The Mystical and Many Cars of the Universal Plastics Company

This May Be The "Smoking Gun" That Shows That Universal Plastics Did Produce At Least One Car And/Or Body. Harold Pace Is Reviewing the Evidence Now.

Hi Gang…

Harold Pace, noted author and fiberglass sports car historian (click here for Harold’s biography) and I were talking up a storm a few nights ago about the usual subject – fiberglass sports and kit cars of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  At the time, we were discussing the Striger Special and our recent discovery of the Bohada Special – a related car from the same time frame. 

Harold and I are always trying to nail down the history of the small companies and builders of the era, and when we were on the phone, Harold thought of another mystery company that has stumped historians for many years.  That is, who was the “Universal Plastics Company” and what happened to them?

I remember seeing ads for them in some of the 1960’s magazines I’ve reviewed, but most of my efforts on documentation have been – and continue to be – rooted in the 1950’s.  Interestingly, in recent conversations with Keith Kaucher (click here for Keith’s introduction on our Forgotten Fiberglass website), Keith mentioned the designs of Universal Plastics as something he remembered growing up that always stuck with him – fun looking cars to build that were made to look fast, fast, fast.

It seems that Universal Plastics Company had been seen by quite a few people back in the day, and the company certainly deserves a bit more research.  I haven’t delved much into the mysteries of the 1960’s.  So…as he’s done it before, Harold issued a challenge….see what our group can uncover about the history of this company and whether or not any actual cars came to fruition.

To date, we’ve been able to deliver on Harold’s multiple challenges, but he keeps raising the bar.  So…let me share with you what I’ve learned about “Universal Plastics” and see what some of you might know about this company too.

The Cougar GT By Universal Plastics Was Their Only Design For A Front-Engine Car, And Was Designed To Mount On An 88" to 90" Wheelbase Chassis Such as a Triumph, MG, and/or Austin-Healey.

Universal Plastics Company – What Was Their Heritage?

The first piece I found was an attractive ad that appeared in the March 1966 issue of Road and Track.  It shows 4 models of cars being offered but all are drawings – none are pictures of real cars.  The models shown in the ad are intriguing.  There are 3 coupes and a roadster.  As stated in their ad:

“Three (bodies ) are designed for a 95” rear-engine chassis (like VW) and one for an 88” to 90” front-engine chassis (like Triumph, MG or Austin-Healey).”

The date of this ad may ultimately be revealing.  One possibility suggested by Harold is that Universal Plastics may have been started by Bud Goodwin, and ultimately turned into Fiberfab.  Bud made his first appearance selling Mistral bodies in 1956, and that enterprise turned into “Sports Car Engineering” in 1957 before he sold the company to Du Crest Fiberglass in 1958.  I’ve always wondered what Bud did between 1958 and his Fiberfab years, and I continue to research this gap in history.

We need to see if Fiberfab was up and running in 1966 which is the date of this ad.  Good concrete evidence is needed such as dated ads of Fiberfab – or letters / envelopes with postmarks – the sign of solid research.  Let’s see what you find gang…Time is on our side – and so is the expertise many of you have too.

Next, the location of the company may help.  Belmont is just south of San Francisco.  It is due north of Mountain View where the Maverick was produced in the 1950’s and south of Berkeley where the Vale was produced around 1952/1953.  Fiberfab was in Sunnyvale California as shown on some of my brochures and that was about 20 miles from Belmont.  It seems that the “Fiberfab connection” may be getting a bit warmer gang.  However, whether Universal Plastics is  related to any of these companies remains to be seen.  Locations noted may be just a coincidence (great fiberglass minds think alike).

Here's The Piece I Found In June 1951 - Arthur Maimbourg Was Well On His Way Showing His Sports Car Passion and Enthusiasm In The "Letters To The Editor" Column.

I’ve included close-up scans of each of the drawings below.  However, no real car bodies or cars are shown which is part of the “Harold Pace Challenge.”  That is…. did they actually produce any product?  What might we be able to find out about this company?

Enter Arthur “Art” Maimbourg of Oklahoma.

Arthur Maimbourg – Veteran Fiberglass Sports Car Builder

I’ve been honored to know Art for many years.  Art was born August 10th, 1930.  I first heard from Art when he contacted Rick D’Louhy and me and offered to help with our Forgotten Fiberglass research.  He had been collecting fiberglass literature since the 1950’s and built many a car too.  Art was ready, willing, and able to share his knowledge of this era for the benefit of all.   Arthur Maimbourg also holds a special place in halls of Forgotten Fiberglass research.  As I continue to review old magazines and newspapers from back in the day, I scour each and every page for any and all tidbits of information I can find.

