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Thread: Studebaker Built Avanti Bodies Article Turning Wheels

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    Studebaker Built Avanti Bodies Article Turning Wheels

    The August issue of Turning Wheels has my article and charts on construction of Avanti bodies in South Bend by Studebaker. I would be happy to address any and all questions as I completed by analysis thru the first 80 bodies Avanti Motor Corporation received from Molded Fiberglass Company as well. None of those bodies carried the appropriate #5000 series body numbers as well.

    Would welcome feedback.

    Thanks
    John Hull

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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    I think you are going to have to wait for someone, anyone?, to get one first!
    Maybe a few First Class Mail copies could be out.

    Here is the last "got your July TW" Post: http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.c...elivery-Survey
    StudeRich
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    I guess that's what it would take
    Joseph R. Zeiger

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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    OK, NOW we are in a position to report on this GREAT Story John!

    I for one am VERY impressed with this great information! I love it!

    I always thought that Studebaker took over ALL of the Body Assembly and Finish operation from MFG Co. when the quality got very poor, using MFG Co's Parts.

    But I gather from this, that both continued to the end?

    I find it very strange how the Body Numbers vs. Finished Car Serials got SOooo mixed up, even though we have heard long ago that Bad MFG Bodies were put aside to keep the line moving and then randomly "Recycled" back into the mix even as late as the end of Production, as WELL as the Standard Studebaker procedure of just grabbing the nearest Body for each Day's Production in no set order.

    I have always known that all later Studebakers had a "Factory Model Code", my '64 Daytona Hardtop is a 4238 and my '64 Daytona Sedan is a 4218, but never knew that on Avantis it got "Rolled" depending on the various Groups of Bodies!

    My Avanti is a "Group Code" or Factory only Code RQ3370 which does put it into the RQ, (NO '63) and Serial Number R-3917 to R-4891 Group since it IS shown on the Production Order as simply Serial Number
    R-4275 but with Body RQ3053.

    It was Built on May 6, 1963, Order written 04/19/63 Line Number 3274. Shipped to Alhambra, CA.

    I "THOUGHT" with a very late '63 Serial Number like 4275 it would be a South Bend Body, but "maybe" not, because it does not have a 5000 Body Number.

    Why does the South Bend Production List STOP at April 1963, R4207, shortly before my MFG Car was built?

    Mine is one of those that got a Dealer re-stamped Serial Number R-4275A to allow it to be Calif. registered as a Calif. Title "Body Type Model".... "SED64R" so it could "kind of" be sold as a '64.

    I find the timing of all of this very interesting, thank you very much for a better than GREAT article John!


    FEEDBACK = AAA+++
    Last edited by StudeRich; 08-02-2014 at 06:40 PM.
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    President Member Deaf Mute's Avatar
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    My '63 Avanti , serial #R4014 has body # RQ2959, so apparently the body was built in Ohio, correct?
    The order was written 3-5-63, final assembly 4-4-63 and ship date 4-23-63. The build sheet also shows it on "Line 3010"... what does that mean?

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    Thanks for the interesting article John.

    I noticed the gaps in Serial Numbers were usually five or six, like 4101 to 4108, 4119 to 4125, 4139 to 4145, etc. Since the MFG bodies were shipped six to a truck, I guess the gap in S/Ns of SB bodied cars is when a truckload of bodies came in from MFG.
    Gary L.
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    Who knows what Studebaker really did on the assembly line? My body number is 63RQ700, logic would put the serial near 63R1700, no? But it's 63R1517. So they bypassed almost 200 bodies to put mine together? I know it was assembled by MFG as the car was completed 9-21-62, long before Studebaker started doing some of their own. Any ideas??

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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Mute View Post
    My '63 Avanti , serial #R4014 has body # RQ2959, so apparently the body was built in Ohio, correct?
    The order was written 3-5-63, final assembly 4-4-63 and ship date 4-23-63. The build sheet also shows it on "Line 3010"... what does that mean?
    I think you mean your "Line Number" is 3010, right? That is nothing important just 1,2,3 count down the line, or "Framed"/Line Set on paper, maybe not actual line sequence. All Studebaker Production Orders have a Line #.

    BUT, your "Body Type" on the Production Order for R4014 should still be "RQ 3370".

    Yours took 29 Days to get built and 19 days to ship, I am thinking that could be re-bodied or "reworked" Car, but there was that April line shutdown, so who knows?
    Last edited by StudeRich; 08-03-2014 at 01:34 AM.

