The 1960’s were a wild time.
I mean in fiberglass sports cars, of course! Specially designed and individually designed fiberglass sports car bodies which dominated the 1950’s sports car scene were being replaced with clones or copies of famous 1960’s sports cars – the most famous of which were the copies (small and large) of the Ford GT 40 race car. Other copies of cars were seen, too, and the smaller copies of 1930’s Mercedes cars (the Gazelle being the most famous) came in even later.
So things change – and that’s never a bad thing. In fact, I teach my students that change is good – usually by providing the following example:
“Change is good – you go first”
But not all things change, and there were several cars with a unique design that entered the market in the 1960’s. The Covington Tiburon was one. The Fiberfab Banshee was another. And one of my favorites was the CRV Piranha – popularized by the show “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” which featured a Gene Winfield customized version of the Piranha. Thankfully the car still exists as of today.
So who’s “the man with the plan” in terms of understanding the history of the Piranha? My good friend Nick Whitlow, of course.
Nick Whitlow: CRV Piranha Historian – “The Man With The Plan”
I first met Nick thru Harold Pace concerning my interest in the Piranha. It’s a strikingly designed car, and I wanted to learn more. Thankfully, Harold and Nick were many “paces” out in front of me and Nick had a website dedicated to these cars up and running. So immediately I visited the Piranha website and then wanted to learn more. You can learn more too, by clicking here and visiting Nick’s Piranha website.
So Nick and I became good friends over many years of corresponding. In fact, Rick D’Louhy and I got together with him in his home town of Springfield Illinois in one of our cross-country criss crossing trips and had breakfast at Charlie Parker’s restaurant made out of a converted Quonset hut. Ah….memories of my mis-spent youth eating what I could when I could. All I can think of is pancakes, pancakes, pancakes. Now it’s oatmeal and fruit, but I remember the “good ole days…” By the way….checkout the Charlie Parker’s Restaurant by clicking on this link.
Where was I???
Ok….back to Nick and the Piranha. So…as I got to know Nick, I couldn’t wait to see his Piranha. And then I found out the most amazing news….Nick said…”Geoff…I don’t have a Piranha – perhaps someday – but not now.”
I was puzzled. I was perplexed. A historian without a car? How could this be??? (John Gunnell told me recently that to be a historian you don’t have to own all the cars you write about. I’m still pondering his statement. Maybe John was right?)
But….cooler heads prevailed, and the impossible became the possible. Click on the small black triangle below to listen to appropriate music for what was about to happen:
Mission Impossible – Lalo Schifrin
Nick found and bought a Piranha! And it arrived last week. All people who subscribe to Forgotten Fiberglass can celebrate, and I’ll lead the conga line. Today’s story shows the first pictures of Nick’s acquisition and all of us Forgotten Fiberglass Fanatics wish him the best on his restoration.
As you learn more about these cars, you’ll quickly find out that the first cars were not fiberglass – they were actually “plastic”. That makes them even cooler to me (and hard to survive over the years because plastic tends to become more brittle over time than fiberglass). Nick reminded me of some key information as follows:
“Geoff….I’ve been researching the Marbon Chemical CRV’s and AMT Piranha’s for years. Although not actually fiberglass kit cars, they did use some fiberglass parts and were later replicated in fiberglass by Allied Industries, Sportland Unlimited, and other dealers, as the CRV, Piranha, and Seagull.”
He also added about his new car:
“The car I acquired is a basket case that has languished in a large building in Ft. Wayne Indiana for many years. The fiberglass chassis tub that supports the front and rear suspension has been cut up and will require replacement, either with an original unit, tubular space frame, or shortened VW chassis.”
Nick closed his e-mail to me by sharing:
“I am so glad I finally bought this car. Every time I look in the garage I get a big smile on my face!”
Nick plans to install Corvair power like the car was originally.
All the rear suspension, mechanicals, steering, electricals and various other parts are missing, including the gullwing door tops. Only about a dozen CRV’s and Piranha’s were ever made, so parts are very hard to find. If anyone knows of any parts that are around for these cars, please feel free to contact Nick at email@example.com or check out his CRV/Piranha website at http://www.c-we.com/piranha/
Good Luck with your new project, Nick! Getting your first Piranha couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. And every one of us here at Forgotten Fiberglass will be cheering you on in terms of its restoration. But Nick….I have another challenge for you. Read on, my friend.
The Nick Whitlow Challenge:
Every time I look at the Piranha I’m captivated by the beauty of its design. And so few people know about the car – or have even seen one in person. My challenge to you is this….would you write a series of articles for us on the history of the Piranha? I know that the legions of Forgotten Fiberglass Fanatics out there would love to know more about this car (we now have over 400 folks subscribed to receive notification when we post a story – a small but powerful group of people).
If you’re ready, then let’s plan and get a set of articles ready for “Forgotten Fiberglass.” And I’ll be the most excited to read each one that you write and post.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Update 6/11/2011: Nick has posted additional information on our friend Ryan Cochran’s Jalopy Journal / HAMB website. Click here for additional detail.
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