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!
In our last entry of the Studebaker Avanti series, things were at a low point. In the late Eighties, Avanti Motors Corporation was renamed AAC Inc., and the oft-edited Avanti coupe and convertible models were joined by a new luxury sedan. After the sedan failed to bring new customers to Youngstown-based AAC, operations shut down in 1991.
But after a few years, a familiar face returned to rescue Avanti.
We return with more Studebaker Avanti history today after the first three chapters brought us through the mid-Eighties and the first bankruptcy of the Avanti Motors Corporation. AMC built the Avanti as a standalone model since Studebaker ended its production in 1964.
We rejoin the action in a darkened room somewhere in South Bend, Indiana. A questionable new owner enters, stage left.
When we concluded last time it was the dawn of the Eighties, and that’s where we pick up today.
In Part I of the Avanti story (which received some great comments) we reviewed the coupe’s design and very short original production timeline at Studebaker. But the car was so unique and so modern that two enterprising Studebaker dealers knew they couldn’t let Avanti die after just two years.
Today we take a walk through the next couple of decades, as the Avanti strayed further and further from its true self, ravaged by the passage of time.
Today’s Rare Ride is a design legend that was built for a very short while by Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana. One of those cars which just wouldn’t die, its two-year history of original manufacture was followed by about 43 years of sporadic independent production.
Onward, to Avanti!
Browsing on The Facebook recently presented me with an astonishing feat of custom bodywork, one I felt compelled to share in a very special Custom Edition Picture Time Edition of Custom.
It’s a one-off modification of a 2006 Lincoln Town Car, and you need to see it.
1929 Duesenberg Model J by LeBaron
As part of this gig, I see a lot of cars. Besides attending the major corporate auto shows like the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit, from spring into late fall almost every Sunday will find me at some kind of car show. Car museums are also some of my favorite places. Having entered my teens during the 1960s, when there were E Type Jaguars, Corvettes and Mustangs, it was easy for me to dismiss cars from the ’50s as old-fashioned, let alone vehicles from the pre-war classic era. As Mark Twain pointed out, though, I’ve learned a few things since I was a young man and my perspective has changed.
There are a lot of things that I like about the car hobby and, at the same time, there are annoyances. As someone who writes about automotive history, I can well appreciate the need for authenticity when it comes to restorations. I also understand that humans are competitive and that car shows are often actual competitions. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a thing as Best of Show. Consequently, there’s a place in this world for quibbling whether or not the wingnut on a 1958 Chevy is true to the VIN, but as I said, it can be annoying.
The Packard bridge today.
You may have seen the news that the developer who hopes to renovate the decrepit Packard plant site on Detroit’s east side has covered the factory’s signature bridge over East Grand Blvd in a scrim that reproduces the look of the bridge during the plant’s heyday in the 1930s. I’m sure that you’ve seen dozens of photos of one of Detroit’s more notorious landmarks, but have you ever wondered just why a car factory had a bridge?
That bridge was actually part of Packard’s assembly line.
1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.
Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the 1930s, something like Buicks were to Cadillac and Mercurys were to Lincoln, what we might today call entry level luxury, fatally tainted the prestige of the brand, ultimately leading to its demise. The other is that Jim Nance, who ran Packard in its last years as an independent automaker, mismanaged the company into oblivion. Contrarian that yours truly is, I’m not sure either of those things are quite accurate.
When you’re going to a car show featuring 80 and 90 year old pre-war classic American cars, you don’t expect to run across a half dozen exotic Italian sports cars. Earlier this year, the Gilmore Car Museum, near Hickory Corners, Michigan, just north of Kalamazoo, was hosting a meet of the Pierce-Arrow Society. In addition to their own collection, the Gilmore hosts a number of smaller museums devoted to particular marques. One of the museums on the Gilmore site is the Pierce-Arrow Museum, associated with the Pierce-Arrow Society, so the Gilmore is a natural location for a Pierce-Arrow meet. Joining the Pierce-Arrows were some cars from Peerless, another premium American motorcar from the first three decades of the 20th century. Surprisingly, the Gilmore didn’t put some of their Packards on display at the museum. Together with Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Peerless were known as the “Three-Ps of Motordom”, the three most prestigious automobile brands in the United States. Even without Packards on the show field there was a third P at the Gilmore, however, as apparently a Pantera club decided to drive over and visit the museum. There were a half dozen of the Italian-American sports cars parked side by side in the parking lot.
You’re probably familiar with the rough outlines of the De Tomaso Pantera’s history involving an Argentinian who wanted to build midengine Italian sports cars and a guy in Dearborn named Hank the Deuce who wanted to thumb his nose at Enzo Ferrari. Powered by a Ford 351 Cleveland V8 and sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealers from 1971 until the 1973 oil crisis cratered performance car sales, over 6,000 Panteras were sold through FoMoCo. After Henry Ford II lost interest, Alejandro deTomaso kept the Pantera in more limited production for the European market and it was actually built into the 1990s.
Less well known to today’s car enthusiasts are Peerless and Pierce-Arrow.
Mitsubishi HSR III from 1992
It started with a photo of a strange looking Pinto with a targa style roof and it metastasized into an encyclopedia of just about every concept car you never heard about. Part One, Acura to Chevrolet, is here. Part two, Chrysler to Ford, is here. Part three, Honda to Mercury, is here.
Mitsubishi likes three letter acronyms and alphanumerics. Behold, above, the HSR III from 1992, some kind of Eclipse concept, I think.
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