Sports Cars Illustrated published annual “Directories” from 1958 thru 1961. In the summer of 1961, they changed their name to “Car and Driver” and ceased publication of annual directories from that point forward. But the “Directories” spanning 4 years are an interesting glimpse into the world of building your own fiberglass sports car.
Today’s story focuses on the ads for the companies that were in each of these magazines. The front cover and all ads that appeared for fiberglass sports car body companies appear below – separated by year. In addition, we present the one-page overview of plastic bodies that appeared in the 1959 issue.
In the 1958 issue, Sports Cars Illustrated dedicated 4 pages to this section and included pictures. In 1959 only one page was used, and just 4 companies shown. Missing were successful companies such as LaDawri and Kellison. Perhaps if you paid for advertising – they covered you – but the reason for such small coverage may be lost to time.
Or is it?
Here’s how many pages each of the directories dedicated to plastic bodies for building a sports car:
- 1958: 4 pages – 4 ads published: Devin, Sports Car Engineering, Almquist, Victress
- 1959: 1 page – 2 ads published: Alken, Devin
- 1960: 0 pages – 2 ads published: Victress, Kellison
- 1961: 0 pages – 0 ads published: 3 spaces were dedicated to Bocar specifications
I raise this point because what I believe what we are we’re seeing here is where the attention of the public was heading. Magazines often do NOT create the trends – they “mirror” them. By 1960 forward, buying your own sports car was a very feasible enterprise – especially if you bought one used. You could even affordably purchase a used Ferrari from the early to mid ‘50s.
So why build your own sports car?
The late 1950’s was the “swan song” for building your fiberglass car from scratch, and companies like Devin, Kellison, LaDawri, and Bocar were making the task of doing so much easier – if you were still one of the determined few.
So let’s have a look – year by year – of the ads from the annual “Directories” of Sports Cars Illustrated. And as you review the ads below, check out the prices of the Bocar Stiletto, XP-5, XP-7, and Devin as they appeared in the ’61 issue. Breathtaking….
Off we go!
1958 Sports Cars Illustrated Directory Cover and Ads
1959 Sports Cars Illustrated Directory Cover and Ads
1960 Sports Cars Illustrated Directory Cover and Ads
1961 Sports Cars Illustrated Directory Cover and Ads
In today’s story we see how the emphasis of building your own sports car changed over 4 years of Sports Cars Illustrated Annual Directories. These cars – once stars of their era – began to be considered the “Forgotten Fiberglass” cars as the ’60s rolled forward.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures
I heard from Alden Jewell last night and he added the following information about the “Directories” and their subsequent history with Car and Driver Magazine. Thanks Alden 🙂
There WERE Car and Driver annuals (same format as Sports Cars Illustrated Directory, but called Yearbook instead)! I’m looking at the 1962 version right now (see attachment), and that title continued through 1971. I have all but 1963 for some reason. In 1972 it became Car and Driver Buyer’s Guide, which continued at least into the mid-eighties. I also discovered I DO have all four of the Sports Cars Illustrated Directories, 1958 thru 1961.
I agree with the two major comments on the demise of the fiberglass cars/bodies at the turn of the 1950’s decade.
1. The recession of the late 1950’s also killed the Edsel.
2. The 1955 Chevy was now 5 years old. Many other cars with big V8s were affordable used cars. So, why spend the time and money building a fiberglass sports car.
Will….excellent points and thanks for the follow-up. Here’s a recent piece Dan Strohl did about the recession. He identifies the year as 1958 – but I’m not sure how long it lasted. Maybe Merrill Powell can add his thoughts here on how long the recession lasted for Victress Manufacturing. Here’s the link:
Thanks for sharing WIll.
I think the scene began to dwindle around 1960 for a few reasons. Geoff touches on one straight away in the article, referencing the rapid depreciation of used cars at the time and that there was more of a market for fairly capable used production machinery by the turn of the decade.
But the other factor I wonder about is one that I only know of from history classes in high school, and that was that 1960 seemed to mark a period of recession for the US economy. I would have to wonder, that although they say it wasn’t a huge recession at the time, if the shrinking of the US economy in 1960 contributed to the demise of the fiberglass sports car scene as well.
Neat article Geoff, thanks for running it.
Scot – you’re a hoot! I love your comments. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Geoff
~ btw, as soon as i finish my time machine i will pack a couple suitcases with large denomination currency, & stuff a bunch of these in a warehouse to be opened 10 seconds from now. …… 3, 2, …..1 darn.
~ these are great advertising and as the article states magazines reflect trends. a lifetime in advertising, public relations & sales makes my 1st thought ‘what they really need is a hot shot closer peddling ad input’. i could easily be wrong bt forgotten fiberglass and owner-built cars are text book examples of ideas which flourished on the enthusiasm of one or a very few outstanding personalities. and in that sense the small production numbers are what makes them of such great value to us now. scot