Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cars of 'glass - LaDawri and Glasspar

I don't usually write about kit cars. These days kit cars are often replicars. (I am excluding cars sold in other countries that are sold in kit form in the US to avoid some import laws.) Some, like certain Cobra and old Porsche replicars, are quite good. Others, like many of the cars meant to look like a modern Ferrari or Lamborghini, are laughably bad.

Back in the day, before unibody construction was the norm, kit cars were quite common. They were made of fiberglass. Fiberglass was the carbon fiber of the day. It was lightweight and strong. Most were not replicars - although some used styling cues found on contemporary sports cars - and looked unique. Many used VW Beetle components. They looked cool, were usually reliable, but often performed much like a VW Beetle. Others used either their own frames or the frames from US cars. Dropping a V8 into them was easy. A V8 in an austere, lightweight fiberglass bodied car made for a fast car. Often a very fast car...

LaDawri Sebring - I'm guessing this is a Sebring. The seller doesn't seem to know. LaDawri built a number of different bodies.

LaDawri Coachcraft was founded by Leslie Albert Dawes. The name came from the combination of his name and the name of a friend, Don Wright. The company started off in British Columbia, Canada, but eventually moved to California.

I can't find any hard numbers, but by the late 1950s / early 1960s, LaDawrie was one of the largest fiberglass body manufacturers in the US. At some point in the mid to late sixties, the business was either destroyed by a fire or shut down by the IRS. No one seems to know for certain. (A well researched history of Les Dawes and LaDawri can be found here.)

This LaDawri is in rough shape. For all intents and purposes, you will have to build the car all over again. The seller believes the engine is from a Cadillac. I don't know enough about old American V8s to say whether or not that's correct.

If I were to buy it, I'd paint it red and drop in the biggest modern V8 that would fit. Driving it would be like being on a roller coaster. Scary as hell while you're doing it, but so much fun that you would want to do it over and over again.

Located in Monrovia, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

1963 Glasspar G2 - There are all sorts of stories about how this car came to be. What is known is that it was designed and built by Bill Tritt (of Glasspar Boat fame). The G2 body is based on Tritt's first car, the Brooks Boxer, named after the man who commissioned it, Air Force Major Ken Brooks. That car sat on a Willys Jeep chassis and was powered by a V8. Around 1951 the Boxer body was slightly modified and became the G2.

Some G2s were sold as complete cars, but most were sold as kits. From what I can tell, about 200 were made. One was raced and was shown at last year's Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance.

The seller doesn't leave many details about the car other than saying that it needs to be restored. The engine is a Ford Flathead V8. He's listing it as a 1963 model year, so I assume it is sitting on a 1963 frame.

It looks like this car will be a lot easier to restore than the LaDawri above. But it's seven times the price and you won't get the full (bloodied knuckles) experience of building (rebuilding) a kit car.

Located inStockton, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

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