Rick D’Louhy and I have found many a riddle during our research into the history of early fiberglass sports cars.
We’ve found cars with missing history. We’ve found history without locating any cars. We’ve found “mystery makes” or “mysterions” where several of the same design exist with no reference as to the company that made them. And now we’ve found evidence of companies and the cars they may have produced without any supporting detail in terms of history, cars, or advertising.
I think after we publish the “Forgotten Fiberglass” book, we’ll come out with a supplemental edition outlining just these questions – the “Unsolved Mysteries of Forgotten Fiberglass….”
Well….today we have another “Unsolved Mystery” to share – the Tale of “Sportstar Associates” of East San Diego Station, California.
Sporstar Associates Brochure:
The only piece of evidence we’ve found for Sportstar is a small fold-out brochure. The brochure shows 3 designs of cars they were planning on offering, a fourth “custom” design, and an intriguing photograph of a man working on a plaster mock-up. The following quote appears on the last page of the brochure:
“SPORTSTAR ASSOCIATES includes a group of sports car enthusiasts who are likewise aircraft engineering and tooling men. We believe that the lines of an American sports car should combine the ruggedness of competition design and the gracefulness of boulevard styling. You will find a refreshing continental flavor in the body styles presented herewith.”
The brochure continues:
“Our complete design service is keyed to meet any requirements. We are set up to serve the manufacturer or individual desiring an ultra-fine custom body which interprets the current mode. Artist’s renderings or scale models will be furnished for customer approval. We will likewise execute your original design.”
Links to the Aircraft Industry:
Pretty impressive stuff here gang! Several of the folks we interviewed who were founders or employees of the fiberglass companies in the 1950’s had some, more, or extensive experience working for aircraft companies in Southern California. A few names that come to mind are Doc-Boyce Smith of Victress, Luigi Colani (click here for more information), Ed Monegan and Marvin Horton who produced the LeMans Coupe, Edward Tift who produced his own version of the LeMans coupe called the “Dolphin”, and others.
The aircraft industry’s strong connection to sports cars permeates the golden era of American sports car racing with the most famous association being General Curtis LeMay and his support for using Air Force Bases as racing venues. It’s interesting to note that those involved with Sportstar Associates were also connected to the aircraft industry. It sounds like this was one serious group of young men, raring to go and build a successful fiberglass sports car company.
Marion O. Martin – Where Are You?
Upon close inspection of the designs in the brochure, one name is revealed – that of “Marion O. Martin.” Specifically, the following caption appears under their custom design for a car noted as “Model L-N”:
“Another Original Design – By Sportstar Associates – Styled by Marion O. Martin”
I’ve done some initial searching and have found several Marion O. Martin’s in California – and some in the right age range too. But without more information, it’s hard to know which one is the right “Marion O. Martin.” And, perhaps I have the name wrong – I scanned and enlarged this area of the brochure as best I could, and that’s the name that I deciphered from the enlargement. You can see for yourself in the gallery of pictures which appears below.
The Models of Sportstar Associates:
Also discussed in the brochure are Sportstar’s capability of creating custom designs – for the discriminating customer. To this end, the “Model L-N” design is shown – the front of it looks a bit like the 1956 concept car by Oldsmobile called the “Golden Rocket”. It’s probably similar to other period designs too – it’s just that this design came to my mind first. Check out this link to see the story on the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket.
Here’s what the brochure says about each of their models:
The La Jolla Coupe: Presenting a low silhouette that denotes a car of grace and charm. Noticeable absence of chrome trim further focuses attention on its pleasantly modeled form. The removable top makes this a truly “convertible” sports coupe.
The Alpine Tourer: Fashioned in the Germanic functional manner is this sport tourer whose exhilaration the entire family can enjoy. Increased individuality can be obtained by varying the grille treatment on this, and other models shown.
The Torrey Pines: Named for the famous Torrey Pines road race, this body features the sculptured simplicity of Italian style trends. (Available for any short wheelbase chassis.) Similar removable tops will be available for other stock models.
Based on the designs of the cars and the reference to “Torrey Pines” as a famous road race, Rick and I estimate the year of the brochure as 1953. To our frustration, all that we’ve ever found concerning the history of Sportstar Associates is this brochure and the wonderful designs of “what might have been.”
We’ve never found “Mysterions” that match the designs shown, magazine ads, or other letters/supporting documentation about the company. There is the photo in the brochure showing a man working on a plaster mock-up of a car. The car looks a bit like the “Torrey Pines” design, so start checking your garages gang – and other garages too. You might find the finished car with its heritage long since forgotten.
Another question arises and that’s how brochures of the company came to be when we’ve found no advertising where a person could “write away” and request a brochure. But as I noted in the beginning of this story, there are many riddles left in the early days of fiberglass – riddles that each of you can help solve with research and a bit of luck.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
1/25/2011: Great news gang! Within 2 hours of my posting the story today, Don Anderson contacted me about Sportstar. Don’s father, Art Anderson, was one of several people involved with “Sportstar Associates” and he with 2-3 of his friends formed the company and built just one car. Don is going thru his family archives to find more information about the car and the company’s history. In the meantime, I’m researching the additional names he’s given me that were involved with the company. We’ll be having some updates on the Sportstar Company soon. Should be fun for all! Until next time…Geoff