index of the
KTUD pages

Created: October, 1995
Last updated: 1 September, 2004

Imagine the scene: we're after the 2nd World War in the United States. New models soon to be introduced but they're all big limousines or woodies or some other kind of family movers. There's no sports model in sight except the small and cute Crosley Hot-shot. Meanwhile in Europe, particulary in England the small two-seater sportscars are starting to invade the market and they soon are offered in the States as well. A new material, plastic appearing as a suitable idea for motorboat bodies. There are experiences with plastic bodied cars in Germany, England and in the States (let me remind You to the famous picture where Henry Ford tried to vandalise their plastic-bodied prototype with an axe to demonstrate the strength of it).


Glasspar 1951, the 2nd ever built, now owned by Ralph Hobson, New York.

"At the 1951 LA Motor Show (Motorama) there were 4 fibreglass bodied cars: Bill Tritt and his original, the Brooks "Boxer", Eric Irwin offered his "Lancer", and Ralph Roberts and Jack Wills turned up with the "Skorpion" and its prototype the "Wasp". - Motor Trend, December, 1952.

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!


Devin was another of the pioneers of the American fibreglass-bodied car-era.
He marketed his first fibreglass body in 1952 when he took a mould from an Ermini (Italian, Scaglietti-designed two-seater). Another body kit transformed the Panhard sedan into a roadster.

Devin-Panhard in action. Photo was taken by Dave Sisson

After these bodies came the SS in 1959. It made Devin more than just a keen body kit maker. The rolling chassis from Ireland were delivered to Devin in CA, where a Chevy engine were mounted (European-American sportscar. Does it ring a bell? Well, the Devin SS was a pre-Cobra). Then the Devin fibreglass body was fitted. Only 15 (other sources suggest 10) were made, 'cause there were problem with the suppliers and the price became sky-high. Production ended in 1962.
In 1960 the last of the Devin range was shown, named D. It was VW or Porsche based . The look was more tamed compared to the SS. In the late '60s the car was revived in Czechoslovakia under the name Skoda Winettou! I don't know how many were produced, but according to a source about 100 D-types have been made.
Also there was an option called a C type which used Chevrolet Corvair power. This used a turbocharged 140hp air cooled 6 cylinder! These cars would reach 0-60 in about 4 seconds flat!

MOre info:


Muntz Jet 1952

Owner: Wayne & Betty Wenger, Gilroy. Photographed by Dave Sisson at the 1995 Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance.

"The first serious attempt in nearly a generation to manufacture an American sport car capable of measuring up to the top-flight European jobs" - wrote the Sport cars and Hot Rods book back in 1950, published by Fawcett Publications.

Let's take a look what details did they mention:

"Back of the venture is Earl ("Madman") Muntz, former Kaiser-Frazer distributor and present television tycoon...
The Muntz is a beautiful machine, built in practical fashion from dependable Ford and Cadillac components, with a high-grade custom body added. Father of the Muntz was the Kurtis Kraft, originally designed by Frank Kurtis, leading U.S. builder of Indianapolis and dirt track cars. Kurtis announced a prototype in 1949, adaptable to a wide range of power units, including Studebaker, Ford, Lea-Francis (British) and Offenhauser. Complete kits for home-building also were scheduled, but production never got under way.
But an experimental Kurtis sport car witha stroked Mercury engine hit 142.5 mph [approx. 229 km/h] over a measured mile on Daytona Beach in August of that year. Attracted by this performance and the low-slung lines and promising basic design of the Kurtis, Earl Muntz bought up the tools, dies and assets of the Kurtis firm in the summer of 1950. The existing plant was retained pending a move to a big new factory in Chicago and Frank Kurtis together with Sam Hanks were retained to do some redesigning on the original Kurtis with a view to making it an all-purpose job of wider appeal. Wheelbase was lengthened 13 inche [33 cm]. This enabled a back seat to be installed and numerous details improvements went into both chassis and body.
Within six weeks the first complete car rolled out with Hydra-Matic drive... When we test-drove car No. 6 we used a stop watch for the pick-up figures. Example: 0-50 mph [0-80 km/h] 6 secs, 0-80 mph [0-129 km/h] 9 secs. On the turnpike, 125 mph [201 km/h] with something in hand (by speedometer). To any judge of performance, these test figures speak for themselves. The car rides well, corners on rails and stops on a dime... Finish is high quality."

Later Muntz recalled that the tooling costed $75000 and the labor costs were a monumental $2000 per car because body panels had to be carefully fitted, then leaded-in.
No one knows for sure how many Muntz were made, but it's estimated that 394 Jets were built; of these at least 49 survive today.

Engine specifications from 1950:

5-1/2 liter Cadillac V-8, 80.8 x 92.07 mm (5424 cc), push-rod, overhead valves with hydraulic lifters, compression ratio 7.5 to 1.Rochester dual downdraft carburetor (1951). Coil ignition. 133 bhp at 3800 rpm. 19 miles per gallon.


This car was made in the early '80s and was "inspired" by the Mercedes 540K. According to a Centaur for-sale page less than 75 were made.


Copyright November, 1995-1998.
Paul Negyesi

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