Glasspar Inc. - 1950-1956 - Santa Ana, California


   

Established by Bill Tritt to produced fiberglass bodies for Tritt's Glasspar sports car (1950-1956). Also supplied bodies to other manufacturers such as Woodill for the Woodill Woodfire (1952-1956)

Glasspar went on to produce a line of pleasure boats from 1957-1969.

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The Glasspar became the first ever mass-produced fibreglass-bodied car. Bill Tritt was born in 1917 and entered the plastics field in 1948 when a friend wanted a corrosion-proof, lightweight boat. The Green Dolphin Boat Works at Monteciot, Calif. was formed and, with a partner, Tritt built several plastic-bodied boats of various sizes. In 1950 he formed the Glasspar Body Works and a major part of his business was in the building of the increasingly popular Fibreglas boats.
It was only natural for the enterprising Tritt, who had an extreme fondness for sports cars but who was never able to afford one of the trim European models then being seen in increasing quantity throughout America, to turn his design talents to the automobile body. Shortly after the showing of his "Boxer" at Motorama, Tritt designed and built a new body mold. The sports car which was built as a result has been shown all over America... The exhibition of Tritt's car, backed by the Naugatuck Chemical Company, plus the acompanying voluminous publicity, began bringing in orders, mostly from individuals who mounted the body on modified stock Ford, Mercury, Singer and other chassis. "Every Joe Dokaes who has read the fascinating literature on Fiberglas cars thinks it a cinch to build his own sports car. As with any new material, there are bound to be problems and disadvantages. After 3 and a half years, I can truthfully say here at Glasspar we have had our share -said Tritt"

"Woody" Woodill bought fibreglass bodies from Glasspar and modified them, adding hinges, locks and so on. The chassis was engineered to take Ford parts, and some cars were sold complete, making them the world's first fibreglass- bodied production car. Exact production figures remain a mystery: 100-300 Woodill Wildfires have been made and who knows how many Glasspar kits. Glasspar folded at the end of 1955, Woodill in 1958.
Bill Tritt is still with us, and the son of Woody Woodill is on the Net!

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This is the first complete and accurate history of the Glasspar G2. There have been many accounts of Bill Tritt and this unique car, but most cover just a part of his far-reaching influence and of the car's impact on the automotive world. Those short, but brilliant, seven years in the early '50s when the Glasspar G2 was being produced was a turning point in not only the auto world but in other industries in the use of fiberglass in construction. The Glasspar G2 was the world's first production fiberglass-bodied car; this account traces its evolution.

The History

      The Glasspar G2 was born in 1949 when Air Force Major Ken Brooks showed Bill Tritt the hot rod he was building, which consisted of a stripped down Willys Jeep with a highly modified V8 engine. Bill, at the time, was building small fiberglass boats in his Costa Mesa, California, factory and he convinced Ken that fiberglass was the best material to use for the hot rod's body.
      Bill made sketches of a body and, with Ken and his wife's approval, proceeded to make the body plug and mold for a low-slung, continental-style roadster. It was a good year and a half, with lots of trial and error, until the body was finished, set on the chassis and christened the Brooks Boxer in mid 1951.
      Bill Tritt was born in 1917 and had an abiding interest in boats and cars. Before the war, he studied marine architecture and boat building. He worked for Douglas Aircraft's Production Planning and Illustration Departments during WW II, and by 1945 had built a number of catamaran sailboats. In 1947, John Green, a yachtsman friend, commissioned Tritt to design and build a high-performance sailboat in the 20-ft. range. Fiberglass seemed the logical construction material, and Otto Bayer of Wizard Boats was enlisted as laminator. The boat was named the Green Dolphin, and four were built. This was Tritt's introduction to fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP). By 1947 he was building small fiberglass boats, and built the first ever fiberglass masts and spars for sailboats. This company became the Glasspar Company, and moved to larger quarters in Santa Ana, California, in the early 1950s. By the mid 1950s, Glasspar was producing 15 to 20 percent of all fiberglass boats sold in the U.S.
      The Brooks Boxer was an immediate success when shown at the 1951 Los Angeles Motorama, along with three other early fiberglass cars, the big Lancer, the small Skorpion and the Wasp. Only Tritt's car went on to be the first production fiberglass car. The Boxer mold was used to produce the beautiful Glasspar G2 sports car that year.
      The Korean War was going on, and Tritt was having trouble getting polyester resin for his cars and boats. The Naugatuck Chemical Company, after seeing the Boxer, sent Glasspar plenty of Vibrin resin and an order for a G2 sports car to promote their product to the auto industry. Naugatuck's G2 was named the Alembic I and was shown at the Philadelphia Plastics Exhibit in 1952. Life Magazine then did a feature story on the car, as did the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and just about every auto trade magazine. The Glasspar Company then went public and sold stock to raise capital.

