And this example may be the most pristine we've ever seen.
Studebaker might not be a car brand one would associate with outright performance, but in 1962 and 1963, the company developed and produced one of the fastest production cars around in the Avanti R2, a supercharged muscle car before the likes of the Dodge Challenger Demon 170 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would even be contemplated. Unlike the more modern version introduced in the early 2000s, the original Avanti wasn't based on the Ford Mustang.
The particular Studebaker Avanti R2 you see here was restored by Mark Zickefoose. The car has been with Mark's family since 1972 and was bought by his dad under a tarp in Peoria, Illinois while hunting for a different car. According to Mark, his dad fell in love with the Avanti's smooth-flowing yet simple lines.
Mark's dad was a marine and was mostly away doing active duty. Mark always wanted to drive the Avanti but always valued giving respect to his father and not messing around with his belongings without permission. Mark's dad passed away in 1983, and being the good son that he was, Mark kept himself from driving the car since his dad was no longer around to give him permission. That being said, Mark figured that since the car was rotting away from being unused, he would restore it and earn his dad's permission.
Mark did so well with the restoration that some consider the car one of the finest examples of a stock 1963 Studebaker Avanti R2. Mark proudly shows off every bit of his dad's old Avanti, then jokingly says, "I still don't drive it."
For a 63-year-old car, the Studebaker Avanti can still hold its own, boasting a top speed of 158 mph. It is powered by a 4.7 liter Studebaker V8 blown by a Paxton supercharger, putting out 290 horsepower and 303 lb-ft of torque. While not considered an iconic muscle car, it set the 1962 fastest production car top speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a slightly modified version going an average of 170 mph.
Though marketed as a personal luxury coupe like the BMW M2, Studebaker engineers had performance in mind when they designed the Avanti. Unlike other muscle cars of the era, the Avanti wasn't only designed for straight-line performance; the engineers gifted the Avanti with a boxed frame, rear cross member, factory-installed traction bars, and an I-beam X member to help the chassis cope with high-speed cornering. The Avanti also has a fiberglass body to keep the car light, resulting in a 1,404 kg curb weight.
The interior is heavily influenced by aviation, as evident in the comprehensive driver-centric instrument panel with all sorts of dials and gauges to keep the driver well-informed. Oddly enough, the Avanti does not have reclining seats for a supposedly luxury vehicle. The Avanti designers made concessions to safety, giving it a padded dash, built-in roll-over bar, and the first-ever set of front disc brakes on a US production car.
The Studebaker Avanti is a pretty rare car with only 3,800 examples made during both production years - 1,500 of which are supercharged R2s. Of all the surviving examples of this model, Mark's is definitely among the finest examples and is a lasting tribute to his father.
As for the Studebaker brand, it went the way of the dodo not long after the Avanti R2's introduction and closed its automotive involvement in 1969. Ultimately, ballooning wages and a 38-day-long labor strike by the UAW - not unlike the one currently happening - proved too much for Studebaker to survive.