We always think of the first production fiberglass car in America as being the 1953 Corvette – and for all intents and purposes that assertion is right. As Raffi Minasian has discussed with me many times, production infers consistency in product, design, and build. A few hand-crafted cars would rarely if ever be identified as “production” per se by most in the industry familiar with the term and definition of the word “production.”
And that means that our 1950’s fiberglass cars are more properly identified as “hand-crafted” cars – a term I’m entirely comfortable with and proud of. And one we’ll be celebrating at the 2013 Milwaukee Masterpiece in August of this year.
So why the opening here in this story concerning the concept of “production?” Well… what would constitute the first foreign production fiberglass car? While we can begin that debate over time let me toss in something I saw recently on David Greenles’ wonderful website called “The Old Motor.” David highlighted something new to both of us – A Fiat 8V in fiberglass.
“Very interesting…it must be a prototype built to demonstrate how fiberglass could be used,” I thought to myself. “Fiberglass,” after all, was the “carbon fiber” of its day back in the early to mid 1950s. But I wanted to know more so I dug a bit deeper.
I found a Motor Trend article printed in November, 1954 discussing the same prototype but suggesting that the remaining Fiat 8V’s would be welded together using sheet steel. This contrasted with other websites (click here to see one such website) that suggested more than 100 Fiat 8V’s were built out of fiberglass – exactly the opposite of what was said back in the day by Motor Trend.
Finding contradictory information is not a new thing here at Forgotten Fiberglass. And…if I were a bettin’ man I do believe that the prototype was the only one built from ‘glass. Otherwise…I’m sure we would have heard of more fiberglass Fiat 8V’s out there. And we haven’t. Or at least I haven’t. And that’s where each of you comes in.
So…are any of you willing to research this mystery a bit more – a beautiful mystery that is with the 1954 Fiat 8V leading your way? I know that all of us here at Forgotten Fiberglass would be interested in what you find. The Fiat 8V is a striking car in every way and one whose relationship to the use of fiberglass may be an individual ‘glass prototype – or very much more – the first production fiberglass sports car outside of America. The results of your research will let us know 🙂
Go get ‘em gang!
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Update on 11/21/19 from Dan Palatnik
Click here to view additional detail on the Fiat 8V (will have to be translated)
Photo with info on the fiberglass Fiat 8V below:
The noted Italian Car Historian, John deBoer located all the build data for the V8 FIATs. There were 114 built and only one with a fiberglass body, serial number #0101. This is the second series car the FIAT museum owns.
The Fiat 8Vs seem to be a bit of a mystery to you Fibreglass Guys. Have a look at the Demon Rouge by Vignale. It is one of the crazy ones.
Its no mystery. It is a one-off concept car to show their coach building skills – not unlike what the American car companies do.
I just looked at the FIAT Museum site – Centro Storico FIAT and found the answer. [Carrozzeria in Vetroresina] = bodywork in plastic renforced with fibreglass. The V8 example they own which was run in the 50th Mille Miglia is one with a fiberglass body. It is the photo above from Old Motor,com. It is finisned in a dark metalic charcoal gray. There a few developement factory photos from 1953 of this car.
There was 19 different body styles on the 8V FIAT chassis.
Italy being the then hand crafted aluminium and steel body capital of the world I very much doubt fibreglass would have been used too much. Fiat built their own bodies on 34 8Vs (not the most stylish) but many other chassis’ received coachwork by Zagato, Vignale, Ghia and others, some truly beautiful cars.
FIAT was bigger than General Motors and likely would have tried any new methods and products.
I’m always looking at the design lines of cars. This 1954 Fiat had to have influenced Aston Martin.
I think I see some lines that Aston Martin borrowed for their DB 4 and DB5 a few years on from 1954.
Touring of Milan designed these Aston Martins in FIAT’s hometown.
I found this – http://pinterest.com/fiatontheweb/fiat1000miglia/ So, there were some(?)
It looks a bit like the 1948 Cisitalia 202 coupe.
By the time these were production cars they were metal bodied. The well known body man, Bob Carrol of Hollywood had one in his shop in 1961 that he was customizing. All the FIAT V8s did not have quad headlights. The car Bob was working on was converted to 4 headlights and had a Chevrolet V8 installed. I did find a web-site mainly about Ferraris some time ago that showed some of his other work.