The Alembic I in Philadelphia

After Naugatuck's Alembic was shown in Philadelphia in 1952, the car was presented to Harley Earl, the Chief Stylist of General Motors, in March of that year. The car was borrowed by General Motors for a month of evaluation, and Chevrolet then designed and built the fiberglass Corvette. Bill Tritt's friend, Brandt Goldsworthy, was a consultant to them on their fiberglass problems and techniques.
The Corvette fiberglass bodies were fabricated using the faster but less rigid pressure-molded process rather than the superior and stronger hand-laminated process used at Glasspar for all their car bodies. This accounts for the fact that the Glasspar bodies are as sound today as they were when they were built.

The Glasspar G2 Sportscar

The Glasspar G2 sports roadster has a 101-in. wheelbase and a standard 55-in. to 59-in. tread using 600x16 tires. With the engine set back behind the front axle the car has a perfect 50-50 weight distribution on the wheels, and with the light weight and wide tread, the handling characteristics are superior. The factory Glasspars came with interiors and engines to the customer's choice with the suspension preferably Ford.
Glasspar designed a new stiff 2"x3" tubular frame for the G2 body which took '39 to '48 Ford running gear and almost any engine. Of particular note was the racing Mameco Glasspar with its 230-hp, 284-cu.in. C.T. Ardun Mercury engine. With this powerful engine and new frame, the car was a sensation on the track in speed and handling, passing most cars at will. The car weighed only 1,900 lbs. This frame was fabricated by Mameco and was used by Glasspar for their factory cars and kits. Woodill also used this frame for their Series II Wildfires.

Glasspar made about 10 production cars at the Santa Ana factory, some for famous persons such as Gary Cooper and Rosemary Clooney. A factory car sold for $2,950, the rest were sold as kits, with the cost of the 185-lb., 3/16"-thick body with molded cockpit and trunk, $650, the frame, $200. There were many extras provided by Glasspar, such as a molded dashboard for $18 and a second door for $75. Additionally, you could get a fiberglass hardtop, bucket seats, hood air scoop and wind wings. The body always included aluminum posts for the two-piece windshield. Almost any engine could be mounted in the G2 - Cadillac, Buick, Chrysler, Lincoln, etc., with the most popular being the Ford flathead.

Bill Tritt produced the G2 and other car bodies, starting from the Boxer in 1951 until the end of production in 1955, producing well over 200 - about 100 G2's, 100 Wildfires and a number of other interesting cars. The Glasspar was also listed in the Standard Catalog of American Cars, '46-'75.

The Woodill Wildfire - As the Glasspar G2 took off, Robert "Woody" Woodill, a very successful Dodge and Willys dealer in Downey, California, made plans for a sports car with Willys components and Tritt's fiberglass body. Glasspar made the first two bodies for him, which were the G2 body modified with MG-type raised cockpit cowls, squared rear fenders to take the Willys Aero taillights, and a false hood scoop. The cars had an angle frame by Shorty Post with a Jeepster front axle and Willys components. Power was a Willys F Head 90-hp engine. These two cars were known as the Series I Woodill Wildfires, and one was shown at the 1952 Los Angeles Motorama.

Series I Wildfire

      At this time, unfortunately, Kaiser bought out Willys; and Dutch Darrin, a Kaiser designer, had taken a Glasspar G2 and remolded it into the Kaiser Darrin sports car. Because they were promoting this car, Kaiser would not back the Wildfire, so Woody was on his own. He redesigned the Series I body with a new grille, higher doors with windows, a continental spare tire kit, longer cockpit and many other features, calling the car the Series II Woodill Wildfire. This car used the new Glasspar 2x3 tubular frame.

Series II Wildfire

      For not the demise of Willys, this car might have gone into full production, but Woody made only about 10 factory cars and the rest he sold as kits. A fully assembled factory car initially sold for $3,260 and, as a kit, the body cost $995 and the frame $228. He attempted to market the production car worldwide and succeeded in having the Wildfire featured in three movies; "Johnny Dark" with Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie, "Knock on Wood" with Danny Kaye and "Written on the Wind" with Dorothy Malone and Rock Hudson. Woody Woodill finally closed down Wildfire production in 1958 after selling about 100 cars, all bodies provided by Glasspar.

The Volvo P1900 - Glasspar designed and built sports car bodies for the Swedish carmaker, Volvo, in 1955. Volvo technicians were trained at Glasspar and 20 bodies were fabricated there. These bodies and the molds were shipped to Volvo for assembly and further production with a total of 67 Volvo P1900's finally produced. Volvo never actively promoted the car.

