1959 Pioneer electric car prototype, with Nic-L-Silver Battery president Geroge Lippincott at wheelEnlarge Photo
Inspired by fiberglass-bodied sports cars being developed in Southern California at the time, he considered building his own line of battery powered vehicles.
Lippincott hoped eventually to build 10 cars a day, with the market being primarily power companies and postal authorities.
In 1958, he brought together a team of engineers and designers--including Indy race car builder Frank Kurtis--to design and engineer the chassis, and experienced California fiberglass sports-car manufacturer Victress to style the body and assemble the car.
The prototype two-seat body was made of laminated fiberglass (with a removable hardtop) mounted on a Kurtis-designed box frame using full torsion bar suspension.
Behind the seats were 12 4-volt, series wired, Nic-L-Silver lead-acid batteries, each with two cells and a capacity of eight hours at 235 Ampere-hours. It included a built-in battery charger.
The car had two electric motors and a stated range of 100 to 150 miles, depending on how the vehicle was driven. Top speed was given as 50 mph.
Price was targeted at just under $2000, and battery replacement cost was estimated at about $300.
The car was unveiled at the Pomona Fair in 1959, but only the one prototype was built at Victress before the project was abandoned.
1956 Vectress fiberglass-bodied sports carEnlarge Photo
The Pioneer prototype has never been seen since.
Author Rick Feibusch is an automotive journalist, historian, and classic-car appraiser living in Venice, California. He has been active in the car business and vintage car hobby for more than 50 years.
He has done everything from writing and editing for websites and magazines, organizing major marque clubs, and promoting large auto events to restoring and collecting vintage cars. He also sold Toyotas when they were new to America. Today, he primarily does appraisals for antique, classic and sports cars as well as hot rods and motorcycles. You can find more of his writings here.
Feibusch discovered this car while researching homemade and small-firm-developed, low-production fiberglass bodied sports cars built starting right after WWII. They all but vanished after imported sports cars became widely available in the late 1950s. Fiberglass was considered a wonder material but was still not fully developed at that time. By the mid-Fifties, both GM and Kaiser were producing fiberglass sports cars, but most of the genre remained one-offs that were too expensive to produce commercially.
[SOURCE: Sports Car Illustrated, January 1960, p. 32]