- Automobile History
The Innovative Cars of Dying Auto Makers
'64 Avanti Going 200 MPH!
Looking for a Life Saver
The last gasp designs from auto manufacturers are oftentimes their most innovative. Sometimes these new models were effective in buying them a few more years of life, but sometimes they backfired -- and another legendary nameplate passed into history.
Here are a few examples for both.
Studebaker Lark and Avanti
Studebaker Fights for Life
The last Studebaker rolled off the line at the Hamilton Ontario plant on March 16, 1966. The final few years of operation saw no new models being designed since there was no money for any. However, Studebaker did produce two winners during it's final decade.
The Lark, was a good looking, well designed smaller car made by Studebaker. It scooped Ford and Chevy by a year when it put a compact car on the market in 1959. The Lark was immediately popular, very profitable and it undoubtedly extended the Studebaker Company's lifetime by several years.
The other worthy mention is the jaw-dropping 1962-63 Avanti, a light sportscar with sleek looks and great performance. The Avanti was intended to draw customers into the Studebaker showrooms but production problems caused delays which led to order cancellations -- after two years, the line was dropped. The Avanti tooling and name were resold several times and it continued in limited production up to 2006 in Cancun, Mexico.
The 1958 "Pack-a-Baker?
An Unfitting End for Iconic Packard
The venerable old Packard Company started to have problems the early 1950s. The small but profitable car maker was being shouldered aside by an innovative and modern Cadillac. Packard needed more volume and it's cash stash was used to buy out a large but nearly bankrupt company, Studebaker.
The Packard plant was closed and a tricked-out Studebaker with a Packard nameplate began production at the Studebaker facility. The new hybrids never were accepted by the public and the last "Packards" rolled off the line in 1958. The 58's were quite "unique," but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Scout 3 Prototype
International Scout 1961 - 1980
In 1961 International Harvester Company (IHC) introduced a jeep-like vehicle with a fold down windshield, four wheel drive, and a 4 cyl. engine (actually an 8 cyl. IH truck engine cut down to 4 cyl.). It also wore the famous IH emblem and was named the Scout. Later versions morphed into what is considered by many to be the first true SUVs.
For a century and a half, the International Harvester Company (IH) was a huge manufacturer of almost everything -- not just it's famous farm machinery. They sold trucks, large utility vehicles, air conditioners, lawn mowers ... the list goes on and on. It was also known as the company that made everything except a profit.
1n 1980, amid financial woes, the ailing giant canceled production of the Scout as a part of it's "divest and slim down" plan for survival. Too bad -- they had a new Scout in the works -- the Scout 3, and at least one prototype exists, as shown.(Supposedly, two were made).
All Scout models sold well and are as popular today as ever. The Scout is probably the only vehicle to be successful and profitable in each year that it existed ... only to be terminated anyway.
The 1954 Hudson Italia
Finally, a Hudson With Style
In the early 1950s, The Hudson Motor Company realized that it's survival required a styling makeover to project a more modern image. They contracted with the Carrozzeria firm of Italy to produce a futuristic looking aluminum body to be married with Hudson's Jet chassis.
The new car line, named the Italia, was no copy of the Corvette or any other car. It was expensive ($5,000) because of the handmade body and it came to market in 1954 -- the same year that Hudson declared bankruptcy. Only 26 Italias were produced but most still exist as valuable collector cars that routinely sell for $200,000 and up.
Which Car is Next?
It would seem logical that healthy auto manufacturers would produce the most innovative cars but it seems to be the opposite case is true. Chrysler's sales woes produced the Prowler and Viper. GM is addressing it's decline by introducing the technologically advanced Chevy Volt.
Maybe if auto manufacturers marketed some innovative and original designs before the company became desperate, they could avoid this desperation situation altogether.
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