevy engine with a 700R4 4 – speed automatic transmission with overdrive. Another modification the previous owner had done to the car was to removed the chrome bumpers and 5 mph safety bars and have them replaced with the 1984 fiberglass Avanti bumpers. That gives the car a very different look.
The car is basically same as Joe bought it with following exceptions. The front seats were badly worn and no matching tribal material that was available so Joe had inserts of maroon fabric installed to match strip on hood and had the image of the feather on the hood embroidered in the seat backs. Joe also had a new 350 cu in Chevrolet long block and Edelbrock port fuel injection system install. He had the 700R4 rebuilt and updated to newer auto overdrive doing away with manual electrical switches for overdrive. Joe just loves driving his Avanti. You can tell by the smile on his face. .
This is a great car with a very interesting history. I like that Joe kept the American Indian theme. It makes this car unique.
As an side note the Studebaker factory was closed on December 20th of 1963. The Avanti model name, tooling and plant space were sold to two South Bend Studebaker dealers, Nate Altman and Leo Newman. Under their direction several hand-built cars have been produced.
Thanks for riding along. Frank