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1953 Glasspar automobile, formerly exhibited in the museum's Road Transportation hall

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1953 Glasspar automobile, formerly exhibited in the museum's Road Transportation hall
Smithsonian Institution, Photo by Terry McCrea, Negative #: 2000-4755-1A

IN CONTEXT

This object appears in the following sections:


Technology
Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1950-1969

OTHER VIEWS
1953 Glasspar automobile, formerly exhibited in the museum's Road Transportation hall
1953 Glasspar automobile, formerly exhibited in the museum's Road Transportation hall


Glasspar automobile
Catalog #: 1996.0401.01, Accession #: 1996.0401
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

This 1953 Glasspar is an example of fiberglass-body sports cars made in small quantities after World War II. Some American motorists, particularly veterans returning from overseas duty, wanted European-style sports cars. Several American companies began small-scale production of sports cars with molded fiberglass bodies. This type of body could be made in small quantities without the expensive tooling, dies, and presses needed to make steel bodies. William Tritt, a California fiberglass-boat builder, introduced the Jaguar-like Glasspar in 1951 and sold several hundred bodies. The Glasspar body fit on a used automobile chassis that the owner obtained and customized by shortening the wheelbase. A fiberglass body was not only simpler to make; it was lightweight, rustproof, dent-resistant, and easy to repair. And it was inexpensive; a Glasspar body sold for only $950, one-fourth the price of a Jaguar and less than half the price of a Ford convertible. Tritt improved the technique of making fiberglass bodies and made more bodies of this type than his competitors. He understood the importance of casting an automobile body in one piece, and he developed techniques to avoid shrinkage, tearing at metal joints, and mismatched parts. Dale L. Dutton, a Glasspar enthusiast, donated this car to the Smithsonian in 1996.

Physical Description

Two-passenger coupe. Red body made of fiberglass, gray upholstery. 1953 Lincoln engine.

Details
Date Made:
1953
Locations:
California
Credit:
Gift of Dale L. Dutton
History

Major auto manufacturers dismissed plastic bodies following an unsuccessful Ford experiment in the early 1940s, but William Tritt demonstrated that a body made of polyester resin and glass strands was practical, economical to produce, and superior to steel in many ways. Tritt introduced the Glasspar in 1951 and made about 300 sports car bodies by hand over a period of several years. Despite its advantages, the plastic car seemed destined to remain a low-volume vehicle because of slow production and limited capital investment; only one Glasspar body was made per day. 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 per year by using dies and presses instead of making bodies in molds.

Related People, Places, and Events
Manufacturer
Glasspar Company

Place of Manufacture
Santa Ana, California


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