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    John, thanks for writing that article. Very interesting and detailed!
    Bill Pressler
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    (formerly Greenville, PA)
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    Formerly owned: 1963 Lark Daytona Skytop R1, Ermine White
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    All are in Australia now

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    After reading the article, and trying to determine whether the body on my Avanti was South Bend or Ohio built, I came to this conclusion.

    R4466, Line #3561, Body #RQ3248. Build date of 5/24/63. My car was built after the information that had been charted with great detail in the article was relevant. Avanti's assembled after the detailed charts were applicable were from a supply of bodies both from South Bend and Ohio. I appreciated the comment in the article that there was a "bucket" of body tags used at the factory, and numbers were arbitrarily assigned to cars after the charts applied. MFG did not assign numbers to the bodies other than for invoicing to Studebaker, and after April 1963, it seems like the effort to separate the SB and Ohio bodies via numbering waned.

    I would take from the article that R4466 most likely has a MFG Body, but could very well also have a South Bend body. Beyond the cars listed as having South Bend bodies on those detailed charts, there is no sure fire way to tell. Anyone is free to correct me if I'm wrong.

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    There is no sure fire way but the evidence (i.e: build sheets checked through the end of production) that a 5000 series number guarantees South Bend built. MFG had a stock of 80 plus bodies at the end of production and they were reworked and sold to Avanti Motor Corporation. They all carried a 4000 series serial number. When writing the article I was struck by how few bodies were "made" in South Bend for the amount of time that passed. The body number was used by MFG to bill Studebaker so while I understand your point I don't think Studebaker would end up paying MFG for a body they built. In essence twice. Just my thoughts and thanks for you observations.
    John Hull

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    Great article and great work. I re-read the paragraph with the "Buckets" passage. Evidently there was a body tag bucket at MFG and a body tag bucket in South Bend. That would mean RQ3248 is most likely from MFG. I guess the tags definitely were installed at the body's point of origin. My first assumption was the tags weren't installed until line setting. That's what I get from assuming.

    No doubt fiberglass work was cutting edge in South Bend in 1963, and it took quite a while for the workforce to catch on to it. I worked with several guys a little older than I who spent some time working at Avanti Motors in the 70's and 80's. The most steady employees back then for Avanti were older guys, now most certainly not with us, who worked on that original 1963 body line. The guys my age (now 51, same as my Avanti) would work with them, learn the trade, then sell their skills for a higher price to a RV, Boat, or even Porta Potty manufacturer that sprang up in the area after 2-3 years with Avanti. A shipping foreman I worked with who had worked in shipping at Avanti Motors before working with me, said keeping guys on the body line was tough back then.

    I know Studebaker gets credit for bringing and leaving behind a skilled machine shop and tool and die workforce, but they may have also played a large role in developing the fiberglass and related industries that sprang up during and after Avanti's presence in the area.

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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    I guess speaking of Fiberglass, it should be mentioned that Studebaker was not entirely New to this, they were a Pioneer in the Industry, using some of the first Fiberglass Car Parts.

    After the Plastic '55 Speedster Dash, came All of the 1956 to 1964 Hawks with Fiberglass Dashes, '56 Golden Hawks and '56 Wagons with Glass Fins, '58 Packards with Glass Hoods, and Front Panels, '59-'61 Larks with Glass Heater Core Boxes, '63-'64 Floor Shift Boxes, etc., etc.

    Revised.
    Last edited by StudeRich; 08-03-2014 at 08:16 PM.

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StudeRich View Post
    I guess speaking of Fiberglass, it should be mentioned that Studebaker was not entirely New to this, they were a Pioneer in the Industry, using the first Fiberglass Car Parts.

    After the Plastic '55 Speedster Dash, came All of the 1956 to 1964 Hawks with Fiberglass Dashes, '56 Golden Hawks and '56 Wagons with Glass Fins, '58 Packards with Glass Hoods, and Front Panels, '59-'61 Larks with Glass Heater Core Boxes, '63-'64 Floor Shift Boxes, etc., etc.
    AND the Transtars and Diesels with fiberglass grilles!!

    Craig

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    Quote Originally Posted by StudeRich View Post
    I guess speaking of Fiberglass, it should be mentioned that Studebaker was not entirely New to this, they were a Pioneer in the Industry, using the first Fiberglass Car Parts.

    After the Plastic '55 Speedster Dash, came All of the 1956 to 1964 Hawks with Fiberglass Dashes, '56 Golden Hawks and '56 Wagons with Glass Fins, '58 Packards with Glass Hoods, and Front Panels, '59-'61 Larks with Glass Heater Core Boxes, '63-'64 Floor Shift Boxes, etc., etc.
    Are you skipping over the Glasspar and other cars of this type, the Kaiser-Darrin and the thousands of Corvettes that predate the 1955 Speedster?
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    Golden Hawk Member StudeRich's Avatar
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    Ok Gary, fixed. The Darrins were HOW many? And '53-'54 6 Cyl. Corvettes, not much more!

