I wish I could have had a chance to meet Eric Irwin. I’ve been a fortunate researcher in many ways.
I got to know and became friends with Bill Tritt of Glasspar and his family. I visited with John Wills and work with the Wills family (Wasp and Skorpion) to promote the heritage of their father’s cars and work. But I never met Eric Irwin who created the first fiberglass car that was documented in the press (Modern Man Magazine, Joseph Wherry, November 1952).
Eric’s “Lancer” debuted at the November 1951 Petersen Motorama along with Tritt’s Boxer (Glasspar G2) and Wills Wasp and Skorpion. Ah to go back in time….what fun that would be! Although I never met Eric, I recently was able to do the next best thing. I met and have befriended Eric’s nephew Brian Jennings, and we’ve been having a ball talking about his uncle Eric Irwin and Eric’s accomplishments.
Today’s story is dedicated to Eric Irwin and his achievements in a world of mass production so many years ago. And not only did Eric create one of the first fiberglass sport cars, he wrote the first book on how to build your own fiberglass sports car – from soup to nuts – and published it in 1952. Earlier this year I wrote a story about the early fiberglass books, what they looked like, who wrote them, and the material covered inside of them. Click here to review the history of all early fiberglass books.
This is the earliest known ad for any book on how to create your own fiberglass car. It appeared in the August 1952 issue of Auto Speed and Sport Magazine.
Today’s story shows the first iteration of Eric Irwin’s book, “Building the Plastic Car.” The first version of this book shown today was soon replaced with a smaller one that covered less information, so the value and power of Eric’s insight in this first – and only known copy – of his manual on the “Building of the Plastic Car” is invaluable as a tool to learn how these early cars were first built.
Let’s take a look at the first few paragraphs of what Eric had to say. Then, we’ll review high resolution scans of each and every page.
Hold onto your fiberglass hats and away we go….
Building the Plastic Car (1952)
By Eric Irwin
Chapter 1: Fiberglass and Plastic
The odds are you have said more than once, “I bet I could design a better looking car than that.” Well, here’s your chance. And you can build it of fiberglass and plastic with a minimum of tools and money. Constructing a fiberglass and plastic body isn’t an impossible job for the average hobbyist who can visualize the car he would like to drive and is willing to use his spare time to gain it.
But it isn’t an overnight proposition. The advent and acceptance of fiberglass and plastic is placing before the American man a means both simple and economical of creating an individual auto body to his own styling and design ideas.
The combination of fiberglass and plastic possesses many of the qualities long sought for in auto bodies. It is inert; it has great resiliency, will not stay bent; it is light for its strength, does not need heavy nor complicated stiffeners or sub-frames; and it is easily and cheaply repaired if it is damaged and resists damage to a much greater degree than metal. It will neither rust nor oxidize and will hold its paint as long or longer than metal.
Let’s dig in now and have a look at the entire book. Remember you can click on each page below and this will make it larger on your computer screen.
In Eric’s book above, he talked about the method of construction, how to design your own body, chassis, and even how to create your own molds. Eric was comprehensive in his approach and careful in his craft. If you are fascinated with the history of building these early fiberglass specials – this book and its reading above is definitely for you!
Creating one of the first fiberglass cars…..creating the first book on how to build your own fiberglass car from scratch….having his “Lancer” featured in the Johnny Dark movie…..Eric Irwin was one accomplished fiberglass designer and creator, and I’m honored to feature his story and his achievements here at Forgotten Fiberglass.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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