By Rod Ward
Here are described British makers of cars with GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) bodies, including Ashley, Berkeley, Bond, Clan, Dutton, Fairthorpe, Falcon, Gilbern, Ginetta, Lola, Marcos, Peerless, Reliant, Rochdale, Tornado, TVR and over 30 others. A vigorous manufacturing sector grew up in the late 1950s and 1960s, producing kits and fully finished cars with GRP bodies. This revolutionary new material enabled small makers to produce modern body styles with compound curves, unlike the basic geometry of aluminium sheet bent over ash frames. These new bodies were also (mostly) light and robust. The first flush of small manufacturers who appeared in the 1950s and 1960s suffered a setback in 1963. Kits were exempt from Purchase Tax, but the Tax was reduced by half, and ‘proper’ cars became cheaper, so kits lost their price advantage. Many small firms who depended wholly or partly on kit sales closed down. A small number of firms continued to use GRP, mostly in the sports car sector, though the launch of the bargain-basement Austin-Healey Sprite killed off a few more optimistic projects, and the advent of VAT reduced the number of makers still further. Mostly we have excluded cars solely sold as kits, and also excluded are ‘period’ pastiche vehicles and replicas of cars; they are described in Auto Review 120. Marques not covered here are the following, which are described in other Auto Review books: Lotus (in AR65), Gordon-Keeble (in AR62), Turner (in AR64), Frisky (in AR35), Peel (in AR31 and AR35) and TVR Griffith and Trident (in AR62).