The 1969 Banjo GT Sports Car – An Ohio Bred Original

Hi Gang…

Great friend and stellar automotive literature collector, Alden Jewell, and I have been searching for information about the Banjo GT Sports Car for quite some time.  It’s a quiet story that surfaces here and there as a car for sale, and the examples we’ve seen have been nicely done.

One of these cars now lives in Germany with a collector – a fine specimen of a car, and another one is currently for sale in Ohio – where it was born, bred, and built.  I sent out info on that car yesterday via e-mail to all of you.  But the story of the Banjo GT Sports Car intrigues me for several reasons:

  • First, it appears to be an original design built in the 60s.  By then most of the fiber-cars being built were clones of something else – mostly GT 40s, MGs, and other such similar designs.  And while the Banjo has similar lines for the period, it is heralded as an original design
  • Second, the brochure is nicely detailed with the history of the company and the name of the designer too – William Bruce Phillips.  Who is he and is William still around?
  • Third, the photos shared in the brochure show a story that is tightly reminiscent of the 50s – not the prefab kits of the 60s.  A car whose “build” is out of place.
  • Fourth, two versions were sold – a coupe and a roadster – and both are shown in the brochure
  • Fifth…apparently no magazine articles were printed on this car.  We’re hoping that’s not true, but by now the expertise of the “brethren of ‘glass” (that’s all of you) would have undoubtedly shared an article or story about this car.  It’s been as quiet as a church here at fiber-ground-zero concerning this car and its history
  • Sixth, who owned the Banjo GT sports car company?
  • And Seventh….how and why was the name “Banjo” chosen?

So many questions to answer!  

In the meantime, while we begin our work on the history of this car, let’s review the 12 page brochure on the Banjo GT Sports Car shared in detail by Alden Jewell.  Thanks Alden!

Banjo GT Sports Car Brochure:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Summary:

I’ve put in a call to the owner of the Banjo GT Sports Car for sale on eBay – Derek.  Hopefully he’ll have additional information to share. 

I’ve also e-mailed the owner of the Banjo in Germany.  We may have to wait until next year to hear from him though – I received an “auto-reply” e-mail that he’ll be out through the end of 2014.  Sounds like he may be on one of my summer “walkabout” adventures of his own.  Should be a fun story when he contacts me next year. 

Until then, hope you enjoyed the story, thanks again to Alden Jewell for sharing his brochure with us, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

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* Click on the following link to view all stories on:  Banjo GT Sports Cars

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Comments

The 1969 Banjo GT Sports Car – An Ohio Bred Original — 18 Comments

  1. Complete body on a Chevy frame for only $975! Wow! I’ll take one of each.

    A well thought out design. More construction detailing than the typical kit car of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

    The front looks great and the back looks great. The unknown design person had to have had some serious design schooling. I think a little more design work to make them work together on the same vehicle would help.

    I’m an artist, so I always have comments on any design

  2. I live in Ohio, & I tend to think of the epicenter of fiberglass car design as being in Southern California. Compared to L.A., Mineral City is practically in my backyard. (And only slightly larger!) Do you have a street address for the “factory”? I’d be happy to make a road trip for some ‘as it is now’ photos, or first person research. I found the 1970’s Fiberfab factory/showroom East of Cleveland that I mentioned that I visited as a pre-driver in our Devin/Valkyrie story that you ran last week. This trip might complete my tour of Ohio Forgotten Fiberglass sites. That said, it always amazes/amuses me just how little investment in infrastructure is needed to produce a series of custom auto bodies.

    Barry Fagan

  3. Hey Geoff
    Do these glass cars typically shake rattle n roll? I just imagine they must be pretty loose the way theyre put together…even vettes can be that way. Thanks! Bill Boyd

  4. @Gunner…it’s all about the “build” – which is true about all cars including production cars too. The hand-built cars from the 50s tend to be very honest sports cars from the day. No creature comforts – built to move fast with lines to match. Just as in other areas of the hobby, many of our cars are being restored as “resto-mods” with great suspension, modern drivetrains, with comfort and speed. We usually have a mix of both types of cars when we appear at concours and events with our fiber-gang. Hope this helps Gunner…Geoff

  5. Geoff,
    I have a little unscheduled time coming up and I was thinking about heading up to Mineral City, to see if I can find anything left of the Banjo Sports Car Company. My crude Internet search of the company and of William Bruce Phillips on Fairview in Mineral City, Ohio did not yield any useful information. I was going to start with the folks at the post office (I think even Fairview has been renumbered, as I couldn’t find the appropriate street address on Google Earth or Zillow. All the addresses have five digits in them.)
    I recall from our phone conversation last February that you have more sophisticated research tools available, when you attempted an impromptu lookup of the former owner of my Devin, now living in Florida. Do you have anything more to add to what we know about Banjo Sports Cars, William Bruce Phillips, or Fairview Road?
    Barry

  6. William Bruce Phillips was my father. I watched him make these molds from beginning to finish and then watched the cars come together in a finished product. I have also driven both vehicles. My dad passed away in July, 1991. I have some of the original brochures and pictures.

    • Gwen,

      How nice to hear from you! I will be in touch via your email. I have spoken briefly with Derek DePasquale, the son of another Banjo employee & I’m in the process of contacting his father. I hope to be able to put together a history of the Company.

      Barry Fagan

  7. I\’m the son of William B Phillips the designer and builder of these cars. I spent most of my childhood years helping build these wonderful cars.i can tell you everything you want to know. I have the last Banjo built , a mid engine model.

    • Kelly, thank you very much for the reply. I sent you a personal email about trying to get together soon for an interview. I look forward to hearing from you & Gwen.

      Barry Fagan

  8. The last banjo built by my great uncle bill is sitting in my papa’s shop..he paid storage on it for the last 25yrs and just recently got it out of storage and took it down to his shop..I love this car and hearing the story’s of it being built and when they used to drive it

  9. Regarding the banjo..it is in my possesion my uncle bill gave me the banjo in the 1982. I was told by Bill to keep it and if I did not want it to offer it to my cousin..if neither myself or Cathy wanted it, I was to cut it in pieces. I have been paying storage on it since that date in 1983. It is now in my garage where I plan on keeping it. Thank you

  10. Lastly, in regards to William Bruce and the banjo he was a very intelligent man, not to take anything away from him he was very hard headed and stubborn. They say I am like my uncle only difference is he would have cut the car up by now with all of this drama. I will not cut it up because of his legacy, and the fact we all want something to remember him by. Thank you very much for listening.

  11. We would like to see the remaining cars still left. And find them. We had the opportunity to purchase the one that is now in Germany but we didn’t. Would have loved to had one.

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