Volvo P1900

      The Vaughn Singer - This was only one automobile. Bill Vaughn of the British Singer Car Company commissioned Bill Tritt to ship a Glasspar G2 body to New York and adapt it to a Singer SM 1500 chassis. The body arrived on 2x4's and Tritt and a welder, working in a loft in Manhattan, stripped the metal body off and adapted the G2 body to the Singer chassis. The car, outwardly identical to a G2 and not running, was moved to a New York City Auto Show for display and promotion. Only one G2 body was ever delivered to Singer.

Vaughan Singer 1500

      The Yankee Clipper - Only one was made in 1953, by the Strassberger Motor Company of Menlo Park, California, using the standard Glasspar G2 body, Ford components and a Ford flathead engine. Strassberger was one of many companies who desired to, but did not get into fiberglass car production starting with a G2 body. Their car was a standard Glasspar G2 kit.

      The Kaiser Darrin - As noted previously, Dutch Darrin, a noted designer for Kaiser, used the G2 body as the starting point and basis for the unique Kaiser Darrin fiberglass sports car. Kaiser produced them in 1954 with 435 made and over 300 still accounted for by the Darrin Owners' Roster.
      The bodies were made by Glasspar and were delivered in seven pieces -- the hood, doors, top well cover, deck lid, rear section and front-end assembly. The 300-lb. body, when assembled, was mounted on a modified Henry J chassis, and the engine was a 6-cyl, 161-cu.in. Willys F-Head producing 90hp. The car weighed 2,175 lbs. and sold for $3,668.
      The sliding doors were the unique feature of the Kaiser Darrin and this required side curtains for windows. The car was very complete, including a convertible top, and there were many extras. Production of the Kaiser Darrin came to a halt after only nine months.

Autopia - Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, was building its Autopia automobile track, and commissioned Bill Tritt and Glasspar to build the fiberglass car bodies. These were small, single-seat, self-powered cars and the order was for about 30 car bodies and 1955 delivery. The cars were to have an aluminum wrap-around bumper provided by sponsor, Kaiser Aluminum, but later changed to the more suitable steel. Power was a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower-type engine with a centrifugal clutch and governor.

The Ascot - Although Bill Tritt had contented his company with fabricating and supplying, in the main, just car bodies, he wanted to build another complete sports car embodying the great experience he had gained. In 1955, Bill designed and built the Ascot, a modern and striking car meant for the adventurous, and meant for the road with its fine power-to-weight ratio and 50-50 weight balance for handling. The Ascot was a complete car with roll-up windows, convertible top, good trunk space and the special feature of detachable fenders. It weighed in at 1,750 lbs. and was to sell for $2,600. It was powered by a 100hp Studebaker Champion engine with high-performance add-ons and used Studebaker components with the ease of parts supply from Studebaker. Bill built five cars and was ready to move, when the Glasspar Board of Directors applied the brakes. They were not at all interested in cars, but wanted to concentrate on the more profitable Glasspar boats. This 1955 corporate decision brought an end to the Ascot and the G2, both ahead of their time in style and construction, true American legends.

The Glasspar G2 Today

      Bill Tritt is the "father of the fiberglass car" and his G2, the forerunner of all production fiberglass cars. On 2 June, 2000, a brilliant red Glasspar G2 was placed on the exhibition floor of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, as an American original, alongside other unique cars that have made history. Dale Dutton graciously donated his car so it would be enshrined properly among the world's best.       Designer and builder, Bill Tritt was there to receive his and the Glasspar G2's honors.

      Later that same day, most of the Smithsonian well wishers traveled to Glasspar G2 owner Bill Hoover's home to drive his car. This was a historic moment for all, especially Tritt, driving a car he had produced some 48 years before.

Bill Tritt Driving the G2

There were other notables at this historic occasion, and they gathered around the car for the group picture that truly shows the timeless beauty and style of the Glasspar G2, the world's first production fiberglass car.

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  A great source of Glasspar history can be found in two recent car magazines. First, the January, 2002 issue of Kit Car has a terrific article and pictures by Harold Pace, a great friend of the Glasspar, on page 38, a must read. It is titled "American Treasure". Second, the British magazine Classic and Sports Car of July 2000 has great coverage of Bill Tritt in "Plastic Pioneer", page 102.

 

   

For more information please read:

Harold Pace - Glasspar - Kit Car magazine - January 2002

Plastic Pioneer - Classic and Sports Car magazine - July 2000

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

F. Donald Butler - Plymouth-Desoto Story

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Dennis Casteele - The Cars of Oldsmobile

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

George H. Dammann - 75 Years of Chevrolet

John Gunnell - Seventy-Five Years of Pontiac-Oakland

 



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