1955 Debonnaire Convertible

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In August of 2023, the Debonnaire was shown in the "American Dream Cars of the 1950s" class during the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The class celebrated unique, limited-production cars built by remarkable individuals. These cars were designed and built in garages or local shops, not by big corporations. The car definitely stood out as one of the most colorful cars in the class. Owned by Paul Sable and Jim Thorpe (from Pennsylvania), it was originally designed by Phillip Egan, who was on the early design team for the famous Tucker. Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.
The car was built on a 1949 Ford chassis, powered by a Lincoln Continental V8, with Independent front suspension. Only six of these convertibles were believed to have been built by Val deOlloqui, president of Replac, a major fiberglass company. Again, they wanted to show how fiberglass could be used to build car bodies. Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.
Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.
Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.
Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.
Photo courtesy of Roy R. Sorenson.

American Sports Cars - Fiberglass Cars

The 1955 Debonnaire Convertible, a remarkable creation in the history of American sports cars, reflects a unique blend of design innovation and the post-war boom in fiberglass technology. This car was the brainchild of Phillip Egan, known for his work with the Tucker design team. After Tucker Corporation's dissolution, Egan embarked on various automotive projects, ultimately collaborating with the Replac Corporation to create a sports car​​.[1]

Replac Corporation: Pioneering Fiberglass in Automotive Design

Founded by Valentine deOlloqui II in 1946, Replac Corporation of Euclid, Ohio quickly became a major player in the burgeoning plastics industry, expanding into two locations and servicing notable clients like Boeing and General Electric​​​​. Replac's expertise in fiberglass was pivotal in constructing the Debonnaire, utilizing a wooden buck, typically made of mahogany, for shaping the car's fiberglass body​​.[1]

The Debonnaire's Grand Entrance: Redefining the American Sports Car

The Debonnaire made its debut in Motor Trend's July 1955 issue. Distinct in its design, it was a two-passenger sports car with a 114-inch wheelbase, fitting an unmodified 1941 - 1948 Ford chassis. This size, larger than typical sports cars of the era, categorized it as an American boulevard cruiser in contemporary terms, though it was advertised as a sports car​​.[1]

The Venture: Expanding the Debonnaire's Legacy through Kit Cars

To further expand its reach, the Debonnaire's design was replicated in the Venture, a kit version for customer assembly, leveraging the advantage of no chassis modifications​​. According to the Motor Trend's July 1955 article, the car was delivered complete with a hardtop for about $ 1800. However, the Debonnaire's journey was cut short when, after producing just six units, the Replac factory burned down in 1956, ending its production abruptly.[1]

A Brief, Brilliant Chapter: The Debonnaire's Place in Automotive History

This short-lived but intriguing chapter in automotive history offers numerous avenues for deeper research, from the rise of fiberglass technology to the specifics of Egan's design philosophy and the broader context of American sports car development in the 1950s.[1]



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