Ride of the Week! David Neel and his 1964 STUDEBAKER AVANTI…

Classic cars are a big responsibility.

Keeping them clean, restored and fully functional can be a huge headache for some and can take a lot of time. But none of that seems to matter if you love cars.

I mean, who cares really, because the advantages of having a classic car and what you can do with it so far outweighs any headache that it’s not even worth mentioning. Sorry I did, but I have a point and this is Ride of the Week. So, let’s get into this before Christmas shows up.

This is David Neel and his ocean turquoise 1964 Studebaker Avanti R2. Neel is owner of Neel Lighting & Controls (a Ventura County based lighting and controls consulting firm) and executive director of the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard. According to Neel, both are full-time jobs.

But having known Neel for several years now, I can attest to the fact that he never seems to stop smiling. I would too if I got to play with cars all the time. (Oh wait, I do.) Neel understands the tremendous value of classics these days and the joy they bring. It helps to be near Pacific Coast Highway and the beauty of Malibu, but it’s clear that this man has found his passion.

The Avanti is a factory supercharged car, yielding 290 horsepower from a 289 cubic inch engine and is automatic.

“The car has been rebuilt from the ground up,” starts Neel. “And the builder made sure he built it to factory specs and factory colors. I have the original window sticker and added reproduction Halibrand rims a few years ago. These were a Studebaker dealer option at the time so they are legit to the car.”

Neel has had the car for about five years and it has always been on his checklist of cars to own.

“I ran across it during a car show on the roof of the Petersen Automotive Museum,” he explains. “The owner had it for sale and was taking great care in the presentation and authenticity of the car but was ready to find a new home for it. I knew it was the car for me, called him a few weeks later, and cut a deal. The former owner and I have become good friends and keep in contact from time to time.”

But how about a little bit of Neel’s automotive history? Where did his passion for cars begin?

“When I was a kid walking to the bus stop every day, a lady in the neighborhood would drive by from time to time in her Avanti (this was in the mid 1970s),” he recalled. “I had never seen such a car and was enamored with its one of a kind style and hoped someday I could have one. I have several cars but one thing they all have in common is they are all American brands, unique and built in limited numbers. This makes for better conversation at car shows.”

And there it is, folks. Classic cars give you a chance to share your story. And trust me, people want to hear it.

“It’s one-of-a-kind uniqueness,” David continues. “Every part of the car has a reason for its design. It was designed by famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy and does not have any straight lines, has elliptical wheel wells, pinched Coke bottle design at the center doors when looking down on it, and no grill. ‘Grills are for sewers’ he was quoted as saying.”   

About 5,000 Avantis were built by Studebaker in a two-year period and of that, few were built with a factory supercharger. That makes this very special car. And by the way, it’ll be on display at the Art Center Car Classic on Oct. 26.

“I take the Stoodee out occasionally on pretty weekend days, car rallies and neighborhood car shows,” Neel said. “The demands I place upon it are relatively minor, but it’s always ready to go.”

And Neel’s best short story?

“It’s a recurring story,” he explains. “Most folks under 50 years old do not know what it is, think it’s from an Italian manufacturer and once I tell them it’s a Studebaker, they always respond, ‘Who built Studebakers?’ If you can answer that, then you get a lollipop.”

On Malibu — a paradise where Neel visits frequently — Neel says he enjoys “the amazing scenery, picture opportunities and driving with the windows down, radio off and listening to the supercharger whine.”

It’s pretty clear why we have a hard time getting anything done, but when it comes to putting joy coins in the bank, we’re rich as can be.

Thanks, David. If Rocky were a car, he’d be your Avanti.

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