Race to the Museum: Glasspar Sports Car, 1953

More

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has a large collection of automobiles -- 73 -- in its collection. But with the mission of collecting and preserving the entire heritage of the United States inside of one building on the National Mall, the museum's curators don't have the room required to display all of these machines. A new project allows you to vote for the two items you want to see rolled out of storage and showcased. Even if you don't vote or live near the museum, this unique week-long series of eight iconic artifacts will provide you with a quick history of the American automobile.

This post was originally published on the National Museum of American History's "O Say Can You See?" blog. It is republished here with permission. It was written by Roger White, the museum's associate curator in the division of work and industry.

See more posts about the Smithsonian.


 

Race7Post.jpg

Race to the Museum: Glasspar Sports Car, 1953

Curves, fun, and low cost -- that was the appeal of a Glasspar sports car. Bill Tritt, a California boat builder, began producing American versions of European sports cars as an extension of his fiberglass boatbuilding business. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) craft methods made it relatively easy for Tritt to enter the new car market, avoiding a huge investment in dies and presses. The result was spectacular: a sculpted, Jaguar-like creation that appealed to car enthusiasts because of its sporty looks and affordability.

Tritt's innovation introduced the concept of the personal car and proved that fiberglass -- tough, rustproof, and easy to repair -- made good car bodies. Tritt advised General Motors on the 1953 Corvette fiberglass-body sports car, an even bigger commercial success. Today a dedicated corps of enthusiasts document the histories and whereabouts of hundreds of Glasspar sports cars built in the early 1950s. One enthusiast, Dale Dutton, generously donated his Glasspar to the National Museum of American History in 1996. I attended a memorable luncheon with Dale and Bill in the museum soon after the car went on display. It's a rare experience to meet the person who originated any vehicle, especially one that started a revolution.

Roger White is Associate Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the National Museum of American History.

More Race to the Museum posts:

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In