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Biography

The year was 1963 when I had my first sighting, and I remember the image on the TV screen as though it were yesterday. It was a shot of the new 1963 Studebaker Avanti with a man standing alongside it, a man whom I now know to have been Sherwood Egbert, the President of the Studebaker Corporation. I immediately loved the futuristic styling and I said to my wife Pat, somewhat in jest, “Someday I am going to own one of those cars.”

Indeed it did seem like a joke because at the time we had 3 young children, and I was the pastor of a small rural Baptist church. We were living just above what LBJ would soon call the poverty line (part of our salary was raw milk given to us twice a week by one of the parishioners). I was a recent seminary graduate, so we had no savings. To have purchased an Avanti would have taken almost a year of our salary.

But still I dreamed, and eventually it became something of a family joke that someday Dad would own an Avanti. The dream almost died when Studebaker halted production in late 1964 and two years later got out of the automotive business. But then I heard that the Avanti would live on under new ownership as the Avanti II, though fulfilling the dream seemed more remote than ever when I learned the sticker price of the reincarnated version. In the late 1960’s we moved to Chicagoland where I became a college professor--I taught theology. Financially we were a bit better off, but even so the price of a new Avanti II was well beyond my annual salary. And since I had never done any really serious automotive mechanical or body work, and they didn’t teach auto mechanics in seminary, it never even occurred to me to buy a used Avanti.

Talk of ever owning one now seldom fell from my lips. Then in 1976 I had my first sighting of a real Avanti. It was a winter day on the Northwest Tollway near O’Hare International Airport. An Avanti passed me, and I did a double take because I could not believe my eyes. Was that really an Avanti? I chased the car on the Tollway for at least ten minutes, trying to get a good look at it from every angle. Yes indeed, it was an Avanti and to my mind more beautiful than I had ever imagined.

Fast forward now to July 1978. Our oldest son was now a teenager and worked at the local Pontiac dealership. One afternoon he came home from work and said, “Dad, you are going to have to put up or shut up.” I had no idea what he meant, but I did know I did not like being spoken to in that manner. But as the story unfolded I understood why he had said that. Ten miles away there was an Avanti for sale--it needed restoration, but the price might be right, and most of the parts needed for the restoration were there, including a NOS interior. But how would I know if it was worth the money or really restorable? The guy selling the car was a friend of the late Ron Hall, and Ron put me in touch with George Krem who was spending the summer in the area. What I did not know at the time was that few people know more about Studebakers in general and Avantis in particular that these two guys, especially George. To make a long story short, he said, ”Stan, the price is right, the important stuff is here, but it will be a big job and be forewarned, this will never be a show car.” When I objected that I had never tackled a job even approaching this magnitude, he said, “Buy a Shop Manual, buy the Parts Catalog, subscribe to Turning Wheels, and give me or Ron a call when you get stuck.”

I took the plunge and purchased Studebaker Avanti R-3307, an R-2, fifteen years after the original sighting and the birth of the dream.

In spite of George’s warning I had no idea what I had gotten myself into until I spent three days trying to get the car to run after having it trailered to our house. Finally, the engine roared to life--literally because it had no exhaust system. I threw a wire crate for gallon glass milk bottles on the floor for a seat and cautiously took it for a spin around the block. It did make it around, but in that circuit I lost a quart of oil, and the rear brakes locked up when I parked the car in the driveway. I began to sense right then that this was something much bigger than I had imagined.

And call George and Ron I did, many times, as well as Jon Myer, John Erb, John Shanahan, and John Metzker. Ron Hall lived only ten miles or from me, and I frequently dropped by to ask him questions.

Fast forward again to the Spring, 1983. By now I had left college teaching and had become a book-publishing executive. One of the terms of employment was that they had to pay for the transport of the unfinished Avanti from Wheaton, IL to Grand Rapids, MI. Now, nearly five years after the original purchase I was putting on the finishing touches. I had not started out expecting to produce a show car--all I really wanted was an Avanti to drive. Still, I thought it was pretty good, but how would I know? I had never even been to a concours judging of any kind, let alone one for Studebakers or Avantis. Nevertheless, since the 19th International Meet of the Studebaker Drivers Club was coming to South Bend that summer, just two hours from Grand Rapids, I registered for the Meet and the judging. When I drove the car to South Bend in July, the car had never before been driven more than five or ten miles from home. Would it even make it there, and back? And would I be embarrassed on the judging field?

Well, the first clue that I would not be embarrassed came when I drove into the headquarters hotel parking lot; none other that George Krem was the first person I saw that I recognized. We had spoken on the phone many times over the last five years, but we had not seen each other in person and he had not seen how the Avanti restoration had progressed. His first words to me were, “Stan, is this the same car?” I told him it was, and I confess that I reminded him of what he had told when we first viewed the car together, “Stan it will never be a show car.” He could not believe it was the same car.

The next day as I entered the parking lot where the SDC judging was to take place a couple of guys from the Avanti Owner’s Association persuaded me to enter it into their field of cars to be judged also. I had no idea that the AOAI was even active, so I was not a member; but if they were willing to have my car judged by their judges, why not? So I paid the fee.

By the end of a very long hot July day in South Bend R-3307 had been judged by two different sets of judges. At one point during the day, our son Dan, who had done all the body and paint work, overheard one judge say that he had given the body and paint work a perfect score. At that point Dan said to me, “Dad if you don’t win a first, don’t blame me!”

Well, win I did. R-3307 took first place in its class in both the SDC International Meet and the AOAI Eastern National Meet.

But frankly, I was keenly aware that I could not have done this on my own. Not only did Dan do the body and paint work, but a host of other individuals, including those named above, and many contributors to Turning Wheels, gave me essential information that was not in the original Avanti Workshop Manual.. I needed to know everything from the right color for the springs on the throttle linkage to the carburetor to installing a leak proof oil seal in place of the porous felt seal in the timing gear cover. After basking a few months in the after glow of winning first place twice in one day, it began to down on me that I had accumulated a lot of knowledge--much of it from others, some of it from my own ingenuity. And none of it was in the original shop manual. So I wrote up a twenty page, single-spaced article on what I had learned and called it “What the Shop Manual Won’t Tell You.”

I sold that article for several years, but as demand died, I quit photocopying and selling it. Then, about 1996 someone on an Avanti email list remembered that this guy named Gundry had written this piece, and wondered was it still available and who was he? I had been a pretty quiet lurker on the list but I decided to come out of the woodwork and say that I had been thinking of rewriting the whole thing and that I thought I had enough for a book. But would any of the Studebaker Avanti owners be interested? The response was immediate and unanimous--bring it back in book form. And so I did--three years of writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading, designing the book’s interior to match the design of the original Workshop Manual, and wrapping it all in a beautiful cover designed by Ann, our graphic designer daughter, have resulted in this book.

And that is part of my story, and how WHAT THE SHOP MANUAL WON'T TELL YOU: STUDEBAKER AVANTI RESTORATION AND MAINTENANCE came to be.