Harold Pace probably rues the day that I tracked him down and forced him to become friends with me.
But how couldn’t I? He was already the most accomplished writer in terms of fiberglass kit car history writing for such magazines as Petersen’s Kit Car Magazine, Kit Car Builder, Classic and Sports Car (UK), Rodder’s Journal, Vintage Racecar Journal, and many others. Harold even authored the most complete book on kit car history ever written titled, “The Big Guide to Kit & Specialty Cars.” Click here to read more about this book.
I introduce Harold Pace to you today, because Harold and I are on an “Almquist” quest. I like the sound of that phrase…..”Almquist Quest.” It kind of rolls off the lips…
One of the best ways to take the guessing game out of research is to go directly to the source. Rick D’Louhy and I spent a cold Winter New Years Eve with Ed and Marion Almquist several years ago, and Ed Almquist has been wonderful in providing as much detail to help us with our research as possible. But Harold and I have gone one step further.
We are in pursuit of finding and retaining a copy of every Almquist catalog and publication ever printed. And we’re getting pretty good at it. My collection starts in 1946 with Almquist’s first pamphlet, and around the mid-1950’s when Ed switched to catalogs – that’s where Harold’s collection picks up. Together, we are trying to create the most comprehensive collection of Almquist memorabilia in order to document and record the introduction of parts, techniques, and even…..wait for it…..fiberglass car bodies that debuted in America.
Hence today’s story…
Almquist Catalog: 1963
By collecting and reviewing Almquist catalogs from each year, we can help establish when different fiberglass sports car bodies became available – and when they were discontinued. The first mention of the Thunderbolt Sports Car appears in Almquist’s 1963 catalog. And here’s one of the pieces that caught my attention:
“You could pay hundreds more and only then might you match the satisfaction you’ll have when you slip behind the steering wheel of the magnificent Thunderbolt. In that moment, you’ll know you have arrived – you’ll feel that surge of pride as you guide your “tiger” through traffic, or “open it up” on the turnpike or drag strip. You’ll experience a totally new concept in driving….a new way of life!”
I love the wording and phrases used throughout the description of the Thunderbolt – and… I’m a bit envious of the writing style. It’s even more enthusiastic than my typical writing about fiberglass cars – and that’s saying a lot!
So….without adieu, let’s take a look what the 1963 Almquist Catalog says about…..”The Thunderbolt.”
The Ultra New “Thunderbolt”
Engineered By Almquist to Take its Place Among the Great Sports Car Bodies of the World….But at a Fraction of Their Cost
If you ever dreamed of owning a custom sports car special with prestige written all over it – brother, the Thunderbolt is for you! This magnificent fiberglass sports body is unlike anything you’ve ever seen…with its sculptured aerodynamic “slip-stream” contours, distinctive jet age styling and all. No sleeping tiger, this, it looks like it’s doing 60 standing still! Set it in motion, and swoooooosh….it’s the Grand Prix, LeMans, Sebring all rolled in one. All you need is an inexpensive used car chassis – your Thunderbolt sports body will do the rest.
Improved Weight Balance and Low Center of Gravity Mean Greater Safety
The exclusive Almquist Thunderbolt handles like it was bred for competition. Its low center of gravity and 50/50 weight distribution allow you to tool around curves or bends or swallow up a straight-a-way with unimaginable ease and safety. The aerodynamic streamlining cuts air drag and power loss. Steel strong, mirror smooth fiberglass surrounds you with an elegance that heretofore existed only in hand-made custom cars costing many times more.
Lower Body Weight Means Increased Acceleration and Top Speed
With a light fiberglass body, your car achieves a higher power to weight ratio. Your engine has less “dead weight” to pull – which means more engine power can be put to useful work. With a Thunderbolt body, even a stock engine behaves like it’s supercharged!
With The Almquist Thunderbolt, You Can Transform Any Standard Automobile Into a Sleek, “Low Profile” Custom Sports Car
The Thunderbolt sports body comes complete, ready to mount. Smooth, reinforced molded fiberglass bolts to chassis quickly, permitting an easy inexpensive installation by most anyone. Complete do-it-yourself instructions included. Check the advantages below, and you’ll see why a brand new Thunderbolt makes a lot of sense.
Low Completed Cost
As little as $600 can provide you with a handsome custom sports car. Because you can use most original equipment (floorboards, fender wells, engine, dash instruments, stock wiring, etc.) from your old car, your final cost is actually less than the price of a “good” used car or a re-styling job on your present car.
Low Maintenance Costs
The laminated fiberglass Thunderbolt body cannot rust, rattle, or corrode. It has a higher tensile strength than steel and holds a beautiful enamel finish that lasts and lasts.
A True Custom
The Thunderbolt is truly a custom sports car – an advantage obviously not possible with any American or foreign production car. In addition to owning a distinctively different car, you get added re-sale value, because advanced design cuts obsolescence to a minimum.
Pride of Ownership
You could pay hundreds more and only then might you match the satisfaction you’ll have when you slip behind the steering wheel of the magnificent Thunderbolt. In that moment, you’ll know you have arrived – you’ll feel that surge of pride as you guide your “tiger” through traffic, or “open it up” on the turnpike or drag strip. You’ll experience a totally new concept in driving….a new way of life!
Thunderbolt (Technical Specifications):
There is a Thunderbolt sports body engineered to fit any of the following applications. Specify car, year, model, wheelbase. Shipped by truck – 150 lbs to 200 lbs.
Available for following wheelbases:
- Any 94” to 106” wheelbase chassis (Corvette, early T-birds, Jaguar, Henry J, Shortened Ford, etc.).
- Any 106” to 116” wheelbase chassis (Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth, Studebaker Lark, and medium size cars).
- Any 110” to 118” wheelbase (Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth, etc.).
- 56”-62” track
41-722A: Basic Thunderbolt Body (large size): $425
41-725A: Complete Thunderbolt Body including accessory and styling kit: $495
41-723A: Thunderbolt Junior (48”-52” track) available for following wheelbases:
- Any 72” to 82” wheelbase chassis (Crosley, Fiat, Morris, etc.).
- Any 82” to 92” wheelbase chassis (Volkswagon, Hillman, Morris, Simca, Crosley, Hot Shot, etc.).
- Any Volkswagon, Renault, or other rear-engine car (specify).
41-725: Accessory & Styling Kit (as above) to fit Thunderbolt Junior (25 lbs): $45
Accessory & Styling Kit (Included With Complete Thunderbolt Body):
- Grille Kit Material
- 2 Flush-Mount Tail Lights
- 2 Flush-Mount Amber Parking Lights
- Canvas Roadster Top in Choice of Black or Tan
- Telescopic Frame Kit
- Windshield Adaptors
Handsome All-Weather Removable Fiberglass Top
Optional at small extra cost (complete information available upon request).
Available for all Almquist fiberglass bodies
41-724A: 3-ply waterproof canvas top complete with rear plastic window. Shipping weight 20 lbs: $29.95
Free! Send for the complete Thunderbolt story, pictures, mounting hints, tips on chassis, sizes, specs, etc. Just send 25 cents to cover mailing. Refundable on first order. Pay as you drive – in low monthly installments
EVERYTHING IN FIBERGLASS FROM ALMQUIST
The Thunderbolt is quite a car, and certainly has a commanding presence. I’d enjoy having one just so I could share the sales sheet above with people and the way in which Almquist marketed the car. It may be my favorite sales approach for a fiberglass sports car from the 1950’s and 1960’s – just because of the enthusiasm shown in the advertising. It’s contagious in every way.
And….for those of you who would like to learn more about my good friend Harold Pace, visit the following websites and have a look around:
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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