- Written by webmin
Hemmings Muscle Machines readers will soon be opening their May issues to see a story on Steve Steers and his 1954 Victress S1A, the construction of which was at least partially inspired by the fiberglass and other homebuilt cars his father, John, built and raced while living in Palo Alto, California, in the late 1940s and duration of the 1950s. Fortunately, Steve has photographs of all four of his father’s cars and a little history to go with each.
John’s first car, built over a period of three months, started as a Ford Model A. He moved the engine and transmission to the rear and set up the driver’s seat ahead of the drivetrain, with his feet over the front axle. He constructed the body of hoops and stringers, covered in doped fabric. Steve writes:
He only drove it a few times, saying as he took off down the road the gas tank fell out of it. The only picture I have is from a newspaper some time after he sold it. Two young guys were claiming it was their build. Mom wrote on the bottom of the clipping “John built this car!”
In 1954, John set to work on his next car, based on the running gear from a 1937 Ford, installed in a tube frame that John designed and welded himself. After getting the basic chassis running, he couldn’t wait to get it on the road, Steve said, so he ran it on the street for a while sans body. Eventually, he decided to form his own fiberglass body over the chassis, so he made a form of chicken wire and plaster (in the lead photo, he’s preparing that form for fiberglass), took a single sheet of fiberglass and laid it over the form, making sure the sides were straight so he could pop the body shell off the form.
He often laughed and said, “From the back it looked like an old lady bent over.” Because hinging the doors and making return edges was a lot of work, he dispensed with doors and just stepped in. Besides, it added rigidity to the body. Fewer rattle problems too. It was a cute little thing, built cheaply and in only a few months.
Steve said John could do 100 MPH with it, but he eventually gave it away to a friend so he could concentrate on his next car.
In late 1955, John began work on a Mercury flathead V-8-powered Glasspar G2 that he would finish in early 1956 and race to some success in local SCCA races. The photo above, snapped at the Stockton Airport in April 1956, was taken just after he won his class in that day’s race.
That’s my mother smiling on, me at age 13 helping Dad who’d just come off the track, and Murray Stuart on the cars right side, who later bought the car.
Steve said he’s actually located this Glasspar, still around up in Montana. But if any of his father’s cars directly influenced Steve, it was his father’s last car.
John built his Victress S1A in about 1957, placing it first on a chassis that incorporated his own coil-sprung front suspension. After hitting a tree with that chassis while racing around the hills near his home, John scrapped that frame and put the Victress body on a 1957 Plymouth frame, modified to include John’s own coil-sprung rear suspension. With a 283 and a Jaguar four-speed transmission (mated using an adapter John made himself), John ran the Glasspar on the street, then raced it on weekends, using a special underbody airfoil to selectively increase downforce on the rear axle when coming hot into a corner.
He never trailed the car but drove it to the tracks with its factory windshield, mufflers and sans airfoil. Once at the track, the mufflers came off, straight pipes were put in place, a racing windshield was put on and the wing installed. After the race it’d all be put back in street form and we’d drive home with him.
Though John didn’t build any more cars after the Victress, he did go on to build a commercial fishing boat and an airplane; as a captain for Pan American, he flew planes when he wasn’t backyard engineering something. Steve has yet to find his father’s first two cars or the Victress, so if anybody knows where they are today, let us know and we’ll pass word on to Steve.