You may be old enough to remember Studebaker cars, but do you remember Studebaker wagons? Not station wagons, but Conestoga horse-drawn covered wagons that the Studebaker brothers began building in 1852! After a tumultuous run and five different ownership arrangements, Studebaker finally shuttered its doors 114 years later in 1966.
Although they made many cool cars, Chuff Weiss thinks the Avanti, a unique four-passenger American sports coupe, is just about the coolest. I agree. As a bored 10-year-old, Chuff remembers a Saturday morning flipping on a black-and-white TV in 1963 as an episode of Road and Track came on. As a budding car nut, his boredom melted away when the show featured a Studebaker Avanti. Already Corvette crazy, little Chuff was mesmerized as the test driver put the car through its paces, including a quarter-mile drag test.
Equipped with the aging-but-durable Studebaker 289c.i. V8, Chuff’s smile turned into an ear-to-ear grin when the Stude left the line in a blaze of rear tire smoke from the “Twin-Traction” (Studebaker’s name for positraction) rear end.
One of His Own
About 25 years later, after an extensive search for an Avanti, Chuff found a relatively low-mileage car in excellent condition. No question, Chuff has enjoyed his Studebaker with the “Lazy S” emblem affixed to the super slick hood. Lots of miles, lots of memories, and a good share of maintenance have ridden with Chuff through these decades.
Not bashful about wear and tear on the car, including taping the hard-to-locate connecting hose from his Paxton supercharger to the carburetor to be assured it is fully functional. With that said, Chuff has been collecting bits and pieces over said decades to one day restore his pride and joy. Until then, he will continue driving this piece of rolling art until that day arrives. In his words, “I just love this thing too much to take it off the road for an 18-month restoration and, make it so nice I will get nervous if I am out and it rains.” That’s my kind of car guy.
Nuts & Bolts
The Avanti was way ahead of its time, sometimes by necessity. Due to various shortages, including time and money, the original car was not intended to be fiberglass bodied. It was built on a super strong shortened Studebaker Lark frame. Ironically the fiberglass bodies came from the same Ohio plant that produced over 21,000 Corvettes that year, compared to the 4,450 Avanti’s manufactured.
Other safety features included a built-in rollbar, padded interior, and door latches that became structural body members when closed. Likely a bonus to the Avanti’s slippery shape, razor-sharp front fender tips, and its sassy turned-up tail, it was touching 200 mph on the Bonneville salt flats. That was with a slightly larger engine and supercharger that was available later. Don’t worry, Chuff says his bad boy touched 168 mph with the 289/Paxton blower system.
Longtime readers will recall, some folks keep their cars for 50=plus years while others like the excitement and adventure of driving their marque for a while, passing it on, and moving on to the next bit of excitement under their right foot. It can be assuredly said, Chuff and his Avanti will be together for a long, long time.