It’s been an adventure trying to get all the stories of “building your own car in the ‘50s” nailed down so many years later. And this story about the Sierra Sportcar Frame has been one of the toughest to get of them all. It all started with Harold Pace – about 5 years ago.
Harold had just returned from a talk in San Antonio, Texas where he listened to several folks discuss race car engineering and design. One of these folks was Bill Jones who as part of his discussion shared information about his company in the early 1950s which built the “Sierra Sportscar Frame.”
Ok….we’ve tracked down Ed Martindale and Ted Mangles who owned Mameco frames. We found the folks who built the frames for the Chattanooga Boiler and Tank Company. Other frame companies included Kurtis, Manning, Multiplex, Shorty Post, Triplex in Chicago – not to mention that you could buy frames from Bangert, Glasspar, Kellison, LaDawri and Woodill Wildfire. But Sierra? It was completely new to us, and this company had been located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Lucky for me, near the time Harold shared this information with me I had also located an ad for the Sierra frame – it appeared on the inside back cover of a magazine published in 1953 called “Cars of Today.” This was a special one edition magazine for 1953 published by the editors of “Speed Age Magazine” – a reputable magazine of the era. Click here to read more about this magazine. It was this information that I came armed with when I called Bill Jones to discuss his memory of the company – and ask him about the booklet on his frame company shown in the ad.
Sadly, Bill wasn’t able to find a copy of his booklet at the time, but I’m excited to share that just last month we located a copy of the 6-page booklet. It took about 5 years, but we can begin sharing the story of the Sierra Sportscar Frame with today’s article – a frame designed and built by the Bill Jones Accessories Company of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The Sierra Sportcar Frame Ad:
So far we’ve found just one ad for the frame – as mentioned above. Bill Jones thought that might be the only ad he placed, but we continue to look for more advertisements out there. The cover of the magazine and the ad appears below along with the ad and close-ups of parts of the ad. And check it out – Caroll Shelby was a driver who tested this frame for them – during its development in 1952.
The Sierra Sportcar Frame Booklet:
One of the remarkable elements of this frame is who Bill Jones had test it. As discussed in his ad, both Indianapolis Speedway driver Jimmy Reece tested it along with none other than Caroll Shelby – and remember this was in 1953. Very early. Some of you may remember that Caroll Shelby had driven a Victress sports car as well around the same time (1953) as well.
So much history back then around these custom-built sports cars. Let’s have a look at the 6 page booklet. And there are close-ups of each photo after the pages of the booklet are shown below.
Bill was just 30 years old when he launched the Sierra Sportscar Frame as part of his larger “Bill Jones Accessories Company.” In the next article we’ll explore more detail on this frame, some of Bill’s memories of how it came to be, and what his plans were post 1953. We’ll also discuss what Bill did later in his life around cars – some surprises are sure to be had 🙂
Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember gang…
The adventure continues here at Forgotten Fiberglass.
i met mr jones a few years ago while having a weekly lunch with what i call the old car guys in san antonio, i was amazed to find out his back ground and history, im looking forward to reading it here in printed form. at my age, 75, i was around when you wanted something for your car you built it yourself, very few parts were readily available. i called my oldest friend as soon as i saw bill jones name, we were supposed to go visit him at his home and see some of the vintage race cars he had, but as usual got put on the back burner, now i’m told a little while ago he isn’t with us any more. i’m hoping this was something my friend heard wrong because it seems like every day brings news of another legend passing away. Thanks for the memories, i’m in the process now of going through all my old books and literature for more brochures, i would order one for every kit car or body available starting in the 50s, so far i’ve only found the victress, kellmark, and a very intricate one on a small open race car.
Hi, John… The G2 list that includes frame type is predominately “Post”, and a very few Mameco. At least one Kurtis is listed. The caveat for the list is that many cars do not list a type, mfg. or builder. Many owners do not know (or seem to care!) what frame they have. There may be a Sierra frame out there somewhere, hopefully somebody will read this and recognize that severe “kick-up” and proclaim “that sure looks like my frame”. That’s the value of this article, it’s information is NOW available to those of us that love this stuff. Thanks again, Geoff! I sure wish somebody could look at my frame and say…”hey,I know what that is!”
Hi Rodney. I’ve been hibernating and it is great that your on board and keeping an eye out on the Glasspar stuff. Hope to keep in closer touch now that Geoff is back on the website. John Deren
How do you find this stuff!!!!!! I wonder if any of the cars in the Glasspar Registery are sitting on one of these. Now that it is known what these frames are. Does Rodney have this kind of information? John Deren
Thanks for your kind words John. You’ll soon learn how many frames were built (more than 1) and maybe Rodney will chip in too. Glad you enjoyed 🙂 Geoff
So if I add up the cost of the frame kit, a quality fiberglass body, used suspension, gearbox, engine, radiator, battery, and all the little stuff like paint, seats and gauges, I think a reasonable cost for building your own sports car in 1953 would be in the $2000 – $2500 range, or the cost of a new low-end Detroit car. An MG cost about that at the time, and a Triumph TR2 that had just come out cost only a little more. Most people opted for a factory built car, even if it was a little British roadster. What you didn’t get with a factory built car was (1)Pride of the build, (2) Individuality, (3)V8 power. I was only five years old at the time, so I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t build my first vehicle, a motorized bicycle, until 1961. I would have built my own car if I had had the money, time and space to do it. It’s a big undertaking. Having restored cars and motorcycles, it is not something to be taken lightly. The pioneers who built these cars were made of stern stuff. We don’t see the same thing in today’s young men and women, although we see plenty of other great characteristics.
Excellent points Ray. We have literature that also shows that many of the manufacturers thought you could build one of these for about $1500 with the proper planning (1953 costs). Great comments and thanks for sharing. Geoff
Wonderful!..:) I have one more album to find of the “Marlee Build”…Stay tuned! Julie
Sounds good Julie 🙂 Geoff
That was awesome. Thanks.