Most everyone has heard of the fabled Studebaker car company and the exquisite cars they designed and built in the mid-century.  And many know that this brand is long gone today.  What isn’t widely known is what happened immediately after the main plant in South Bend rolled the last car off the assembly line and closed the doors forever.  As the Phoenix who rises from the ashes, so did the Avanti.  And what a story it is.

Join us today as we stroll back into the heart of The Motorcar Gathering 2012 held at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Victoria late in 2012 with our feature photoblog series “The Toads At The Gathering“.

Avanti - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Avanti – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

This is the Avanti, born of the troubles experienced at Studebaker and built with components and designs acquired through partnerships, passion and vision.  On December 20th, 1963, the main Studebaker plant in South Bend shuttered forever.  A group of stalwart believers joined forces to try to create something from the remains of that venture, and by taking components from Studebaker, Chevrolet and Ford, they created something unique and very special.  These cars are carefully designed and crafted at the Avanti Motor Company, they are not just a bunch of disparate parts thrown together to make a platform.  These were finely crafted and built cars that today have quite the following.

After passing through various ownership groups over the years, the Avanti managed to celebrate 25 years of automotive excellence and design in the late eighties, and eventually the company was mired in a scandal as the company was bought with the intention of resurrecting it in Mexico with a fresh partnership with Ford.  Alas, the economy and the law caught up with M.E. Kelly in the late 2000’s and the car company suffered its final blow and today is no longer active.

Avanti - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Avanti – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

In the car circles I grew up in, the Avanti was spoken of in hushed circles, almost as if we were discussing that ever-elusive unicorn that everyone seems to be chasing around after in the forest.  This perception of the car was backed up by a car that was just as much at home rolling up to the opera on a Friday night as guys and gals dressed in their very best black-tie outfits mingle with the who’s-who of society, as it was rolling up to the track on the weekend and leaving many high performance cars in its dust.  Particularly in the late sixties, the Avanti Motor Company was using engine and drive-train components from the Chevrolet Corvette, making for a car that had a reputation that was not to be trifled with.

But, the Avanti was much more than this.  This interior shot of one on display at the car show showcases the incredible amount of detail that went into the design.  This isn’t wood veneer (at least I am quite certain it isn’t) that we are looking at here, and the leather is of the finest quality.  It was this attention to the finer details that helped to create a gentleman’s car, one that was as fast as it was elegant.

Avanti - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Avanti – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Although the lines were rather simple, they were no less gracious.  When taken in as a whole, the smooth and cultured lines of the car create a flowing silhouette, one that is as much at home cutting through the wind on the highway as it is displayed at a car show.

As a young man, I recall a particular event.  Being a car fan of the highest order my entire life, I came across a gentleman who was just climbing out of his Avanti in a parking lot one day.  Not being sure what I was looking at exactly caused me to strike up an inquisitive conversation with the gentleman, who was all too happy to talk to me.  As soon as I had realized that his car had a small block Chevrolet motor in it from the Corvette group, I just had to hear it run.  He obliged me, and the dulcet tones that emitted from the twin exhaust pipes was a sound that remains with me today.  Since then, I keep a constant vigil and lookout for these cars on our roads, and every time I see one that sense of excitement is actually quite overwhelming.  And as such, you can just imagine how terrific it was to come across two models of this vintage car at the show, and to have a chance to check them out close and in person.

Sometimes the best stories are those that are slightly obscured from the forefront of history.  More can be learned about the Avanti Motor Company on Wikepedia for those with a deeper curiosity.

Many thanks for your kind visit today to The Hollow, we sure do appreciate it.  As always, we really love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have.  Until next time!

  1. avatar Rachel Cohen says:

    A story told with true love and appreciation for the Avanti, and where it came from! Awesome post and images Toad! 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you ever so kindly Rachel! Yep, this car has been in my mind and heart for years now, it’s such a great car with a really interesting background. So happy to see you pop by and thank you for your fabulous comments!

  2. avatar Edith Levy says:

    It sounds like you really love that car.
    Really well captured.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much, Edith, I really do. It means an awful lot to us to have you pop by like this, and leave us your great comments! Many thanks.

  3. You guys capture such amazing HDR images of automobiles.

    While I was reading your post it reminded me of my days growing up in Beverly Hills, California. Lots of these classic and high end automobiles graced the city streets.

    I was also drawn back to the times with my uncle Larry who loved restoring classic cars and entering them in shows. On many occasions he walked away with some very big trophies.

    Thanks for inspiring me further with your super nice automotive images.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so much Spencer, what fabulous comments!! I just love hearing of memories like yours here, this is a great connection for us here at The Hollow. Many heartfelt thanks for your kind visit and most wonderful comments!

  4. avatar Jim Denham says:

    Wow, awesome looking ride! Love the image of the taillight too! Well done!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Jim, we really appreciate all your friendship and support here!

  5. avatar Erin Duke says:

    Incredible images, and incredible cars! It’s hard to imagine the painstaking details and care each car was blessed with as it was assembled. Keep those car posts coming, they’re top-notch! 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You’re simply the best, thank you Erin! We sure do appreciate all your support my dear friend!

  6. Spoken like the true aficionado we know you to be Toad! I have seen a couple of these beauties but did not know the story behind them. Thanks for bringing us the story.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, thanks Mark, that’s awfully nice of you! I am really quite humbled and honored with your comments this morning, many thanks for the visit and for taking the time to leave these!!

  7. avatar Rick Louie says:

    Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in years. I always thought it would be cool to have one of those when I first saw one in high school. Brings back memories. Thanks for sharing!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I was hoping you’d pop by Rick, so good to see you here! Many thanks for taking the time to visit us and for your awesome comments!!

  8. avatar LensScaper says:

    Fascinating story. I recall Studebaker but not Avanti. The interior is beautifully detailed with the stitched leather and walnut fascia.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      A very thorough attention to detail, I say! Thanks, Andy, your kind visit here today means the world to us!

  9. avatar mrjom says:

    Wow! What a nice looking car beautifully brought out in the photographs.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Joseph, we’re so happy to see you’ve enjoyed this post today!

  10. I never could figure those cars out!! Always seemed to be coming or going, all at once!! 🙂

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Ha! I’ve heard that before and really when you look at the car it does leave many with this impression. Great comments! I just love it when you pop by and see us, my friend!

  11. avatar ehpem says:

    Great post Toad. I learned a whole lot from this. I have wondered about these cars for years. There is one that lives near me and I see it on the road once a year or so, very similar to the one in your top image. Wonderful cars that still grab your eye. Nice to know some of their history.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Terrific comments here, Ehpem, thank you for leaving them! For some reason, the Avanti has been something I’ve loved and admired most of my life. It was a real pleasure to have a chance to shoot these 2 and to post them here for everyone to learn about and see. Thank you ever so much for your wonderful thoughts today, good sir!

  12. avatar Jim Nix says:

    I bet you were in heaven on this day mate!! nice!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You just know it, Jim I sure was my friend! Thanks so much for your kind visit, my friend, we really appreciate it!