RQA 0123 Avanti II Story

Parts List

Service done so far

Studebaker Avanti was mass produced in 1962 and 1963. It had quality control issues from chronic weather-stripping challenges, to more serious back windows blowing out at high speeds. They produced up to 20 cars a day. until they closed down their automotive line.

Nate Altman new these cars had a great outlook, he contacted all the big Detroit automakers, they all declined to take on the Avanti, he even tried Checker Motors, and was told they were not interested at all in such an ugly automobile.

At that time Altman knew he had to find a way to manufacture the car along with his partner Leo Newman themselves. They purchased some of the assembly plant in south bend, contacted vendors such as Molded Fiberglass which had supplied the original Avanti bodies, originally reluctant they were stuck with 150 Avanti bodies so they had a vested interest in working with this newly formed company.

They knew they needed a qualified engineer, Altman searched out Eugene Hardig, former chief engineer at Studebaker to tackle the task at hand, Hardig originally said no are you crazy? Before Altman left it is said he mentioned that there would be no cost cutting, no cut corners to hold the costs down, just produce quality Avanti II’s. This was unheard of then, and my guess unheard of today as well in current automakers.  At a later date, Hardig followed up with a phone call, and accepted VP in charge of engineering.
The new Avanti II’s were different from any other American built car as to its method of production and philosophy.  The new Avanti II brought to the American people an American high performance four passenger car with great maneuverability and exceptional quality that only the care with hand building can acquire. All that along with its limited production led to the $7,000 price tag. That was just about double the cost of any of the Detroit big three performance cars.

On the assembly line the goal was to get the job done correctly, not just to get it done. If a task should take 20 minutes but takes two hours, so it takes two hours no big deal. A very high degree of proficiency was demanded. The life in the factory was much more humane than the other Detroit automakers, on the other side the pay at Avanti Motors was much lower.
RQA cars were assembled with a great deal of care and were well built solid cars with decent performance and an ever increasing levels of luxury features, remember that in this era luxury was good carpet, FM radio, mirrors and lights. These cars were mostly hand built in a corner of the old Studebaker south bend plant under Leo Newman and Nathan Altman, These two gentlemen were Studebaker dealers that purchased the left over Studebaker inventory, along with starting Avanti Motors.

These cars remained built on the Studebaker Lark V-8 convertible frame as original, but was not equipped with the Studebaker 289 motor, but was outfitted with a Chevy 327 Corvette motor, this engine was taller compared to the Studebaker engine, thus the front end rake of the original was eliminated so the car rocker panels were parallel with the ground, and had to have a higher hood line to accommodate the new power plant. The Avanti II was in fact the first American production car to be equipped with the Dunlop disc brakes on the front wheels.

Specifications Avanti II:

These cars sported the new “Avanti II” emblems, they offered some stock colors, but these cars could be done in any color, and any interior fabric the customer could bring in or imagine, this was all Altman, he loved pleasing customers in this way.

Avanti Motors built 45 Avanti II’s in 1965, 59 in 1966, 66 in 1967, 100 in 1968, on the other hand Studebaker in 1963 and 64 produced that many Avanti’s in less than 14 days.

Seeing the low production of these cars, the new company Avanti Motors never ran in the red. This company was well managed, and had a hard time with vendors taking the seriously, soon the vendors saw that Avanti Motors always paid on time, and that along with their high priority on quality workmanship perceptions changed very fast.

In early 1970 the serial numbers changes from RQA- to RQB- numbers. The biggest difference was the interior going to high back bucket seats vs. the low back bucket seats that were originally reverse-engineered from an Alfa Romeo spider. Mechanically the rear brakes went to the GM style self adjusting, Chrysler brake drums and moving from the Borg-Warner FMX transmission to the Turbo 350.

In the area of 1976 thru 1980 Avanti Motors started to drift from their original focus and attention to detail in production. This came from the three driving forces of Nate Altman, Leo Newman, and Gene Hardig passing their prime.  Arnold Altman took the reins of the company after the passing of Nate Altman in 1976. Arnold never possessed the drive or vision of his brother. He also had no plans to ever replace or upgrade the model except for what was required to maintain government certifications. This resulted in the sale of the company to Steven Blake.

From this point the car started losing its identity, by 1983 it was a Chevy Monte Carlo frame and suspension, I have also heard when they went to the 305 GM motor it was a “Fleet Motor”, in reality is was a low performance motor as used in taxi cabs.