After 40 years, The First Avanti is no longer Green Sparkle

Paint removed

Over the past couple of months, ACM’s Avanti has undergone some major changes and our monthly updates on the ACM’s Collection pages have been showcasing the recent progress.

 The car has been completely stripped by our all-volunteer rescue team in Bellingham, Washington, under the direction of James Bell of the Bell Studebaker Museum. James has worked very closely with me, donating hundreds of volunteer hours in 2011, and ACM is so grateful for his time and passion for the project.

In final preparation for paint removal, James and his crew cleared out everything under the car-- the driveline, brake and fuel lines, exhaust, etc. so they wouldn’t be in the way of soda blasting the frame. The volunteer crew, who are all members of the Whatcom County Chapter of the Studebaker Driver’s Club, have meticulously dismantled the car taking care to label and bag all parts. The rear end was swapped out with a temporary one and the refreshed rear-end, new leaf springs plus suspension from the A-arms out in front will be replaced once the car has returned for re-assembly.

James wrote to me the following:

“The front left fender behind parking light seems to have had damage. The front lower right edge below bottom scoop has rough repaired edge. The front radiator frame bolts have some fiberglass broken. The windshield wiper arm pivots holes had damage and need attention. The right rear frame is rusted, needing replacement and the rear cross member is gone, needing replacement.

It’s a lot of work to do it nice, but will be worthwhile when done for many years and many people seeing it. Thanks, James”

Darryl Tinnerstet, ACM Logistics Manager, picked up the Avanti body in Bellingham just before Thanksgiving and brought it back to the Museum in Tacoma. As soon as we had a window of good weather to cross the pass to Spokane, ACM Volunteer Pat transportPat Crist transported the car via enclosed trailer across the state on December 9th to Don Whisler of Spokane Soda Works whose services I contracted to perform the paint stripping.

As of this writing, the car is no longer sparkle green!  Don went to work on the car immediately, carefully taking the paint down to gel coat using a gentle soda blasting technique.  I had heard about the process being gentle for use on Corvettes and fiberglass boats and after doing a bit more research I decided this was the way to go.  I had asked Don to keep an eye out for anything unusual under the paint as he went along, such as numbers or evidence of other paint colors or the original white. Don sent me this report:

Great news, the car is completed. The soda blasting went very well and the body looks great.  Some interesting facts were discovered.  The car at one time was chemically stripped down to the bare fiberglass.  There was very little evidence on the exterior that the car was white at one time.  There has been body work performed on the Left Hand front corner, Left Hand front fender wheel opening at top, rh front fender at wheel opening, Right Hand wiper stud area and the Right Hand rear 1/4 panel above wheel opening. Thank you, Don Whisler Spokane Soda Works”

The car was then transported to Sunnyside, Washington, into the capable hands of long-time Studebaker Driver’s Club members Ron and DeAnne Hochhalter. The Hochhalter’s business, Advanced Collision Repair Center, has generously donated all services to perform the needed body preparation and paint the car back to its original splendor. The car arrived just in time for the Central Washington Studebaker Driver’s Club Christmas party to be held at the shop that Saturday!  I have seen Ron’s handy work and he is an artist!  I cannot wait to see tAvanti painthe car when Ron gets done. We will have updates from DeAnne and Ron as the car progresses.

Ron tells me the car had to be “neutralized” following the soda blasting before work can begin, which involves spraying the car with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, then washing that solution off and letting the car dry.  Ron took a look at the passenger door and feels it can be fixed, which is important to keep the original fitted panels and doors on the car.  He also plans to remove all previous repair work found on the car and do proper professional-level fiberglass repair to the few spots that need it. 

Work has also started to progress on the engine, transmission and rear end. Mike Gahlbeck at Studebakers Northwest and Bob Williams, a long time Studebaker and Avanti Club member from Portland, Oregon, are working on the Engine. Ed Reynolds, owner of Studebaker International, has been helpful as we get ready to start ordering needed non-donated parts. 

All the Avanti’s stainless trim has been shipped to Fayetteville, Georgia, where Matthew Burnette, another long-time Studebaker collector and member of the Studebaker Driver’s Club, will work his magic making it shine like new.  Matthew is well known for his show quality stainless restorations. Matthew is donating all of his services and we could not be happier that he is part of the project.

We have a lot more work to do on the car and so far we are on track thanks to the help of volunteers and donors who are helping to fund the restoration of this significant part of automotive history.

-Renee Crist, Collections Manager

Avanti soda 2