Avanti Motor Corp. unveils the Studebaker XUV at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 13, 2003.
Avanti planned to use a Ford F-250 chassis and offer buyers a choice of two Ford engines: a 6.0-liter V-8 diesel or a 6.8-liter V-10 gasoline powerplant. Stickers were to start at $75,000.
The concept featured an orange paint job, large wheels and boxy shape as it stood over a display of faux rocks and vegetation in McCormick Place.
“Studebaker” was embossed on the rear gate and the windows were blacked out, much like a remote-controlled car’s shell.
Avanti said it was going to start assembling the vehicle in 2003 at its plant in Villa Rica, Ga., and wanted to build 1,000 units a year.
Avanti was originally a nameplate of Studebaker Corp., which stopped auto production in 1967. Avanti Motor Corp. was established to continue production of the Avanti sports car and other models.
Michael Kelly, an entrepreneur with one-time business interests in auto body shops, “fantasy” vans, ethanol fuel additives, Mexico resorts, raceways and family fun parks, bought the South Bend, Ind., Studebaker spinoff in 1986. He sold it in 1988 and bought it again in 2001.
The full-size SUV concept was not without controversy.
General Motors filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleging that the Studebaker XUV, which stood for Xtreme Utility Vehicle, resembled too closely the Hummer H2.
GM sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Avanti from manufacturing or selling the Studebaker XUV.
“It is clear that Avanti Motor Corp. is attempting to profit from and capitalize upon the enormous popularity and goodwill that GM has developed in the wildly successful H2 by knocking off the H2," Charles Ellerbrock, a trademark lawyer for GM, said at the time.
The two companies later reached a settlement in which Avanti agreed to more sharply slant the XUV’s windshield and remove hood latches and vents, among other design changes, to avoid confusion between the Studebaker and the H2.
After the changes, the XUV was set to be 215.5 inches long and resemble the 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire more than the H2, Reuters reported at the time.
Despite all the hoopla, the vehicle never saw the light of day.
Kelly was arrested in December 2006 by the FBI for operating what the Justice Department alleged was a $400 million real estate Ponzi scheme.
David Sharples, a former MG-Rover director, joined Kelly’s Avanti Motors as president in 2006. Kelly was no longer chairman and no longer owned any shares of the company after his arrest.
Avanti Motors folded in 2007, according to Consumer Guide Automotive. Kelly spent six years in custody before pleading guilty to a single fraud charge in December 2012, The Chicago Tribune reported. He died in December 2013 of complications from cancer.