Today’s article is a result of a recent magazine find from Ray Wise – owner of Rollie Langston’s ‘50s built Byers SR-100 and avid vintage ‘glass sports car fan.
Ray recently came across a stash of cool old vintage magazines and sent some of what he found our way down here in Florida Fiberglassland. Thanks Ray!
Back in ’53, the activity at Victress Manufacturing was rising by the week. In the Fall, they had witnessed the Hellings Victress S1 complete its first movie appearance in the Tony Curtis / Piper Laurie extravaganza “Johnny Dark,” and Victress Manufacturing had just completed a week-long demonstration of how to build a fiberglass body at the Peterson Motorama.
Their “resin cup” overflowed with activity, sales, publicity, and work – these were heady times for Victress – and it didn’t stop there. Doc Boyce-Smith, Merrill Powell, and the crew at Victress were pulling out all the stops, and ready to introduce their next original design.
The Birth of the Victress S4
Traditionally, fiberglass cars were created using an original shape created out of plaster. This was time consuming, messy, and the final design was determined thru repeated measures of waiting until the plaster dried – seeing what you got – adding or deleting excess or needed plaster, and beginning the process anew. This took time and was no doubt cloudywith dust, dust, dust….
Students of traditional automotive design were schooled on using “Chavant” clay in creating their final full-size design. This was a malleable non-drying material which also had properties that made it easier when creating molds for production or further work. Click here to learn a bit more about why Chavant clay is / was used in the industry for this type of application.
Although this clay was the primary choice for car design by the big three in Detroit, it was hard to get in large quantities – and expensive too for smaller companies. This didn’t stop Victress from using this approach for their latest automotive design – the Victress S4 by Hugh Jorgensen. Doc Boyce-Smith and Merrill Powell were creating a company that was going to use traditional methods and not just “out jag the Jaguar” with the S1 design – but match the big boys in Detroit with their method of design too.
Everything seemed possible back in ’54 for Victress Manufacturing….
The article below is a window into the process of creating a final design in clay. Just a few other fiberglass companies used this approach, and one of these was Grantham Stardust of Hollywood California. But….the majority of fiberglass sports car builders used the traditional plaster process in creating a final “plug” for their design.
Let’s take a look at what Motor Trend had to say in the Fall of ’54 about this process, and how Victress accomplished building their initial prototype design in clay. The story begins with a short introduction, but then switches to a “photo story” using 16 photos and captions to illustrate the process. This is indeed a window into the past, so review, read, and enjoy today’s story about the birth of the Victress S4.
A Car Is Born…
Motor Trend: October 1954
A Photo Story By E. Pat Brollier
Setting up a Fiberglass mold is no mean job in itself, but it pales beside the work that goes before. Here is how.
Many backyard builders can tell you of the backaches, bankaches, and headaches that go hand-in-hand with building a car; be it metal or plastic, it seems there are always problems. But now, with ready-built fiberglass bodies available, a lot of waning enthusiasm has been restored to the devotees.
Don’t think the manufacturer has only taken over your problems in building a new car; even before he gets his hands into a fast-hardening concoction of glass fiber, cloth, and resin, he has to go through the time-consuming and costly procedure shown here – the birth of a prototype.
When “Doc” Boyce-Smith and Merrill Powell of the Victress Manufacturing Company (a North Hollywood, California firm) got together with designer Hugh Jorgensen for a tete-a-tete over a new car, the particularly attractive outcome – the Victress S4 body – appealed to a lot of at-home builders, most of whom appreciated the work that went into the fiberglass bodies. But here’s the story even a lot of Victress fanciers didn’t know – the story behind the story of a fiberglass car.
In the near future, I’ll review Merrill Powell’s thoughts on the production of the clay-based Victress S4 “plug” back in ’54. As I recall, this was an adventure in itself, during the golden era of original body designs in fiberglass – back in the exciting times of the 1950’s.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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