As I was reviewing the premier edition of an early newspaper called “Motor Sports World” – June 1951 – I found Art’s comments in the “letters to the editor” section.  Art was just 20 years old, and he wrote in at the thrilling aspect of having a weekly newspaper dedicated to sports cars, hot rods, and dry lakes racing.  Art was noted as saying in the premier edition of this newspaper:

“Sir: Just what I want.  Arthur Mainbourg, Tulsa Oklahoma”

Note: Arthur’s last name was mis-spelled above – it should have been “Maimbourg”.

It may be a short sentence but think about the excitement of the time in 1951.  This was 5 months before fiberglass sports cars debuted at the November 1951 Petersen Motorama.  Fiberglass kit cars were just a twinkle in most people’s eyes – and Art was there at ground zero.  I’m proud to have Arthur as part of our group – his long term interest and enthusiasm for these types of cars is impressive, and he continues to teach us quite a bit.

Great to have you with us Arthur 🙂

Finding the Universal Plastics Brochure:

What An Attractive Front Cover For Their Full Size (8.5 x 11) 1966 Brochure. Almost Seems Suitable For Framing.

So….I wanted you to know about Arthur because what I found next came directly from his files.  Not only did he have a brochure from Universal Plastics – he had two different brochures.  And… he had letters from the company, blueprints on how to build the cars, pictures of an actual car built, and even a letter from the “Sports Racing Equipment” company discussing that they purchased the assets of Universal Plastics and will be taking them over.  I guess we’ll have to do a story on “Sports Racing Equipment next *grin*

Arthur Maimbourg saved the day!

The brochure shown in the gallery of pictures is the first of the brochures produced by Universal Plastics, well designed, and professionally printed.   A letter included in the brochure dates it to early 1966 – the same time the ad appeared in Road and Track in March 1966.  An 8×10 glossy picture of a finished car was slipped inside the brochure with the caption, “Sebring GT-2 by Universal Plastics.”  By golly, they actually may have made a car or two.  It certainly is starting to look like it from the brochures and picture available from Art’s collection.

Remember…most of the companies on our website produced just a few bodies.  The big producers of bodies, from our standpoint, were Glasspar, Woodill Wildfire, Victress, LaDawri, Devin, and Kellison.  So if Universal Plastics only made a few bodies – that would fit our understanding perfectly.  They would belong here at “Forgotten Fiberglass.”

Summary:

So….this is our start on the research concerning Universal Plastics, and you may be able to help.  That is, “Forgotten Fiberglass” wants you (think of the Uncle Sam picture here – pointing at you).  Much thanks goes to Arthur Maimbourg in lending his expertise and extensive files for our research.  You’re one of the best out there Art!

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

——————————————————————–

Click on the following link to View or Post Your Comments: FIBERGLASS FORUMS

(remember you’ll have to register to post on the forums – but you register just once and can post after you sign on)

Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures

——————————————————————-


Comments

The Mystical and Many Cars of the Universal Plastics Company — 3 Comments

  1. Great article. I’ve been a fan of the 1963 Corvair based “Monza Gt”, show car since I was a little kid in the sixties.

    I collect old car magazines and was familiar with the Universal Plastics ad. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Oakland California and saw the exact same logo on a building facing I-880 (just North of the Colosseum). I called the company but no one remembered their years in the fiberglass car business (this was around 2000). The building has since been sold and the ad painted over.

    Then, two years ago (2009) as I was hauling a car up from San Jose I saw a rather decrepit GT Monza on a trailer heading North on 880! I got a very good look at the car, enough to confirm it was indeed a very old replica of the Monza GT. Unfortunately I lost it in heavy traffic, but I can confirm that Universal Plastics made at least one “GT Monza”!

  2. My piece of Forgotten Fiberglass is a ’64 Corvette convertible I’ve owned for 50 years this year, got it in high school. I loved the look of the handful (five) Corvette Grand Sports produced in 1963.

    After an accident in the early ’80s, I began a process that modified every body panel on the car except the doors and cockpit decklid. Suspension work by Bill Thoma Race Cars and Dick Guldstrand improved handling and driving feel.

  3. I also like Corvairs, the American Porsche IMO. I believe the 911 engine was inspired by the Corvair flat six, GM did sell a few in Europe. Would love to have a Monza GT!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *