Story By John Hull; Photos Courtesy Lew Schucart, Avanti Magazine editor
The annual Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm, held on the grounds of the Oliver Mansion (aka Copshaholm) in South Bend, Ind., continues to grow and amaze its visitors. The event has an unparalleled emphasis on unique classes, outstanding automobiles and themed displays or recognition events each year, and the 2022 event on July 9 was no different.
In a nod to a hometown hero, the Studebaker National Museum hosted an Avanti class at the concours with nine entrants on display. The Avantis present provided a visual demonstration of each generation of Avanti automobile as it evolved. (The concours’ 35-year-old participation eligibility rule was waived for this class.)
The concours’ Avanti class recognized the 60th anniversary of the car’s introduction to the general public on April 26, 1962. A highlight of this special anniversary class was a display of the first production Studebaker Avanti (serial number R-1001), and the last production Studebaker Avanti (R-5643). The concours marked the first time ever that the first and last Avanti cars were in one place at one time. This possibly once-in-a-lifetime event resulted from the Studebaker National Museum contacting and coordinating with LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, to present both cars together. the LeMay museum, located in Tacoma, Wash., owns R-1001, the first production Avanti, and the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, in Cleveland, owns the last Studebaker Avanti (R-5643).
The concours committee additionally decided that the event would also be an excellent opportunity to display examples of the six post-Studebaker generations of Avanti. The committee settled on excellent representative vehicles of each generation, including additional examples of both a 1963 and 1964 Studebaker Avanti. Avantis built by successors to Studebaker included a 1978 Avanti II (Newman & Altman), 1981 Avanti II (Newman & Altman), 1983 20th Anniversary Edition prototype (Blake), 1990 Avanti four-door sedan (Cafaro) and a 2007 Avanti convertible (Kelly). However, the stars of the class were the first and last production Studebaker Avanti automobiles.
R-1001, the first production Studebaker Avanti, was donated to The LeMay – America’s Car Museum in 2001. It had been primarily driven on the East Coast and had led a hard life. The vehicle underwent a complete restoration over a number of years and was proudly displayed at the concours as it left the production line at Studebaker. The car was ordered on April 26, 1962, and had a shipping date of June 25, 1962. The car was initially held by Studebaker in South Bend, serving multiple duties at the plant and headquarters.
Dick Goldfarb, of Massachusetts, was the original retail purchaser of R-1001 after Studebaker released the car for sale in 1964. Dick and his wife, Laura, were guests at the concours, and Dick was proud to be reunited with his Avanti. When asked of his memories of the car, he smiled and remarked, “If the keys were still in the car, we would be long gone.”
R-5643, the last production Studebaker Avanti, was ordered on Oct. 7, 1963, and had a final assembly date of Dec. 31, 1963. It was ordered from the factory with the R-3 engine package, making it the ninth of nine such cars. It carried a unique piece of provenance discovered in its trunk soon after the original buyer’s purchase. A note in the trunk read, “This is the last Studebaker Avanti built 12/31/63, Happy New Year W.H. Bennett Sr.”
Mr. G.E. Westin, of Youngstown Ohio, placed the order for what would be the last production Studebaker Avanti at Jerry’s Auto Sales of Warren. Upon discovery of the aforementioned note, Mr. Westin contacted Studebaker, inquiring about the status of this claim. In January 1965, Bill Dredge, manager of Studebaker public relations, confirmed this was, indeed, the last Studebaker Avanti built in South Bend.
Joe Erdelac, an AMC & Studebaker dealer in Cleveland, purchased the car from Mr. Westin, and, in 1975, offered the car for sale at $100,000. The car was not sold and was then donated to The Crawford Auto Aviation Museum of the Western Historical Reserve, where it has resided ever since.
Studebaker Avanti fans should commend the The Studebaker National Museum, The LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum for working together to make this union happen.
Studebaker National Museum
LeMay – America’s Car Museum
Crawford Auto Aviation Museum
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