And Now For Something…….Completely Different: The Dangers of Driving a Fiberglass Sports Car in the 1950’s

Hi Gang… 

I know the automotive world is not all fiberglass.  However, there are times when some of you…. or some of me…. will want to share something – not related to the fiberglass genre in any way.  

In this spirit, I’ve created a new category of stories in honor of Monte Python and their famous segway which went something like this: (Click on the Play button below – which looks like a small black triangle):  

[audio:https://www.undiscoveredclassics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/completely_different2.mp3|titles=completely_different2]Anytime I run a story like this, I’ll warn you with the 6 words that appear in the first part of the story title.  This is also the category name for such stories.  

So….without adieu….  I present the next in what will be a series of articles (unstoppable) called…

“And Now For Something… Completely Different” 

I hope you enjoy the story… 

Geoff  

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Hi Gang…

Little did you know about the dangers that owners faced back in the 1950’s when building and driving fiberglass bodied sports cars .  I’m not talking about lack of safety equipment.  That’s a given.  Most any “Detroit Iron” back then would have pierced a fiberglass sports car like a jousting pole at a Medieval Fair.  What I’m talking about are the police.  That was the real danger!

I Fought the Law…. And The Law Won….

1959 Newspaper Article (Connecticut): DO-IT-YOURSELF CAR BODY LEADS TO MAN'S ARREST

One of our gang, Marshall Foxworthy, researcher extraordinaire from the Atlanta area of Georgia recently sent in a short article that caught his eye.  You can read the article as well – it’s on the left – just click on it.  But here’s what it says for those of you who might want it in an easier format:

DATELINE 1959, CONNECTICUT: Do-It-Yourself Car Body Leads To Man’s Arrest

Driving a car with a home-made body led to the arrest Friday of David Clark, 23 of 19 Cottage Street., on a charge of operating a motor vehicle with improper registration.

He was stopped at the Center by Policeman Richard Lorber on a routine check.  Investigation, police said, showed that the car was registered as a 1956 Buick.

According to police, the body of the vehicle hadn’t the appearance of a Buick or of any other known car.  Clark admitted to police that he had made the body by hand from fiberglass (for shame! – Geoff adds) and that he had not notified the Motor Vehicle Dept. of a change of body style.

Wow! 

Who would’ve thought this might have occurred.  Heck – if they still enforce this law, I’d be in jail forever.  I have 2 or 3 cars that I even don’t know what they are.  If I finish the “Forgotten Fiberglass” book from jail, at least you’ll know that my good friend Rick D’Louhy can finish all the important stuff from the safety of his home until I get out of the “big house”.  We’ll have to make up some names for the Mysterions I own though.  Sacrifices….

Anyway….

Since I did not have the chance to build one of these cars and drive them in the 1950s, I’ve gained some evidence of this type of problem – and other types of issues too – through conversations with those who were builders and drivers back in the day.   One conversation I recall was with car builder and current Victress owner, Alan Emory.

Alan Emory’s Victress S1A

Alan’s a special guy.  To our knowledge, he’s owned a Victress S1A longer than anyone else.  He purchased his car in December, 1962 and has kept it since then.  And prior to 1962, he purchased his first Victress S1A in 1958.  So Alan has been a continuous Victress owner for over 52 years.  Very few have owned their cars for this period of time – Alan has and is quite the fiberglass sports car enthusiast.

During one of my conversations with Alan, he told me a story.  Back in 1962, he had found his second Victress S1A and wanted to bring it home.  He and his friend drove to where the car had been stored for many years, and towed it attached by rope/chain to the lead car.  Alan was steering in the Victress.  He found the car in good shape, but it hadn’t been started for awhile, and it had some fender damage too.

About half way home, he decided to start the car – and idle it during the trip.  It worked – and smoked like a fiend!  All was going well, and as they went over a hill….the coppers nabbed ’em!  Houligans that they were….*wink*

After inspecting what they were doing (towing a car with another), they ticketedAlan with 5 citations:

  1. Broken fender needing repair
  2. Horn not working
  3. Height of car off ground too low – the gas tank straps touched their measuring instrument that rolled under the car and measured the bottom of the car height from the ground
  4. The center of the headlight had to be 14 inches from ground – and was not (California Law).  The taillights were fine, though
  5. The car was smoking from the tailpipes

Quite a bit of harassement there for such a courageous driver as Alan.  Alan took the ticket and paid the fine – and still has the car today.  

I’ve talked to other builders during the day that were fined for lack of bumpers – or bumpers that were too low.  There may have been other problems too.  So building and owning a fiberglass sports car was not for the faint of heart.  You had to really watch what you did to ensure you met the standards for the local laws/ordinances, as well as drive safe too.  Not an easy path to navigate for many, I assume.

1952 Hot Rod Safety Video – Starring the Road Runners!

I found a great little film/video completed in 1952.  It talks about “hot rod safety” and involves early dry lakes scenes most likely starring the “Road Runners” club – the name of the film.  That’s an assumption, so I could be wrong about the name of the club, but it was certainly filmed “in period” during the golden years of hot rodding. 

While there are no fiberglass sports cars in this 12 minute film, it’s a closely related genre to our fiberglass sports cars, and should be entertaining to most of you.  Here’s the film – be sure to get some popcorn first 🙂

[vsw id=”-5851344091937046529#” source=”google” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

If any of you have stories of your hot rod days and coming up against laws that affected the building – and driving – of your car…be sure to let us know in the discussion forum.

Hope you enjoyed the film and..

Glass on gang..

Geoff

Update: 5/20/2010:  I have to add another feature flagged by law enforcement.  One of the reasons I found my 1961 Covington Tiburon in pristine shape was that it couldn’t be run on roads in California in the mid 1960’s.  California required safety glass and Florida did not.  The car came with a custom plexiglass windshield.  Hence, the car was never taken out of the garage from 1965 thru around 1998 when it was sold to the people I bought it from.  GH

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