By on July 23, 2021

Today marks Part III and a conclusion to our series on the 2003 Studebaker XUV. We’ve covered the truck’s announcement and immediate lawsuit action from General Motors, who were not keen to let something so similar to the Hummer H2 enter production without a fight. We join the action post courtroom.

Avanti conceded to making changes to the XUV with two goals in mind: First, to differentiate it enough from the H2 so GM would allow it to proceed to production and conclude the lawsuit. And second, so women would flock to it instead of the Hummer which was too much a “man’s man-type vehicle” for women, per Avanti’s CEO.

Kelly ran the visual edits by General Motors, adding in they were “minimal, and it still looks a lot like it did.” Apparently not too much like it looked previously, because GM okayed the alterations displayed to them via design sketch. Kelly assured the press at the time that the alterations like windshield rake and window size (minor?) would only set back production from fall 2003 to winter 2003. The truck’s other features like sliding doors and roof would stay in place.

When it entered production, the XUV was set to use a Ford Super Duty pickup chassis from 2003 or 2004. Two engines were purported to be available, in three different specifications. The only diesel option was the 325-horse 6.0-liter Power Stroke V8. Two gasoline-powered engines would also appear: Ford’s 6.8-liter V10 in naturally aspirated format for 310 horsepower, or with an optional supercharger attached for 425 raging horses.

The dimensions of the XUV were not inconsiderable. As previously mentioned it was two feet longer than an H2, at 216 inches overall. The body sat atop a 134-inch wheelbase, and the sliding doors and heavy retractable roof panel added to the already hefty design. Overall weight was around 6,000 pounds. Kelly expected to move 1,000 XUVs per year, at a base price of around $75,000. The company did actually debut the revised XUV at the Chicago Auto Show in 2004, this time painted in silver. Per some archived pictures from the show, it’s clear the rear sliding doors of the first XUV had gone, replaced by traditional doors.

It’s fun to consider that Ford might’ve been informed what their truck platforms would be used for – a direct competitor to the H2 for which Ford had no offering. But would it have mattered to GM had the XUV reached production, a Studebaker-branded SUV that cost $75,000 and was filled with parts-bin pieces? Puts one in mind of the Laforza.

The 2004 show was the last time anyone saw or heard much about the XUV, as shortly thereafter Michael Kelly was arrested by the FBI, and the operation folded. Though Avanti Motors sold once more to its current owner, the company’s website (active again) bears no indication the XUV ever existed. It’s one of those concept cars nearly lost to time, only news links and Nokia candy bar phone pictures remain.

[Image: Avanti Motors]

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6 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 2003 Studebaker XUV Story, Part III...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    “It’s fun to consider that Ford might’ve been informed what their truck platforms would be used for – a direct competitor to the H2 for which Ford had no offering.”

    I mean, a 6,000 lb SUV built on a Ford Super Duty chassis and offering Ford engines sounds pretty similar to a product Ford themselves offered until 2005.

    You could quibble that the Excursion and H2 weren’t intended to be direct competitors, but I’d imagine a lot of cross-shopping was going on among people who wanted the biggest, baddest SUV available.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I’m trying to wrap my head about what kind of fuel economy a supercharged V-10 lugging around 6,000+ lbs before people and cargo would get. 4 city, 8 hwy? The Excursion was lucky to break double digits in mixed driving with the V-10.

    And typically getting arrested by the FBI tends to end one’s involvement with an auto company…ask John DeLorean how his little misadventure with law enforcement went towards the future of his company.

    I like these what-ifs of automotive history. It takes courage to sink that much time, motivation, and money into one of the riskiest ventures ever, short of, say, starting up an airline. But this idea was a sinking ship if there ever was one using cobbled together parts and copied styling.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    ” The company did actually debut the revised XUV at the Chicago Auto Show in 2004″

    Meh, chick car
    /s

    With the Ford underpinnings it probably would have sold a few copies, being the biggest Canyonaro in all the land. That $75K seems like a bargain in 2021

  • avatar

    I don’t understand overreaction by Big 3 to domestic independent automakers. What they are afraid of? Don’t they know that it will be Japanese and Germans who will bury them?

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Detroit has had plans under wraps for years which the rest of the world can only dream of.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rope-a-dope

      Related (from fiction):
      https://youtu.be/eyPdtdlzf7Q

      Bonus from *very* deep in the archives:
      https://youtu.be/mRi180Kkb6Y

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Brilliant articles Mr lewis. Very fun reads.

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