Greenfield man restores Avanti sports cars

People from all over the country take their classic sports cars to Mike Baker in Greenfield at Avanti Restoration & Service.

GREENFIELD, Ind. The Avanti was a four-seat hot rod designed by Studebaker to serve as the Indiana automaker’s last gasp. Avanti couldn’t save Studebaker 60 years ago, but a Greenfield guy has brought the classic sports car back to life in his auto shop.

“That’s going to be a hot rod here in a week or less,” said Mike Baker while working on the interior of a red 1963 Avanti.

Baker brings back the cars he loved as a kid growing up in South Bend – the home of Studebaker and the birthplace of Avanti.

“High performance,” Becker said, removing a speedometer up to 160 mph from the Avanti’s dashboard. “It was the fastest production car in 1963. My love for this car is that it is handcrafted, and limited production. The nice thing about working on this car is that once we work on one, we know how to fix the next.”

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People from all over the country take their cars to Avanti Restoration & Service.

“This car that had been dormant for a while in someone’s garage was brought back to life,” Becker said. “The best thing about it is that they are tuned up, run and driven on the road.”

This is the 60th anniversary of the Avanti. Studebaker made only about 4,600 sports cars before shutting down at the end of 1964. Other companies continued to make Avanti until 2006, but the original Studebaker copies are the most sought after by collectors.

“It was a true American sports car,” Becker said, as he drove a restored white Avanti east on U.S. Highway 40 in Hancock County. “It’s unbelievable that they came up with this design in 1961.”

Baker turned his hobby into a full-time job in 2017. His shop is full of Avantis. The demand for his services includes a list of 10 clients who have been waiting for more than a year for a return.

“It’s exciting to take on the challenge of repairing these cars and bringing them back to life, and then seeing how excited customers are when they turn the key for themselves and do the tools on the road,” Becker said. “It’s a great pride. Sometimes, I spent so much time and effort on that car, I’d hate to see it leave.”

The 60th Anniversary Homecoming will take place at Avanti in South Bend this summer from July 7-9.

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