In 1963, automobile designer Margaret “Peg” Sauer began a new challenge. Sauer had previously worked for Harley Earl’s “Damsels of Design” team at General Motors, where she was influential in creating interiors for several GM vehicles in the 1950s. Her new opportunity came with Raymond Loewy’s industrial design studio and a chance to work on its latest project, the Studebaker Avanti. The Avanti was Studebaker’s new luxury performance car, and the automobile manufacturer had tasked Loewy’s team with its design. 

In just 40 days, Lowey’s studio crafted a design for a four-seat coupe with a distinct appearance. The Avanti featured an elongated hood and curved rear fenders, which made the car look like a futuristic airplane. Its unusual shape required the body to be molded from fiberglass panels. Since the Avanti lacked a grille across its nose, Loewy’s team designed the car as a “bottom breather,” with air vents placed underneath the front bumper. Sauer’s most notable contribution was a unique glovebox equipped with a pull-out drawer. The drawer contained a flip-up mirror and extra storage space for small items. Yet the Avanti’s innovative design did not save Studebaker’s sagging automobile sales. The company sold fewer than 6,000 Avantis before closing its plant in South Bend, Indiana.  

However, the Avanti lived on for several more decades thanks to a series of periodic revivals. The longest-lived of these successor cars were created by former Studebaker dealers Nate and Arnold Altman. The Altman brothers partnered with Leo Newman, who had overseen Studebaker’s truck parts division, to form the Avanti Motor Corporation. From 1965 into the 1980s, Newman and the Altman brothers sold a modified version of the Studebaker Avanti, known as the Avanti II. Each Avanti II was custom ordered and hand-built. Buyers could select a variety of color combinations for the exterior and interior, even down to the shag carpet in the trunk. Avanti IIs also used Chevrolet’s small-block V8 engine, the same power plant as the Corvette.    

 The National Corvette Museum’s collection includes a 1977 Avanti II donated by Mike Hammer. This car has a gold interior and exterior like a Studebaker Avanti Hammer saw in his youth. It includes a Corvette engine, a fiberglass body, and the special glovebox design created by Sauer more than 60 years ago.