Drag Race: 1963 Supercharged Studebaker Avanti Is Too Fast for 1969 Pontiac GTO

The muscle car era lasted from the early 1950s until around 1973, but it reached its peak toward the end of the 1960s when they became ridiculously powerful and fast. Still, a few pre-1965 cars are fast enough to outgun models from the golden years, and the Studebaker Avanti is one of them.
1963 Studebaker Avanti 1 photo
Photo: Cars And Zebras/YouTube
Studebaker has been dead for decades now. Founded in 1852 as a coachbuilder, it entered the automotive business in 1902. It disappeared in 1967 after it struggled for years to keep up with competition from Detroit. Studebaker left behind a few iconic models, including the Champion, Hawk, and Avanti. It also offered a Land Cruiser model before Toyota introduced its now-famous SUV.

The Avanti might not be Studebaker's most celebrated model, but it's the fastest and most innovative. Marketed as "America's only four-passenger high-performance personal car" when it was unveiled in 1962, the Avanti broke no fewer than 29 world speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Powered by a supercharged 4.7-liter V8 engine rated at 289 horsepower, the Avanti could reach a top speed of 178 mph (286 kph), a figure that made it the world's fastest production car upon its introduction. Yes, that was more than a Ferrari 250 GTO was capable of at 174 mph (280 kph).

Due to its complex body shape, which would have been expensive to build in steel, the Avanti's featured a fiberglass body, a rare feature for production cars in the U.S. at the time. It was also the first production model to offer disc brakes.

The Avanti was well received by the public, despite its unusual design, but production problems related to suppliers, fit, and finish resulted in delays and canceled orders. Financial problems eventually forced Studebaker to close its Sound Bend plant in 1963, and the Avanti never reached its full potential.

This drag race from the Pure Stock Muscle Car series shows just how fast the Studebaker Avanti was compared to more powerful muscle cars from the late 1960s. Its drag strip rival, a 1969 Pontiac GTO, packs a much larger 6.6-liter V8 that generates 366 horsepower. That's 77 horses more than the Avanti. The GTO also wins the torque battle on paper with 445 pound-feet (603 Nm), 142 lb-ft (192 Nm) more than the Studebaker.

Despite the power deficit, the Avanti goes on to win three quarter-mile runs against the GTO. The gap doesn't exceed a half-second, but the Avanti is notably quicker off the line, needing just a few seconds to get well in front of the more powerful Pontiac. Its quickest run comes in at 13.85 seconds, shaving almost two seconds off the initial test run from 1963.

Now let's watch the Avanti smoke the GTO in this video below and celebrate the greatest classic muscle car that wasn't built in Detroit.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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