Research into the history of the early postwar fiberglass specials is a bit like playing the 1980s kids game “Wac-A-Mole.” Did you ever see it? Here’s a short video clip:
Everytime we begin research into a car or car marque, the number of related cars and/or concepts and/or projects and/or “who knows what” shows up. And when we research that new piece – another new issue “pops” into view. It can get tiring at times! Once again this happened when I collaborated with Alden Jewell and others on determining the history of the early 1960s fiberglass Seagrave economy car.
One of the new “pops” of information found said that the Seagrave car was later called the “American Jet” and offered by the “France Jet” company. Hmmmmmmm…
All I can say is…”Wac-a-Mole.”
So… new research began into the France Jet, and luckily I was able to collaborate with both Bob Cunningham and Alden Jewell. But it didn’t stop there. Our group keeps growing and growing, and last year we welcomed in Jim “Wally” Wallace – Futuro Home owner and friend of fiberglass.
During our talks he mentioned another friend of his who owned a France Jet – Gary Sonnenschein – the only one made in America. So….when the research began on the Seagrave and led to the France Jet, I knew who to call.
The following story is a write up of the 1960 France Jet by Bob Cunningham – a car built in Maryland, and made for the American market. And….so far everyone has confirmed that the Seagrave car IS NOT RELATED to the France Jet car in any way. So….
Take it away Bob!
History of France Jet – American Style
By Bob Cunningham
In 1959, a company called Union Industrielle of Seine, France, searched for someone in the United States to manufacture a car they would call the Super Jet, described as “a marvel of aesthetics and mechanics. The world’s most economical car.” It was designed by Egon Brutsch in Germany. Offered was a license to build the Super Jet, including drawings, fabrication tools, and molds for the fiberglass body.
They found a licensee in Jacques M. Fisher, who would become president of France Jet Motors, Ltd., based in New York City. Construction of the prototype took place at The Lofstrand Company in Rockville, Maryland. The little sports car debuted in March 1960 at New York’s International Automobile Show.
The two-passenger Jet body was made of fiberglass reinforced with aluminum. Its rear-mounted two cylinder Kohler engine delivered fuel economy of up to 65 miles per gallon, which was understandable considering the car’s light weight—just 870 pounds. Top speed was reported to be 70 miles per hour. The frame was supported with independent coil spring suspension on all four wheels with rack and pinion steering.
In August, Lofstrand’s vice president, J. Slater McHugh, issued a press release announcing a contract had been signed, guaranteeing a minimum of 5000 Jets per year over a five-year period. According to the release, “enthusiastic public response dictated various American assembly points which will also be handled by Lofstrand.”
The news came at a high point in time for Lofstrand, as they had also been selected to manufacture the three-wheel Roustabout truck. Unfortunately, both deals fell through. Only one France Jet was assembled, by hand, in the Maryland factory.
Gary’s Sonnenschein’s France Jet
For this story, I was lucky enough to find the car before we began researching the story. And…a new friend in France Super Jet owner Gary Sonnenschein too. Gary sent along some photos of his car as it is today – a nice original “survivor” from a time in America’s history when anything seemed possible – with a bit of hard work and some luck too!
Let’s have a look at some current photos.
Great thanks goes to Alden Jewell, Bob Cunningham, Jim “Wally” Wallace, and Gary Sonnenschein for making this story possible. And…I’m pleased to share that we may likely see Gary’s car at the August 2013 Milwaukee Masterpiece Concours d’Elegance. Click here for more information about this show – and plan to attend if possible. We’d love to have you.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Rob Maselko been following the line for years . I met Rob in Germany in 2002 and we discussed France Jet and my similar but slightly earlier and German built Brütsch Pfeil which equally never went into production
Cant post a photo ?
I should have shared this link with my comment five years ago. It is a group of 71 pictures of the France Jet, its predecessors, the Roustabout and its production version, the Tri-Van
I think I have seen this kind before. It’s really beautiful. Sad to say it is not working anymore. Although I would love to see it being revived, they say it’s impossible. It could have been a great model.
I have beem chasing the France Jets for many years, and there were three cars that I know of. One was at the NY auto show, and the second is this car which is now owned by Gary Sonnenschein, who has brought it to our annual Microcar Classic Event on more than one occasion. The third car is very close to the look, size and appearance of the one at the auto show, and it was recently dicsovered, but I can’t remember exactly where at this moment. I have photos and details of that third car in my files somewhere. Rob Maselko has been searching for these France Jets for many years, and probably knows more about them than anyone.
Speakng of lost fiberglass, you should come and check out our Goggomobil Buckle Darts. We have three of them, and you are welcome to come and drive them. They are fiberglass cars designed and produced by Bill Buckle in Australia on a Glas Goggomobil platform and running gear. Bill Buckle visited our home last year, and we have an exceptional recorded interview with the brilliant designer of all of the fiberglass Australian Goggomobils. He was kind enough to sign my Buckle Darts as well!
@John….Thanks for the follow-up and I know we have mutual friends in the hobby. I believe you wrote a piece on this car some time ago for another publication. Perhaps we can share that story here? Please let me know your thoughts and thanks for your e-mail earlier today too. I look forward to hearing from you. Best…. Geoff
The car shown at the New York Auto Show in 1960 was not this car, but a French built smaller car. The Kohler powered car was constructed because the first France Jet didn’t get good reviews at the auto show, mostly for it’s 280cc engine. The bigger car only minimally looked like the ones before it.
There are some errors in the above report. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but have been following the story for about 20 years.
I thought I had seen them all ,(cars from the early days) but I was wrong..
My brother had a 1954 Super Jet(well before 1960), but his was made by a company in Detroit called Hudson Motors. Afun car to drive.