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Sunset Vette

24 Jul

A Corvette Ancestor: the Glasspar

On a recent trip to Washington DC I decided to take some free time and visit the Smithsonian. If you have ever been there yourself, you know that there are a number of buildings; the museum is much too large to fit in one! I had been to the Air and Space museum (one of the most popular) and so this time I decided to visit some others; one of which showed a history of the development of the automobile.

This car really caught my eye as I was walking through the museum. Imagine my shock when I saw that it was listed as a 1953 model! For the most part the cars were arranged in chronological order, and I felt sure that this one was out of place. But, sure enough, it was produced in the early 1950s.

The sleek lines and curves of the styling were amazing, but it all made sense when I read the text on the card associated with the car. According to the card:

After World War II some American motorists, including veterans, wanted European-style sports cars. William Tritt, a California fiberglass-boat builder, introduced the Jaguar-like Glasspar in 1952 and became a leader among small manufacturers of affordable American sports cars. Major automakers had dismissed plastic bodies after an unsuccessful Ford experiment in the 1940s, but Tritt showed that a body made of polyester resin and glass strands was practical, economical to produce in very small quantities, and superior to steel in many ways.

Of course we all know that now, don’t we? The problem was that Tritt only made the bodies, he did not have the capacity to build an entire car. So people would buy a used Ford or other car and modify the chassis to accept the Glasspar “skin”. The documentation goes on to say:

Despite its advantages, the plastic car seemed destined to remain a low-volume vehicle because of slow production and limited capital. One Glasspar body was made each day, and no chassis were made. … But in 1953 General Motors decided to make Corvette bodies of fiberglass and consulted with Tritt about production methods. By the 1960s GM was making more than 20,000 fiberglass-body Corvettes each year by using dies and presses instead of casting in molds.

I don’t know if the early Corvette design team took any styling cues from the Glasspar, but here’s a shot showing the front end.

A shot showing the cockpit.

And the rear.

It’s interesting in that after seeing this car I did a number of searches on the internet and found a bunch of hits for Glasspar boats, but none on the Glasspar automobile. I know I had never heard of it before; I hope you found this page interesting.

This car was donated to the museum by Dusty Dutton and Family.

4 Responses to “A Corvette Ancestor: the Glasspar”

  1. 1
    Kirk Suttell Says:

    Do you know how to contact Bill Tritt??
    The Florida Glasspar Club would like to ask a few questions. Thanks!!

  2. 2
    Dave Rathbun Says:

    No, I’m afraid that I don’t. My apologies, and I wish you luck in your search.

  3. 3
    Bonnie Meyer Says:

    My husband has one of these cars! They are really fun to drive, we get honks, thumbs up and stares.

  4. 4
    Dave Rathbun Says:

    Hi, Bonnie, and thanks for your comment. I bet you get plenty of looks in this car!

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