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    Were Pioneers expected too produce specific numbers of car parts ?,or just be the first to do so ?
    Quote Originally Posted by StudeRich View Post
    Ok Gary, fixed. The Darrins were HOW many? And '53-'54 6 Cyl. Corvettes, not much more!
    Joseph R. Zeiger

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    I'm probably wrong,but wasn't their another car being made of glass in the 50s/60s. maybe it was some kind of kit car or ?,just seems another name was out their.
    Quote Originally Posted by studegary View Post
    Are you skipping over the Glasspar and other cars of this type, the Kaiser-Darrin and the thousands of Corvettes that predate the 1955 Speedster?
    Joseph R. Zeiger

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    Quote Originally Posted by StudeRich View Post
    Ok Gary, fixed. The Darrins were HOW many? And '53-'54 6 Cyl. Corvettes, not much more!
    435 Kaiser-Darrins
    3955 1953-1954 Corvettes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 63t-cab View Post
    I'm probably wrong,but wasn't their another car being made of glass in the 50s/60s. maybe it was some kind of kit car or ?,just seems another name was out their.
    Yes, there were others, but the names just didn't come to me and, as with most things, I didn't look them up. I think that I covered the others by stating; "...and other cars of this type..."
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    Granted, many parts used by Studebaker previous to the Avanti were made of similar type materials, but I've never heard if Studebaker manufactured those parts in house previous to Avanti, or if they were sourced from a supplier?

    There is a great increase in difficulty to manufacture an entire car body out of fiberglass, vs. a part made of fiberglass to be attached to a primarily steel body. My impression has always been that if GM farmed out Corvette bodies to MFG, fiberglass was still a little exotic to just be dropped in place on your average 1963 Automotive Production Line. Even at a GM production line. Once the resin set, you were pretty much set in stone.

    I've always heard that the redesign and resulting demand spike for the Stingray Split Window Coupe in 1963 kind of forced MFG to place Studebaker on notice that they would service GM first and foremost, providing the incentive for Studebaker to start their own Avanti Body Line. Of course, fiberglass work is a no brainer today, and plastics took over and rule the roost in modern cars. But, I keep hearing the words of Cliff McMillan, former Studebaker executive, in the 80's Documentary "Studebaker, Less Than They Promised", explain that "You couldn't take a big sledgehammer and get a door to fit" describing the frustrations experienced on the Avanti Line.

    I know the Corvette is likely the most produced fiberglass vehicle of all time. Is the Avanti the second most mass produced fiberglass vehicle, surpassing the other low production ones mentioned? Other later on "composite" bodied vehicles such as Fiero and Saturn didn't have to deal with the complexities of old fashioned fiberglass. Your mold had to be dead nuts on pretty much in 1962-3.

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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 556063 View Post
    Is the Avanti the second most mass produced fiberglass vehicle, surpassing the other low production ones mentioned?
    Lotus from England has been building fiberglass bodies since 1957, and not all that 'low volume', either; especially the Elan.

    Craig

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    Studebaker did not produce those fiberglass parts that were used on the '55 and up cars. They were produced by outside vendors.
    R2Andrea

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    By chance a nice 1962 Corvette parked next to our 1963 R-1 last evening at Ocean Beach. I had fun mentioning that the bodies for both cars were made by the same company. R-2524 with body 63RQ 1683. Ordered 11/21/82 at Maffe Bros., Inc. There is a date on the upper left of the production order of 12/13/62, but the caption was not printed. Final Assembly 01/09/63. Delivery in Bellaire, OH on 01/31/63. Also, engine number 1879 on the order.

    What year did Corvette start makking their own bodies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Bryant View Post
    By chance a nice 1962 Corvette parked next to our 1963 R-1 last evening at Ocean Beach. I had fun mentioning that the bodies for both cars were made by the same company. R-2524 with body 63RQ 1683. Ordered 11/21/82 at Maffe Bros., Inc. There is a date on the upper left of the production order of 12/13/62, but the caption was not printed. Final Assembly 01/09/63. Delivery in Bellaire, OH on 01/31/63. Also, engine number 1879 on the order.

    What year did Corvette start makking their own bodies?
    AFAIK MFG still manufactures the fiberglass bodies for the Corvette. MFG has been in the business (first boats, then cars) longer than anyone else, and they know more about it than anyone else.

