The Multiplex lineage of cars starts back at the turn of the 20th century – takes a near 50 year hiatus – and then starts again in ’53. Today we’ll explore more about the cars and the brochures of Multiplex in ’54 and ’55.
Engines, Engines, Engines
Multiplex wanted to build the All-American car, and wanted to do so using an American powerplant. In fact, they wanted an engine uniquely suited to their car for sports and racing events – something that would place their sports car at the front of the pack on each and every race.
To try and realize this achievement, they had been quietly working with Harley Davidson of motorcycle fame in developing a two cylinder air-cooled engine for their sports car. We’ll present the history of this project in further detail later – here on Forgotten Fiberglass. In the meantime, let’s review a brochure by Multiplex showcasing this new engine and announcing the imminent production of a new sports car – the Multiplex 186.
As you read this brochure, you’ll notice that it discusses an aluminum body built over steel framework. This brochure was for their first car – a car we discussed that appeared in the February 1954 issue of Car Life. Click here for more information about the first Multiplex 186.
As they were developing this car, they were also working on a “buck” for a uniquely designed fiberglass body. They later abandoned this idea and moved to bodies built by Allied Fiberglass of Los Angeles, California which you’ll see in their second brochure, below.
One more point. The plans for the engine changed quickly, and they moved from their Harley Davidson engine concept to a Singer engine which you’ll see discussed in the article above from Car Life Magazine about the first Multiplex 186. The final choice for all subsequent Multiplex cars was the Willys F head engine – either 4 or 6 cylinder.
Let’s have a look at the first Multiplex brochure:
Multiplex 186 Brochure #1 (1953-1954):
The Biggest Little Car In The World
Built By: Multiplex Manufacturing Company, Berwick Pennsylvania
- A real sports car designed by a prominent car enthusiast and engineer. This car can serve the dual purpose of racing and conventional driving.
- Among the outstanding features of the “186” are its air cooled twin motor, tubular steel frame design construction and aluminum body.
- Custom built, many of the owner’s wishes may be incorporated, in minor changes here and there, to suit particular requirements.
- Due to the design of the car, it is light in weight and has superior road-ability and cornering characteristics. The type of suspension and the low center of gravity are also important factors in obtaining these results, as well as the weight to horsepower ratio, which in the case of the “186” is 18 lbs per horsepower. This is a truly significant first in motor car design, and naturally means economical operation.
Specifications: Multiplex 186 Open Sports
1207cc air cooled twin; overhead valves with hemispherical combustion chamber; coil ignition, 72 horsepower @ 5800 rpm; 32 miles per gallon.
Tubular truss type; independent front suspension by transverse spring and wishbones; semi-elliptic rear springs; Monromatic shock absorbers; Wagner-Lockheed hydraulic brakes; Ross steering; Borg-Warner transmission and rear end with choice of nine ratios.
- Wheelbase: 85”
- Front Track: 46”
- Rear Track: 45.375”
- Overall Length: 140.75”
- Overall Width: 57.375”
- Height Over Cowl: 36.125”
- Curb Weight: 910 lbs
Two seat open with aluminum panels over steel framework.
0-60 mph thru gears in 10.5 seconds. Maximum speed: 118 mph.
Multiplex 186 Brochure #2: (1955)
As you review the details below, Multiplex had already changed from their initial engine plans from an air cooled Harley Davidson motor, to a Singer motor (click here for more information), and finally settled on an a Willys F head engine – 4 or 6 cylinder.
You’ll notice that the photos are actually from the Atlas / Allied Fiberglass Company (Kinch, Burke, Thompson) and are being re-purposed in the Multiplex brochure – now revealing why Multiplex had such nice photos from Allied in the Crispin photo archive.
Click here for photos of the Allied Swallow Coupe
Click here for photos of the Allied Falcon Roadster
Now Multiplex Manufacturing of Berwick Pennsylvania had a chassis, engine, and body – all was set. Let’s see their brochure and what they were offering in ’55.
Multiplex 186: Multiplex Manufacturing Company Brochure (1955)
The Multiplex 186 has been designed, developed and thoroughly tested by men with many years of racing experience and sport car enthusiasm. These men have “tailored” the car to suit the discriminating taste of both the sport and competition enthusiast.
The “186” is entirely constructed of parts and materials of United States origin…and all parts are readily obtainable for repairs are replacements. New chassis design permits the incorporation of extremely low overall height without sacrificing headroom. Low center of gravity permits unusually fast “cornering.”
Multiplex 186 Sport Coupe
Multiplex 186 Open Sports
Tubular Truss Type Chassis
Tubular truss type chassis with unusual independent front suspension by transverse spring and wishbones.
Full Multiplex 186 Brochure From 1955:
Multiplex 186: Multiplex Manufacturing Company Brochure (1955)
The following price list is targeted for the later production Multiplex cars using various Willys engines. This is dated mid-year ’55:
Ultimately, three cars were built by Multiplex:
- The first Multiplex had a coach-built metal body (click here for more detail on the first Multiplex car of the ‘50s). This was built in ’53.
- The second was a coupe was built using the Allied Swallow body (94” wheelbase) – built in ’54.
- The third was a roadster using an Allied Falcon body (94” wheelbase) – built in late ’54 or early ’55.
- A fourth frame was built but never used and later discarded.
Quite a story for a long-standing firm and their entry of well-defined, built, and performing sports cars of the ‘50s. I’ll have to check with Darren Crispin again….since we’re in a new century now….maybe for Cripin Valve and Multiplex of Berwick, Pennsylvania… the third time is the charm 🙂
We’ll be featuring additional stories on Multiplex in the future here at Forgotten Fiberglass so stay tuned gang!
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures
I can remember back in the early 1960’s my Father working at the Multiplex company on Fowler Ave. I believe he was a draftsman. At times I remember Dad coming home for lunch driving one of the cars, all I remember is it being pitch black and I think it might have been a convertible, we lived right down the street from the mansion on 2nd. St. Another thing as a child growing up that I remember was the Crispin Family decorating the very tall pine tree at Christmas which could be seen from miles away, just a few of my childhood memories at 70 now….
Brandon….I think their “fourth” was the frame that was never built out. I’ll check with Darren again but “yes” to your question.
The forth car was given to the designer of the cars and was built. It is in West Pittston now.
So only 3 prototypes were made, the aluminum roadster, the fiberglass coupe and the fiberglass roadster? No production cars?
The black one never had a windshield when it was first built, just a small shield on front of the driver it was built as a racecar.
I love both these cars. The roadster is a very significant American racing car.