1969 Avanti returns to South Bend
Paying a visit to Studebaker International while in South Bend
As is our custom, all of our Studebakers we presently own all have driven to South Bend for the SDC Meets that appear every five years. It’s sort of a homecoming to the place that these vehicles started their existence in the automotive world. The first was our 1963 GT Hawk in 2002 which was front and centre at Notre Dame for the Car show. It made it with relatively no problems except it overheated at the border waiting to get back into Canada and after 30 mins of cooling down we were able to drive home to Kingston. In 2007 it was the 1964 Cruiser’s turn to be baptized in this driving ritual and it made it all the way but new U-Joints had to be installed in South Bend during the Meet. Both of these cars were built in Hamilton but the motors and many of the other parts originated from South Bend so it was a homecoming in some shape or form.
In 2015 I acquired a 1969 Avanti and I have been busy bringing it back to the way it was when it left the Avanti Motor Corporation located at 765 S Lafayette Blvd in South Bend back in November 1968. There were only 92 Avantis made in 1969 model year as they were all special ordered by persons who wished to own these hand-built automobiles. They were not cheap for the day as the listed cost was $8180 but the original owner James Atkinson was able to get it cut to $6800 cash plus 2% tax = $6936. He must have been a good negotiator. The Atkinsons owned it up to 1994 and they wanted to sell it so in steps their Canadian cousin, John Holtz from nearby Napanee who took on challenge to resurrect this car. It was in tough shape after 26 years as it had to get an off the frame restoration to get it roadworthy. It was moved to his garage and over the next few years he was able to get it back on the road to where it was mechanically sound and back on the highways of North America.
Once it was in our driveway I installed new tires, wheels, bumpers and paint job along with many little items that make the car look and go better. The next South Bend SDC Meet was scheduled for May 2017 so I decided to give it a thorough test. John had rebuilt the 327 SBC under the hood and it sounded and performed well. I took it out in the fall of 2016 for 100 miles and it seemed to run fine so the decision was made to drive it to South Bend for the 2017 International SDC Meet.
This year’s SDC Meet was in early May and after two days with an overnight stop in Sarnia we made it in the early afternoon and picked up our registration forms at the Doubletree Hotel in South Bend. This year the Meet was abit shorter so less time to visit all of the spots that we go to during these events. I had made a list of all of the Ontario Chapter members that would be in the area for the Meet and decided to start off our South Bend visit at the Studebaker National Museum. This is a top notch Museum www.studebakermuseum.org which tells the complete story of the Studebaker Corporation which was a worldwide company which owns many different companies back in the 1960s to help turn a profit. This museum is a must see and gives you a much better appreciation for everything Studebaker.
Hello from the Studebaker National Museum
Just across the road from the SNM is the Avanti House - www.avantihouse.com which is a Guest house where you can stay overnight and also look over their very own Avanti Museum. It would be quite convenient for all of us Studebaker fans who can walk across the street to visit the SNM or just down the road to the Tippecanoe Restaurant - www.tippe.com which serves some great food in the former Mansion of the Studebaker Family. Just that very afternoon we met with 10 other Ontario Chapter members at the Tippecanoe to enjoy lunch, where we were served in our own private room to very tasty food at a very reasonable price.
The Avanti Guest House
The next day we were out at the Fairgrounds to look over the vendors which were in two buildings and outside. I looked over the parts for sale and there is always something to take home for your Studebakers. On the way back to the motel we stopped off at Studebaker International www.studebaker-intl.com at the old Studebaker Truck Assembly Plant to pick up the parts I had ordered over their website. They have over 50,000 sq ft of storage mostly in the warehouse as the display area in front is only about 2,000 sq ft. While there I took a free tour of their warehouse and it was quite amazing to see all of the parts they mostly acquired from SASCO which SI bought out afew years ago.
Parked in their warehouse was Ed Reynold’s 1953 Studebaker Convertible one of a kind prototype
Just up the road at 765 South Lafayette Blvd, you will find the former location of the Avanti Motor Corporation which is now just an empty field where Newman & Altman along with Stephen H Blake assembled Avantis up until 1987. Not much of the Studebaker Factory is left except mainly for Building 84 which was the main Studebaker Assembly Building and one of the main venues for the 2017 SDC Meet. Over the next 8 years they intend to give it a total facelift for $17 million and use it for office space, restaurants, residences and data storage space.
On Saturday there were around 200 Studebakers on display at the Car show located at the Fairgrounds. They let us park according to arrival so after I parked I visited all of the vendors to see if there were any last minute deals. Although not too many cars were from Ontario there was still some nice, Canadian built Studes there, especially a pristine Walkerville, Ontario built 1927 Studebaker Ewe Coupe owned by Peter & Chris Worron of LaSalette. The weather was nice and sunny so it made for a good day of walking around and looking at all of the Studebakers on display to get ideas on my next project or just plain drool at some of the very nice examples of South Bend steel.
1927 Canadian Built Studebaker Ewe Coupe
Next day we started to head back home but decided to drop by the Auburn, Duesenberg & Cord Museum www.automobilemuseum.org located in the former administration Bldg of the Auburn Automobile Company in Auburn Indiana. It’s only 100 miles from South Bend just off the Interstate 69 and it is a must see if you are ever in this area. The Museum building is very unique and done in the Art-Deco style typical of the 1930s. You will find many one of a kind automobiles in this museum that would fit right in at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Also on display was a 1963 Studebaker Avanti and a Chevrolet Corvette explaining the new fiberglass bodies and the process used to build these cars in the mid-1950s to 1960s. Most of the automobiles on display are 80-90 years old and are definitely trailered to all events and worth sometimes in the millions each. It is one of the best automotive museums I have ever been to and well worth the admission fee and time to visit.
Auburn, Duesenberg & Cord Museum – Spectacular!
After another overnight stay In Sarnia we made it home safe and sound. I got over 22 MPG on an imperial Gallon while driving over 1500 miles during the last 8 days. The car ran cool, burned almost no oil and ran without any problems. John Holtz’s engine rebuild without any doubt was done very well and should be good for many years. So if you own a Studebaker and never took it to South Bend for its homecoming then get ready for the next International SDC Meet being held there in 2022. It’s well worth the time, money and effort while being a driving experience to last a lifetime.