Forsaken Fiberglass – LaDawri Conquest

henry j kaiser project vintage raceIn the 1950s, California was full of companies making fiberglass kit bodies for cars. Developed during World War II, fiberglass had immediate usefulness of building boats, and specialist car bodies weren’t far behind. Some of these bodies were rather awkward, but there were others arguably as beautiful as anything coming out of Europe at the time. Surprisingly, few people talk about them today other than the relatively small number of die-hard fiberglass enthusiasts out there. Even one of the biggest names of that era, LaDawri Coachcraft, is quite obscure.

Canadian Les Dawes started working with fiberglass in the late 1940s, and by the mid-1950s he was in Long Beach building, among other things, fiberglass body shells for golf carts. In his spare time, he was working on the molds and running gear for a sports car that he planned to call the Conquest. In 1957, Road & Track sent someone to look at the car, and in their July issue there it was, right there on the cover. Dawes then introduced a larger and much more handsome car called the Daytona, and LaDawri continued to make various bits for various cars. Business must have been good, because in 1961 LaDawri bought a less fortunate body maker named Victress, giving LaDawri quite possibly the largest lineup of kit bodies in the United States. As we now know, that kit craze didn’t last, and after introducing a coupe called the Formula Libre in 1965, LaDawri quietly disappeared, with the rights possibly going to another California kit car maker, Kellison Manufacturing.

LaDawri history, like most all history of these types of cars, isn’t straightforward. There aren’t exact production figures, but there is no doubt that LaDawris are very rare machines. For anyone seeking out an interesting project vintage racer, it doesn’t get much more unique than this car, located in Sunland Park, New Mexico. It sits on a Henry J chassis which was apparently somewhat common for the Conquest, while under the hood is a pretty unusual Kaiser motor. It is titled as a 1951 Ford, hence the year in the title of the ad, but it more likely dates to the late  ’50s.

This sale is somewhat mysterious and very intriguing. The seller has zero transactions on this eBay account, but all appears to be legitimate. In the background of some of the photos, you can also see some similarly roughed up European and American classics. Perhaps we’ll see some of those up on the web soon? Like any super-rare project car, this is a restoration that will be problematic and not at all quick, but when is the next time we’re going to see a LaDawri for sale?

Check out the LaDawri Conquest here on eBay, where the “Buy It Now” price is set at $18,500 and open to offers.

Comments

  1. Hi Gang…
    Not a lot of mystery with fiberglass cars of the 50s on our site – http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com. Both the founding familes of LaDawri and Victress and many of their employees are part of our ‘glass gang” and we welcome you to visit too. We even have production figures for every LaDawri produced from 1956 when the first car was produced in Canada to 1965 when they closed shop. We have production figures for nearly every 1950s fiberglass sports car produced.

    Thanks for posting the story. Nice to see others recognizing the special history of these cars.

    Geoff Hacker
    Forgotten Fiberglass

  2. Geoff,
    Thanks for the info, and what a great resource!

  3. tim oneill says:

    have one of these conquest cars same as in picture on hj frame and drive train has kaiser supersonic flathead 6 three speed od trans have had car sence early 1970 finaly finshed car in 2012 after 21 year storage car is candy black and gold with sunburst metalf lake have been parade s and car showes in area and won many trophies with car wonder how many are left?

Leave a Comment