    Boats are easy - if a boat comes out 1/4" short, nobody knows or cares. Figuring, and allowing for shrinkage and distortion to auto specs is like really difficult. Lotus used at least two sources for their fiberglass bodies, and only Bristol (the airplane mfr) could mold bodies which were close enough to use. Many of the Lotus bodies were garbage, as were some of the early Corvette bodies.

    I had a friend who worked for MFG in the sixties. He told me about the first shot at molding the undertray for the 'Vette. It was, as you can imagine, a huge two-piece mold. First shot, they stuck the mold together, so tight that two industrial forklifts couldn't separate the halves.

    By comparison stamping metal is easy-peasy.

    NO, Studebaker didn't make any complete Avanti bodies. They may have made a few small parts.

    The technology was way beyond Studebaker, Lotus, Ferrari, Glaspar, Turner and everyone else, including sometimes, MFG.
    Last edited by jnormanh; 08-05-2014 at 05:04 PM.

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    jnormanh: Thanks for the information. Bob B.

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnormanh View Post
    ....NO, Studebaker didn't make any complete Avanti bodies. They may have made a few small parts.

    The technology was way beyond Studebaker, Lotus, Ferrari, Glaspar, Turner and everyone else, including sometimes, MFG.
    Jeffrey, have you read the Turning Wheels article being discussed?

    I just checked the latest (2014) Studebaker Drivers Club Membership Roster and I do not see any Jeffrey Holmes listed...or any Holmes in South Carolina, for that matter. So I assume you are not a member of The Studebaker Drivers Club and, hence, have not read the subject article. (You may have joined since the Roster was published and are thus receiving Turning Wheels, or read the article somewhere else. If so, feel free to say so...in which case, I stand corrected.)

    It might be an idea to READ that on which you are commenting before pontificating with undocumented statements such as, "The technology was beyond Studebaker...." That is, unless you already know it all, which I suppose is [an albeit remote and improbable] possibility.

    Otherwise, I dare say the article's author, John Hull, knows considerably more than you do about Avantis and how and where their bodies were built. IMHO, you would do well to read the article and consider the well-documented research that went into it before opining on it. BP
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    Jeffrey, have you read the Turning Wheels article being discussed?

    I just checked the latest (2014) Studebaker Drivers Club Membership Roster and I do not see any Jeffrey Holmes listed...or any Holmes in South Carolina, for that matter. So I assume you are not a member of The Studebaker Drivers Club and, hence, have not read the subject article. (You may have joined since the Roster was published and are thus receiving Turning Wheels, or read the article somewhere else. If so, feel free to say so...in which case, I stand corrected.)

    It might be an idea to READ that on which you are commenting before pontificating with undocumented statements such as, "The technology was beyond Studebaker...." That is, unless you already know it all, which I suppose is [an albeit remote and improbable] possibility.

    Otherwise, I dare say the article's author, John Hull, knows considerably more than you do about Avantis and how and where their bodies were built. IMHO, you would do well to read the article and consider the well-documented research that went into it before opining on it. BP
    I did read the article. I do know a little about Avantis, probably more than most here and less than John Hull.

    From the article in Turning Wheels, there is no mention or pictures of Studebaker molding the body parts. I believe that MFG molded all of the body parts. The Studebaker meeting minutes refer to Avantis being "...framed in South Bend..." My understanding is that MFG molded all of the Avanti parts (the technically difficult part) and Studebaker assembled the dozens of parts that make up an Avanti (the labor intensive part). My belief is that Studebaker and MFG both assembled Avanti bodies from parts/panels molded by MFG.

    Some post-Studebaker Avantis did have their bodies molded in-house. For example, the whole upper portion of a 1990 Avanti was molded as one piece.
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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Too bad Sigmund Gegax is no longer around to relate his story of MFG building complete bodies: http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.c...ighlight=gegax

    Craig

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Cool, Gary.

    My annoyance is with people who pontificate and then post, exhibiting self-righteous authority without having read the subject material being discussed, which is terribly unfair to the article's author and disrespectful to people who have read the article. That is especially true for non-SDC members who use this forum for their own aggrandizement without financially supporting the club that pays for it.

    That was my complaint, Gary. Obviously, it does not apply to you from either standpoint.

    And I wonder....if "The technology was 'way beyond Studebaker," who made the large, toothed fiberglass noses for Transtar trucks? Where would Tow 'Mater be without those Transtars for toothy inspiration, even though he was an International truck...or even the whole CARS movie? The logical extensions of Studebaker's manufacturing ignorance and backwater ineptness thus become endless; all those children out there who wouldn't have known Lightning McQueen or Doc Hudson! The horror!

