By on June 30, 2021

In the last installment of our Studebaker Avanti series, it seemed after four decades the Avanti was finally deceased. Stretched and pulled beyond recognition, the Avanti ended up as a Camaro and then a Mustang, and suddenly wrapped its Mexican production in 2006.

But there’s more!

Once Michael Kelly was arrested by the FBI over his Ponzi scheme, David Sharples took the reigns at Avanti as president. He’d been with the company less than a year. In 2007 Sharples indicated that the company’s plans would proceed sans Kelly. He also said Kelly had no shares in the Avanti company, and he personally had no idea Kelly was crooked. Production, Sharples said, would continue at 200 cars per year.

That didn’t happen, but after assets and the factory were sold off in the 2011 time frame Avanti fell into the hands of a new President and CEO. A man by the name of Anthony Gordon Bennett purchased Avanti, though it’s unclear when. A long-time Avanti fan, Bennett also enjoyed electric cars. He worked on EV policy on the George H.W. Bush Administration in the early Nineties.

Bennett thought to combine his two favorite things and create the Avanti III. A hand-built, American-made luxury EV that would bear the name of the legendary Studebaker. With a modern design, the Avanti III promised a range of over 200 miles to beat Tesla’s range (of years ago). Avanti’s active website reflects a history of the EV, reasons why they’re a good idea, and a list of cars that are slower than the Tesla Model S because they’re powered with gasoline. Bennett built a proof of concept EV based on a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

According to the timeline on the company website, the all-electric Avanti III debuted in 2021. While that didn’t happen, perhaps the dream of Avanti EV is not dead! The website has a copyright date of 2019, and Mr. Bennett still maintains his Avanti trademark – just renewed earlier this year. The website also notes that Kelly stopped Studebaker production as he was out of funds because his hotels were damaged by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. Interesting.

Bennett himself has an Avanti, and he chose a II of 1971 vintage as his personal ride. We revisit the II in today’s Rare Ride subject, a car that generated this six-part series. For sale in Cincinnati, the fairly subdued gray over gray color scheme resists the Seventies color mess offered in AMC’s brochures. With a Chevrolet 400 V8 and automatic transmission, it asks $16,500.

[Images: Avanti Motors Corp / AAC]

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22 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Studebaker Avanti Story, Part VI...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I think using the same body style for 50+ years is the biggest problem. That look seems to be the car’s main identity, but it hasn’t aged well.

    The other parts of its original identity – such as high performance and craftsmanship – have long been lost. It’s basically a kit car now, like putting a dune buggy body over a VW Bug platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      The main reason the design hasn’t aged, IMHO, is that it was been stretched and pulled in various directions to fit over whatever platform was available at the time. I remember seeing an Avanti at the New York Auto Show in the early oughts and being stuck by how much longer and wider it was compared with the original. It looked – and was – distorted. The original Avanti and the early Avanti II remain beautiful to my eyes – even if they were products of their times.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    “According to the timeline on the company website, the all-electric Avanti III debuted in 2021. While that didn’t happen”

    2021 isn’t quite over yet! There’s still time if you hurry!

    (Also, perhaps appropriately, Avanti’s website appears to be broken, at least for me.)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This was an awesome series, Corey – thanks!

    On a side note, if this Bennett fellow wants to start building Avantis, I wonder if he could just do this kind of thing:

    https://www.autoweek.com/news/auto-shows/a1980581/ford-rolls-out-reproduction-body-shell-1965-mustang-convertible/

    An Avanti with the classic styling, modern guts and an EV powerplant would be pretty damn awesome, if you ask me.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    The 1997 movie Gattaca had an Avanti EV

    https://theavanti.com/gattaca.html

    Also electric Rover P6 and Citroen DS .

  • avatar
    NigelShiftright

    I’d be dubious about buying -any- car from someone who’s selling because he can’t afford the rent on the storage unit he’s been keeping it in.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Corey you did it, you were able to channel the entire Rocky franchise in automotive terms.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Actually something niche like this would make a good EV, I just don’t see it as profitable unless each unit sells for $90K or thereabouts.

  • avatar
    Marcus36

    I remember I applied for a position at this Cancun factory, at the time I was working at TMMBC (Toyota plant in Mexico), I was scheduled for a phone interview that they later canceled and never rescheduled, then the communication from their part simply stopped, I guess now I know why.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    There’s a 1980 Avanti II in the Raleigh Craigslist for $7500 if anyone’s interested. Condition seems pretty good for a $7500 car.

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