Fiberglass History Timeline
1939: Ford makes fiberglass trunk for car and hits it with an ax (publicity photo)
1941: Ford makes hemp based fiberglass car – full body
1941-1945: Kaiser tests fiberglass bodied concepts during WWII
1946: Owens Corning created Project Y – car still exists
1946: Dutch Darrin makes first plastic car (5 passenger)
1947: Dutch Darrin Crosley fiberglass concept produced (car still exists) (1947 year is still being investigated)
1949-1950: Kurtis Sports Cars built with optional fiberglass fenders (front and rear) and hood and trunk – 6 total possible fiberglass panels. Fiberglass built by Paul Omohundro’s company – partner / collaborator with Frank Kurtis
1951: Four fiberglass cars debut at the 1951 November Petersen Motorama at Los Angeles California: Eric Irwin’s Lancer, Bill Tritt’s Glasspar G2 (the Brooks Boxer at the time), John Wills Skorpion and Wasp. A flying car built with a fiberglass body also debuted (Aeorcar or Convair – have to check)
1951 – May – Irwin Lancer built and running (Modern Man, Josephy Wherry author, November, 1952)
1951 – June – Glasspar G2 built and running (Modern Man, Josephy Wherry author, November, 1952)
* Wasp/Skorpion cars built and running (but I cannot verify in-period mention of this yet).
1952: 20+ fiberglass marques burst forth in 1952.
1952 – February – Life Magazine article showing Glasspar bodies catapults their firm to fame across the world for fiberglass bodied sports cars.
1952 – August: Darrin announces his concept project as the “Darrin Competition Sports Car” By November 1952 this car (the concept we now call the Kaiser-Darrin) is being touted as a possible Kaiser sports car (November 17, 1952 Newsweek)
1952 – November – B.R. “Woody” Woodill debuts the “Wildfire (modified Glasspar body) as a “Willys Sports Car.” By Feb/March of 1953, this is retraced as “incorrect” by Willys who states this in Time Magazine (March 2nd, 1953).
1952: Fiberglass cars shown on covers of magazines including Glasspar and Skorpion
1953 – January – official announcement of Kaiser Darrin leaked to press – front cover and inside of January 1953 “PIC” Magazine (one of the outlets).
1953 – February – Official announcement of Kaiser Darrin sports car released in PR statement by Kaiser. Total cars that exists at time – 1 to 3 cars (still in research, so far 3 cars total show up in the Fall of ’53)
1953 – January 17 – The Corvette Dream car shown for first time at the Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City – 1 car exists.
1953 – January 18 – Motorama announcement by Chevrolet that 200-300 plastic bodied specials will be built as test.
1953 – spring/summer/fall – strike with autoworkers delays Kaiser Darrin production. However, fiberglass bodies built for them during this time by 3-4 companies (stockpiled).
1953 – Fall: Corvettes debut at Chevrolet dealerships across America – most are spoken for (sold) before they arrive.
1953 – July – The new Woodill Wildfire debuts on the cover of Motor World (June 17, 1953) –
1954 – Spring – Kaiser Darrin Sports cars begin to arrive in dealerships across America.
So….4 fiberglass sports cars debuted at the 1951 November Petersen Motorama at the same time. Lancer was the most famous from November 1951 to February 1952 (mentioned most times in press.) Glasspar took the lead from February 1952 after the Life Magazine article and really began production in numbers by the Fall of 1952. All fiberglass cars from small firms were hand built – no two the same. From the research we’ve done and collaborated with other historians, productions lines and consistency (similar to homologation) needs to be present for a “production” status to be awarded.
THE WINNERS….AS THEY STAND WITH RESEARCH TODAY:
* First fiberglass PRODUCTION announcement of a sports car in America: Kaiser Darrin – this included a running/driving model in the fall of 52 (several printed period articles available – Exhaust Notes, November, 1953 is another)
* First fiberglass bodied PRODUCTION sports car you could buy: 1953 Corvette
* All other handcrafted cars do not meet the standard of “PRODUCTION” – and they shouldn’t. They are handcrafted one by one. Some nicely; some not. Some in tiny numbers by the marques that made them; some not.
And as always, research continues emphasizing period printed articles and press releases so this can change and become even more accurate over time.
Hope this helps gang….