    (Before anyone jumps down my throat, I do not know if Studebaker made the fiberglass Transtar noses in house or bought them from an outside vendor. Knowledgeable, factual clarification would be appropriate and appreciated.)

    Whew!

    That said, we will now take sides trying to differentiate between the words made and built, or the difference between make and build.

    So carry on, wordsmiths; I'm working on a future Turning Wheels Feature Article right now and must allow you guys to thrash out those differences. All hands report to [the poop?] deck with their dictionaries! BP
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    I'm with Bob wheres the poop deck?
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    How about "assembled"! Stude did assemble bodies from parts manufactured by MFG, to "hopefully" keep pace with orders since MFG was almost going full time Vette. Didn't work out as the orders stopped. After all, Studebaker actually assembled all it's vehicles, as does every Auto producer. Some parts made in house some from suppliers. Stude did more in house, than most, with it's own foundry. Today even much of the casting is outsourced.

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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avantict View Post
    I'm with Bob. Where's the poop deck?
    My nose reports it being in the immediate vicinity of Post #25, John. BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karterfred88 View Post
    How about "assembled"? Stude did assemble bodies from parts manufactured by MFG, to "hopefully" keep pace with orders since MFG was almost going full time Vette. Didn't work out as the orders stopped. After all, Studebaker actually assembled all it's vehicles, as does every Auto producer. Some parts made in house some from suppliers. Stude did more in house, than most, with it's own foundry. Today even much of the casting is outsourced.
    A good alternative, Fred.

    Now we have to decide, once a company has assembled a car / truck, did they make the car / truck, or did they build it? BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

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    I will add my 2 cents.

    Where I work, which is building pump and air compressor skids for the oil & gas industry, we had at least three different steps in the making something out of raw steel for the skid into a finished, deliverable product. The first step is the fabrication, which is the welding of all the individual steel components to make that skid (In fiberglass, it would be bonding together). Then, there is the next step we call machining where we grind smooth any rough welds, high spots, and most important, true up any mating areas for correct tolerance where the components have to meet up with it. (Again, fiberglass components will need to be sanded for smoothness and most likely have to have areas ground smooth for door latches, hinges, etc.) Finally, assembly begins where the other components are added, including the pump, motor, couplings, guards, are mounted on the painted skid. (On a fiberglass car, it will be the interior, glass, door hardware, etc.

    So take your pick which term one wishes to use. I will pick 'fabrication' myself.

    Craig

  36. #36
    Champion Member
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    My 63 Avanti is # RQ 4239. Any info on her?
    TX.

    CK

  37. #37
    President Member
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    How about they "Erected" it
    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    A good alternative, Fred.

    Now we have to decide, once a company has assembled a car / truck, did they make the car / truck, or did they build it? BP
    Joseph R. Zeiger

  38. #38
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    This may not be directly associated with this topic, but how would a chemist that works for Dow, be involved with the manufacture of Avantis. I'm distantly acquainted with this gent, whom I sent an email to on the recommendation of a very close friend of mine who knows him personally. My request was regarding the substrate of the fiberglass used to produce the panels. This fellow's reply almost sounded like he was standing there when the panels were manufactured. He explained the method used to fabricate any specific panel from oiling the jig with a release agent to the amount of resin sprayed or laid up throughout the entire process to create a panel. Whether the fiberglass strand was 1/8" or finely chopped, and elaborated on the composition of the thickness from the first MM which would up to be the smooth outer layer through 2 more applications with the resin amount decreasing and the strand increasing til the wall thickness was a bit over an 1/8". He also helped me solve my problem...

  39. #39
    President Member WCP's Avatar
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    MFG "made" the fibreglass parts. Both MFG and Studebaker assembled the fibreglass parts and therefore "built" the fibreglass bodies, while Studebaker assembled and "built" the completed car. Both MFG and Studebaker were on a steep learning curve during the fibreglass body part assembly. Some of the 1962 production are examples of that. Just my 2 cents - Oh, that should be a nickel as we don't have pennies any more up here!

  40. #40
    Golden Hawk Member
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    Oct 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by bestisbest View Post
    My 63 Avanti is # RQ 4239. Any info on her?
    TX.

    CK
    It was built in May 1963. I believe that it utilized a body molded and assembled by MFG. What is the body number? What else do you want to know? Do you have the build sheet for your Avanti?
    Gary L.
    Wappinger, NY

    SDC member since 1968
    Studebaker enthusiast much longer

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