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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