As I share more stories with you on our Forgotten Fiberglass website, you’ll see a trend on including more stories about design – and that is purposeful on my part. The folks who were designing and building fiberglass cars saw themselves as being part of a “revolution” of new, low volume, car manufacturers in many ways.
They were creating designs that Detroit was often apprehensive to try.
That’s not a fault of Detroit. Innovation from very large companies is difficult – at best. It often comes slowly, and evolves – over a very long period of time. As in business, the place to look for innovation and ingenuity are small companies. These are the places large organizations often look to take the best of what’s being done and bring it to market.
As they say….plagiarism is often the highest form of flattery.
Meeting Noel Bangert
Noel was a hard person to track down. Back in 2007 I was still learning how to find individuals thru research. My efforts have gotten strong enough these past few years to bring me up to the level of “stalking” – but luckily I haven’t been accused of that yet. I talked to Ed Monegan who was one of the folks who built the molds for the LeMans Coupe, and he gave me some background information about Noel. In fact he was a friend of Noel’ s back in the day – but still no “Noel.” And I found a few other tidbits of information here and there. But still no “Noel.”
Enter car collector and historian Peter Boyd – one of the original collectors of Specials in the 1970’s thru 1990’s. Over the years, Peter has been kind enough to “school” me on what he learned during the infancy of the appreciation of these cars. One of the “gems’ of information he had was on Noel Bangert. He had met the family many years before, and Noel’s last name had been “Bangert” but was now “Marshall.”
I’ve been looking for the right person from the wrong decade. Or I mean the wrong person in the present day. Armed with new information I found Noel’s son Jerry and he quickly put me in touch with his father. That was in early 2007.
Conversations with Noel Bangert Marshall
Noel called me before I could reach him – and he was very excited to talk about his early years. In fact, I was the first person to talk to him about his cars since around 1960. The feeling was mutual. Noel shared with me the 3 main designs he created for his cars, and how they evolved from 1954 thru 1959. The last car body he built was for John Teverbaugh, and that car is currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California. It’s one beautiful car.
Noel’s designs evolved from the “Stag” which was his first car, to the “Manta Ray” which was his second (click here for a story on a car using the Bangert Manta Ray body), to the third Ferrari inspired design. He never did remember the name he created for his third and last design. Noel was influenced by the designs of other cars in each case, but as designers do, made changes that made the design and car their own. Noel Bangert was one talented guy!
One of the magazines that celebrated Noel’s work was “Motor Life.” And in fact, when I met Noel he didn’t have any documents, photos, or magazines of his cars or work. But he gave me clues on what he printed, and where the articles would be too. Noel told me, “I did a story on “fins”. It’s in Motor Life – and you’ll love the designs I did. Go out and find it for me so we can discuss it together.”
That’s just what I did.
“Footnote on Fins:” Motor Life, February 1956
Noel’s article was printed in February of 1956. Just as fins were beginning to “rise” even higher on most American cars. It opened with the following statement:
“Now that Detroit is firmly committed to fins, a tail race has been started and who can predict what or where the end will be.”
Evidently, Noel Bangert did. And that’s the article for review today.
Thoughts on Noel Bangert’s “Fins” Article:
The article continued as follows:
“Last month, Motor Life devoted a number of pages to exploring the fascinating subject of fins – both as a functional item and as a fashion – and concluded that the styling would last indefinitely on American cars. As an outgrowth of this investigation, some fresh thinking has been advanced by Noel Bangert, who is known in the automotive field for the sports cars he has styled and constructed in his Hollywood workshop.
Bangert rejects the theory that the fins have any important effect on car stability at normal road speeds. He does maintain, however, that both tail fins and fishtails are an effective tool for the designer by permitting sharp lines that make the big vehicle look lighter and crisper. Further, he points to the useful function fins serve management in allowing easy changes in features in one model year after another.
To illustrate his points, Bangert commented on the sketches here.”
Noel Bangert’s Sketches for Motor Life:
The magazine shared 8 sketchs of Noel’s work with his annotated and detailed captions under each one. I wish we could have found the original sketches, but at least we have the one’s printed in the magazine. I’ve reproduced each of these in the gallery of photos below. For those of you who appreciate design and innovation, you’ll enjoy reviewing the sketches and what he had to say about each one of them.
Have at it Fiberglass Folks!
In 2009, I did an extensive series of audio interviews with Noel that I thankfully recorded. I’ll feature Noel’s full story over a series of articles in the coming months on Forgotten Fiberglass. Noel was an interesting guy. He married Tippi Hedren, movie actress of Hitchcock fame. Noel was a talent agent in the 1960’s and later a movie director and producer. In fact, he was the Executive Producer of the 1973 film, “The Exorcist,” and created a movie in 1981 called “Roar” that included his step-daughter, movie actress Melanie Griffith.
However, I’m sorry to say that my budding friendship with Noel Bangert ended too quickly. Noel passed away in 2010. Here’s a link to an obituary with additional information about him. He was one special guy:
I was lucky enough to meet Noel once in Orlando, Florida and twice at his home (boat, yacht, houseboat) in Marina Del Ray, California. And I was fortunate to have many conversations on the phone with him too. I’ve lost track of his son Jerry (there are two more sons too) but I’m on the hunt to try and track them down again. If any of you know Noel’s sons, please direct them to me. I have lots of information for them I’ve collected about their father concerning his “car years” that I think they would enjoy.
Maybe if I tried searching for their last name as “Bangert” instead of “Marshall”…
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
2/6/2011: Note: By the way gang…here’s the “wingiest” fiberglass car I’m aware of – and one of my favorite – The Dick Williams Special. Click here to read the story on The Dick Williams Special.
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