When I was in the fourth grade, I was nearly run over and turned into a hood ornament by a Studebaker Avanti.
I was on my way to school. I swear I looked both ways before crossing over the street. But either I wasn’t paying attention or the Avanti materialized from a wrinkle in time, and as it swooshed past me, the front of its tiny chrome bumper caught my pant leg. The car itself didn’t touch me – but having my pant leg grabbed by something doing about 30 miles an hour launched me into the air.
And threw me down on the sidewalk.
“Wow, you just flew through the air!” That’s what the driver said after pulling over and coming to my aid.
My pants were ripped. I had a ferocious scrape on my elbow. I didn’t care.
I had fallen in love.
At that moment, my life was forever changed. I had seen my first Studebaker Avanti.
It looked like a spaceship. Or a car from the future. It was white and sleek and spectacularly gorgeous.
“That’s the baddest car in the whole universe!” I said to the driver. (“Bad” back at that time was what “sick” means in today’s vernacular.)
So began my obsession with a car that is amazing as it – apparently – is cursed. If you want to know more about the troubled history of the Studebaker Avanti, I can suggest a recent NY Times article.
The car has taunted me my whole life. When I was in my early twenties, my neighbor had one. He wanted to get rid of it. He had inherited it from his parents. They had purchased it from the widow of Raymond Loewy – perhaps our country’s most famous industrial designers, who is credited for such icons the Coca Cola bottle, Air Force One, Lucky Strike, Greyhound Bus, Pennsylvania S-1 Locomotive, Exxon and Shell logos, NASA interiors for Sky Lab and the Space Shuttle. And, yes, the Avanti – the only automobile to be exhibited in the Louvre.
I wanted that car! But even the several thousand dollars my neighbor wanted for it was beyond my means. It might as well have been several million dollars. Looking back on it now, I should have done whatever possible to find that money. To have an Avanti that was once personally owned by the car’s designer? Wow. And, okay, I’m sure it sounds like sour grapes – but it was purple.
Over the years, other Avantis have driven across the periphery of my life. And there has always been some reason why I couldn’t reach out and snag one.
Now, according to the NY Times article, the Avanti may once again be heading toward extinction. But my hopes to get one remain high. After all, that gorgeous car has reached the end of the road many times now. John Hull, the president of the Avanti Owners Association International, says, “Its nickname is the phoenix. It always rises from the dead.”
We should all be so lucky.
So sayeth the StickMonkey.