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Posted by Ted Hatfield on

There have been a few cars thru the years that have echoed the influence of aviation on the design. You'd be hard pressed to find one that screams "flight" more than the AVANTI II.

In a moment, we will look back at the aviation connection to this very cool car, but first, let me introduce you to a local AVANTI II owned by Don Blanton. 

This beautiful car frequents our Nashville Cars n Coffee shows and is a stand out both in restoration and rarity. I can't recall another one at any of the shows. Don's car has some very cool features that at first, might be missed to the casual observer. 

Both door sills have 20 actual silver Kennedy halves embedded in an alternating pattern of heads or tails. Such a nice touch and a nod to the designer Raymond Loewy. There were a little over 100 of the 1970s made, but Don's car appears to be the only one with the halves installed. Some of the Avanti IIs had aluminum discs where these coins are.  

This amazing car also has the rare two tone leather upholstery. It looks even better in person, you can trust me on that. 

As mentioned above, this design was heavily influenced by aviation. Studebaker's Sherwood Egbert wanted a very aerodynamic shape inspired by the Jaguar E type and a supersonic jet.  The grill-less front end is a bold statement for aerodynamics and just sets this car apart as a fantastically creative work of art.

Egbert called in his old friend Raymond Loewy, who had actually ended his contract with Studebaker 5 years earlier. Loewy was probably the most famous designer in the world at the time. Loewy designed the famous coke bottle, the Kennedy 5 cent stamp, the zippo lighter and a host of other famous designs.

Loewy, with a small all star team, came up with this design for the ages. The Avanti, (which means  "forward") hit the market at around $1,200 more than the new Ford Mustang. But it was after all, a luxury sports car and had a fiberglass body like the Corvette. The lack of a lot of chrome was actually well received by the critics and generally, the design was a hit. 

Studebaker produced just under 5,000 cars for 1963/64.  But, the struggle was real for this very cutting edge car. Fewer than 100 units were produced each year from 1965 to 1968. We can still be thankful that the pair of Leo Newman and Nate Altman bought the rights in 1965, renamed it the AVANTI II, revived this iconic car and gave us some rare art to treasure. And in the case of Don Blanton, he's got a very cool head turner to drive. 

Officially, only 111 like Don's 1970 were produced. For many years to come the attempts were made to revive the AVANTI II, but it is apparent now, that it was always destined to be ahead of its time, and forever timeless.



Ted Hatfield



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  • I met Don Blanton at the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg museum in Auburn Indiana today. (August 2, 2020) Don took the time to show and tell me about his Avanti that was on the parking lot. When I went into the museum there was an Avanti on display on the third floor that looked just like Don’s car. Thanks, Don for showing me your car.

    Tom Tucker on

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