PLEXIGLAS PONTIAC In 1972, rwo former members of the Old Cars Weekly staff were present at the first annual Pontiac-Oakland Club International convention, which was hosted at Don’s Pizza Restaurant in Camphill, Pa. The club was small then and the convention was held on the Sunday after the Hershey car show. In those days, Pennsylvania “blue laws” prevented selling on Sunday, so there was no flea market that day. Many car clubs used Sunday to hold their conventions in the Hershey area. Ex-OCW editor Ken Buttolph and his mother Lucille had driven to Hershey in Kenny’s 1954 Star Chief Custom Catalina that year. They came to the POCI convention in that car. I lived on the East Coast at the time. i had driven to and from Hershey in a 1954 Chevy on Friday. On Sunday, I drove a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe four-door sedan to the POCI meet. i did not know Kenny at that time. We later became friends and traveled together quite a bit. During the meet, the host Don Barlup announced that he had purchased the Pontiac Ghost Car that appeared at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. Somewhere I have some pictures of the car as it was that day. It was parked on a trailer and I believe it didn’t run. The Plexiglas body panels were cloudy and cracked. The car’s original half cut-away seats had been replaced with regular seats. The car had, indeed, been donated to The Smithsonia Institution Afterwards, a Pontiac dealer bought it and I think it was stored in a chicken coop. That dealer offered it to other dealers at a Zone Sales Meeting. Another dealer got the car and then sold it to Don. Don made some type of arrangement with a Pontiac dealer to get the car fixed up in exchange for some promotional use. The Plexiglas body panels were taken apart and polished, although the cracks were not fully repaired. The cracked panels were more or less “stiched” together to prevent further cracking. Then the car was reassembled. Around that time I became editor of the club’s Silver Streak News newsletter and I had an opportunity to do some additional research on the so-called Ghost Car. I wrote to Rohm & Hass, the Philadelphia company that invented Plexiglas. They had nothing on the Plexiglas Pontiac, but sent brochures on two or three prototype cars they had made much later. I wrote to many other resources. At Hershey I interested the editor of Special-Interest Autos magazine in a story about the car and they sent a photographer to take pictures of it. I believe that article was published in 1978. In the fall of 1978, I went to Hershey for Old Cars Weekly. At that time the Dutch Wonderland Auction was held in cvonjunction with Hershey and Don Barlup, who was starting a new business, decided to sell the Plexiglas Pontiac at that auction. As I recall, any real serious bidding was kept in check and the car sold for much less than expected. In the current auction ads the car is listed as a 1939 model, although it has a 1940 front end. That is correct. It was first built and displayed as a 1939 model. It was then updated for 1940 with a new front clip. In between runs of the fair, it was displayed at Pontiac dealerships around the country and used in other promotional ways. Note that the car being sold now is a Pontiac A-Body Deluxe Six Touring Sedan with six side windows (three on each side of the body). There were always rumors of a second Ghost Car because some “factory photos” showed a “see-through” C-body sedan with four windows (two on each side). For a long time, no one was certain whether a second car had actually been built or whether the photos of the larger C-body car were re-touched. Then, Frank Kleptz of Terre Haute, ind. (who bought the car at Dutch Wonderland) found an article in a British magazine that was about the second car being constructed. This proved beyond a doubt that two different cars did exist at one time. No one seems to know what happened to the second car. All of the above is from 40- to 45-year-old third party recollections and should be taken as such. Don Barlup can tell you much more about the car’s history than me. —
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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