Vintage PR Shot: 2005 Avanti Convertible – Nightmare. Defraud. Die

The post-Studebaker Avanti saga is a long and convoluted one, and it ended with its final owner, Michael Kelly being arrested for running a large Ponzi scheme. Given that this was the final Avanti, essentially a disguised Mustang, it couldn’t have ended soon enough. How tired we got of hearing about the latest resurrection of Avanti.

Kelly owned Avanti twice; the first time, bought it out of bankruptcy in 1986 or so, after Stephen Blake’s go at it starting in 1981–with $1.9 million in aid from the State of Indiana–fizzled out. Kelly didn’t keep it long; already in 1987 he sold it to John Cafaro, who finagled aid from the state of Ohio to move production there. That all petered out in 1991.

We might have hoped that Avanti had finally been put to rest, but like a zombie, it was resurrected by Kelly in 1999, and moved operations to Georgia. Was state aid involved again?

In 2006, operations were moved to Cancun, Mexico (why Cancun?), but it was all very short-lived. He and some other partners were arrested for running a giant Ponzi scheme that allegedly defrauded seniors of some $342 million. He went to prison and his offshore assets were liquidated to make partial restitution to his victims. He died of cancer in 2013.