Foreign Fiberglass: Raoul Thiébaut’s Syncoglas Zelensis

Hi Gang…

Today’s story is by one of our Undiscovered Classics aficionados – Kyle Feller.  Kyle has been working with us for over 5 years and has participated in some of our best adventures which include our Leo Lyons Custom Mercury and the recently acquired Bucci Executive show truck.

I’ve asked Kyle if he would be interested in writing a few stories for us here at Undiscovered Classics and I was pleased that he said “yes”.  So without delay, let’s hear from Kyle about the car he wants to share and its history too.  Take it away Kyle 🙂

Raoul Thiébaut’s Syncoglas Zelensis
By Kyle Feller

This week I was scouring the Undiscovered Classics Facebook page and came across a post by Peter Bootjes with a picture of a cute little Belgium sports car based on a VW chassis called the Zelensis. Geoff challenged me to write an article about it so with a little research this is what I came up with.

Raoul Thiébaut was born in the town of Zele in northern Belgium. In his 20s, he began working on steamer ships and eventually became a “second engineer” on a ship that traveled between Canada the US and the Dominican Republic. It is during his free time on this ship he would begin to design a small sports car which would later become the Zelensis.

In 1957 he immigrated to the US and got a job in Oakland, California working for Industrial Plastics Services – builders of the the Maverick, the Vale, and the Le Blanc-Bardahl Streamliner.  See one of their ads below.

A year after moving to Oakland, Raoul was forced to return to Belgium to serve in the military, but he took with him the knowledge and experience that he needed start his own fiberglass company – Syncoglas – and to begin building his dream which was the Zelenisis sports car.

When he returned home, he set up shop in his parents garage and began to work.  His first prototype used a 1951 VW Type 1 chassis.  He used this chassis to build a buck and create a mold and body from which he built his first car.  This prototype was sold to fund the building the company.  All subsequent sports cars he built utililzed VW engines and chassis – save one built on a Renault Dauphine chassis (presumably using a Renault rear engine as well).

The Zelensis sports car was produced from 1958 thru approximately 1965.  Around 25 sports cars were built and another 25 bodies appear to have been produced.  Today just six completed cars are known to exist with two Zelensis’ sports cars belonging to the designer/owner himself – Raoul Thiébaut.

With approximately 50 sports cars and bodies produced, the chances of you coming across one are pretty good!  So if you ever find your self in Europe (or live there now), don’t forget to keep an eye out for one of these little guys hiding under a thick layer of Belgium dust.  You’ll, no doubt, have quite a special find on your hands 🙂

Click Here To Learn More About The Zelensis Sports Car


Well Kyle found a winner for his first story – I’ve not heard of this sports car before and no wonder why – it’s “Forgotten Fiberglass” from Europe.  With such low production numbers, it will be unlikely we’ll see one here in the USA.  So be on the lookout to our European Undiscovered Classics friends.  Go out “yonder” and find one 🙂

Great thanks to Kyle Feller for sharing this story and photos.  Those of you wanting to learn more about Kyle and his exploits with Undiscovered Classics, please click on the link below:

Click Here To Learn More About Kyle Feller

Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…

The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.



Foreign Fiberglass: Raoul Thiébaut’s Syncoglas Zelensis — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Geoff, Nice and rare story on the Volkswagen special. However there was another VW special built in Belgium that was even better. A Belgium by the name of Edmond Pery formed a company called APAL. Which meant “Application Polyester Armee Liege”. He used VW chassis and engines to build copies of the Porsche Abarth. He offered four engines in different sizes and tune, plus Porsche as well. The cars were very well made and very pretty as well. In 1965 after more than 150 cars built, a fire wipe out the modes and the inferstructure. Later he built Formula Vee, beach buggies, before turning to jacuzzis and bathes. There was a four pages story on this car in Classic and Sportcar (Oct.1993 If you like I’ll copy and send to you.. All the best, Michael

  2. I follow Undiscovered Classics and you have some of the most interesting cars even tough many are almost impossible to find.
    Among my favorites are Victresses, either model, and a stunning coupe I don’t remember the name of. Very well done.

  3. Si vous avez besoin d’aide et de documents sur les voitures artisanales, uniques de ceux qu’on appelle les “Constructeurs sans patente”, je peux vous lancer sur des piste de France, Europe et aussi l’ex DDR – RDA.
    Ceci avec des photos la plupart d’époque (c350 ).
    Les bases, selon l’époque et le pays sont souvent VW Porsche R8, 203, 403, Fiat 1100 Panhard, mais aussi Siata, Amilcar, Zundapp. Carrosseries e fibre, alu, et aussi acier.
    Me dire.

  4. I’m a big fan of Volkswagen Specials. I’m familiar with some of the more rare manufacturers like Enzmann and Denzel but I have to admit I have never heard of Zelensis. Did they do any racing? I had a highly modified Devin VW at one time that looked very similar to this car. Thanks for the cool story!

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