Rare Rides: The Studebaker Avanti Story, Part VI

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the studebaker avanti story part vi

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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  • Marcus36 Marcus36 on Jul 01, 2021

    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.

  • Polka King Polka King on Jul 04, 2021

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

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )