The 1951 Lancer… First of the Fiberglass Sports
Love em’ or hate em’, custom fiberglass cars were exploding in popularity right along side the home-built hot rods in the early 1950s. You won’t have to search long to find a mid-century car magazine cover with a Glasspar roadster or a Devin SS sharing the spotlight with lead sleds, hot rods and dragsters. One of the earliest examples I’ve found is the 1951 Lancer built by Eric Irwin of Costa Mesa, California. Irwin actually wrote the book on how to build a plastic custom from scratch, featuring his own creation on the cover. The attraction seems pretty simple- A glass body is light, cheap, fairly strong, doesn’t rust, and can be any shape you can dream up. Just find a functional chassis from the junkyard to start with and you are on your way! His Lancer wasn’t a bad looker either, and when it debuted at Petersen’s Motorama in November of ’51 along with four other new glass sports creations, it was an instant hit. This was a car Eric threw together in a matter of months, and oddly featured a 1932 Graham chassis and Studebaker Champion flat 6 motor. Besides the bumpers which look like a monkey glued them on the car, I think the Lancer is pretty darn cool for 1951. Irwin consulted with Harley Earl as GM toyed with creating the Corvette a few years later in 1953, and would go on to create more updated versions of the Lancer for customers through the mid 50s.