Detroit has always been the leading producer of fiberglass cars. If you made that assertion, you had better think again. As a matter of fact, before Detroit began producing the Kaiser Darrin and Chevrolet Corvette, the capital of fiberglass automobile production was none other than Costa Mesa, California!!! Who would have ever guessed Costa Mesa? If you really know your fiberglass, however, you know that the first practical use for the resin impregnated fiberglass cloth was in the building of lightweight boat hulls. Since Costa Mesa and Newport Beach were close to the water, why not move your plant there.
There were a number of companies involved in this endeavor. None of these companies could hold a candle to the largest, Glasspar. The company not only was a leader in boats, but also the world's largest producer of fiberglass sports cars and sports car shells
Bill Tritt, the guiding genius of Glasspar, started his glass-fabricating in 1948. At that time, he met up with another boat enthusiast named John Green. The two started a company called the Green Dolphin Boat Works. They employed a fiberglass technician named Otto Bayer. It was Bayer who taught Bill the fiberglass business. Later, Bill was to venture on his own, taking Otto with him and opened his own glass shop named Glasspar. Here he and Otto began working on smaller sailing boats.
In 1950 Bill was approached by Major Kenneth Brooks to build him a custom sports car. Tritt designed and built the car known as the Brooks Boxer. The beautiful lightweight, but tough, body had a look similar to a Jaguar XK 120. Like the Jag, it was only three feet high at the top of the cowl, and had the same graceful line on the sides. Response was so favorable, that Tritt decided to produce a quantity of the bodies from the Boxer mold. He decided to name it the G-2. You could purchase the G-2 as a complete car from Bill, or the handyman could buy it as a body shell and try his hand at creating his own version of the car.
Bill's company became so successful that he soon expanded his operation and became partners with Bayer. Soon the company was turning G-2's out at the rate of one a day. Because of the growing interest in fiberglass as a medium to build automobiles out of, Bill became a subcontractor to other small automobile companies in the area. A half dozen car assemblers turned out finished cars based on the G-2 body. Some of these cars ran well against big foreign iron in road races at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, California.
Others became focused on production runs of sports cars and sought Tritt's company out. Woody Woodill, a Downey, California Dodge/Willys dealer came upon the idea of building a glass bodied sports car with all new Willys' components. He hypothesized that his car could be sold and serviced at any Willys' dealership. He commssioned Tritt to modify a G-2 body to his specifications. The two together added a squared off rear fender tailtights (therefore giving the car Willys' identification) along with two beautiful M.G.-like humps on the dash and a fake hood scoop.
The result was very pleasing to the eye and almost ended up being a production sports car, had it not been for the untimely demise of Willys. As it turned out, only two were produced before extensive design modifications were incorporated. Tritt made over 200 of the second design for Woodill, as Woody attempted to sell his name brand sports car idea to other Detroit companies. You can see the only survivor of the original design here today This car was featured in the 1952 Motorama.
Bill worked closely with noted designer Howard "Dutch" Darrin when Kaiser Frazer commissioned him to design a sports car based on the Henry J chassis. The firm even asked Tritt to make a duplicate with a view to having him build the production cars.
Tritt worked with G.M. as a consulting expert when they were deciding if fiberglass would be the medium for their new production sports car. Glasspar did the estimates that G.M. used to determine the feasibility of stamping fiberglass bodies out like steel, greatly speeding production output.
He even assisted Donald Healey (builder of the Austin and Nash Healey) when he decided to build fiberglass boats in England. Tritt's company was further commissioned by Volvo of Sweden to design and build a fiberglass sports car around the Volvo chassis and engine. Later, Bill collaborated with Frank Kurtis, helping him mate a fiberglass body with one of his performance chassis.
Those were exciting days for Bill. There was hardly an important member of the automotive circles that he didn't touch bases with. We are proud to honor him today by saying, "job well done" to the father of the American fiberglass sports car.
FREDERICK J. ROTH
Copyright June 2003