• Feb 5, 2007


Avanti, the originators of the "continuation" model concept, are facing a potential setback in their planned re-emergence. There were plans in the works to unveil a car at the Chicago Auto Show, but that's been put on hold. It appears that Avanti CEO Michael Kelly has been charged with being a dastardly gentleman. At issue is Kelly's involvement in a real estate Ponzi scheme. The FBI paid Mr. Kelly a visit two days after Christmas and placed him in custody, where he awaits arraignment on mail fraud.

More after the jump.

[Source: Autoweek]

Avanti, born from the ashes of Studebaker's early 1960s move to Canada and concurrent cancelling of the original Studebaker Avanti model, has had its share of ups and downs. The company was originally formed by two Studebaker dealers who wanted to see the stylish coupe, designed by a team spearheaded by Raymond Loewy, remain in production. The design and tooling were purchased from Studebaker and the Avanti II carried on with the same basic design, applying some updates along the way. In the early 1980s, the company underwent an ownership change and then a bankrupty, paving the way for Michael Kelly to purchase the company. Kelly was at the helm when the Avanti switched from the original Studebaker designed underpinnings to the General Motors F-Body platform. The car was now capable of being serviced at any GM dealership, and performance was in line with F-Body contemporaries.

The 1990s were a rocky time for Avanti, there were ownership changes and a shutdown. As the millenium drew to a close, there was a resurgence, and an updated Avanti was designed by Tom Kellogg, who'd been part of the original Avanti design team. The new design is an evolution of the original look, but the Avanti also offers several other models, from a four door Avanti to a H2-esque SUV called the XUV (which appears to be based on a Ford truck chassis). There's even a works division called SVO turning out a slick kit car called the Lister that apparently has no relationship to the UK-based racing concern of the same name.

Despite Kelly's arrest, Avanti president David Sharples states that Kelly is no longer chairman of the company nor does he own any share of Avanti. The company is based in Georgia, and there's a large complex in Cancun, Mexico that Sharples hopes to keep busy with a production target of 200 vehicles per year. It will take a while to see how it all plays out, but with the death of the F-Body several years in the past, we're wondering what underpins the new Avantis. There's mention of a relationship with Ford, and the website lists all sorts of safety gear that would positively kill a small manufacturer to develop. Wild conjecture leads us to wonder if Avantis are using the D2C platform that underpins the Mustang?


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 7 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Agreed. The backend was fine, but that nose and headlight combo was always retarded - and yet mysteriously revered I guess. Look, if it's not about looks, it's about power and power can come in a better looking package.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Michael Kelly appeared at his detention hearing in Chicago today. He was denied the right to bail since he has no assets in the US and is a flight risk. The case against him is overwhelming and he is facing 53 years in jail for defrauding thousands of retirees. He actually had the nerve to state that he only makes $55,000 a year and has a meager $48,000 in assets. There is more information at this page http://www.lesliestipek.com/michaelekelly.asp
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thank you nelly, i feel the same way. I thought they were ugly as sin when they tried to give them away on "wheel of fortune" back in the early 90's. It somehow came across as even worse looking when i saw one a friends podiatrist had purchased (he got it after selling his lamborghini... foot doctors are strange) and even now when i pass an actual old and classic one on my way to work everyday, the back looks enticing, but the rest of the car, well you already know my feelings.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Always thought they were hideous. Good riddance.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am so heartbroken, not really, these things make the Pontiac Aztek look gorgeous
      • 7 Years Ago
      sheesh. somebody has to stick up for us avanti owners. i have an '87. granted they are not the greatest cars in the world, but i still never pass myself on the road, and it didn't cost me a fortune to buy, and my local mechanic can fix it because underneath it's a chevy. and not a bad chevy, in '87 they started out with the drivetrain of a monte carlo ss.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am the proud owner of a 1980 Avanti named "Big Red." I think she's gorgeous and I wouldn't trade her for any new car on the road today. She gets admiring stares wherever I drive her. Will the car you're driving now look as good to you when it's 40 years old? I don't think so.