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.
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).
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:
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.”
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…
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