1990 Herb Adams V.S.E. JackRabbit Speedster!

Speaking of kit cars… this funky fiberglass kit car is quite rare and at one time, apparently, they were quite desirable. This is an early-1990s V.S.E. JackRabbit Speedster, a car from a shop in Carmel, California owned by a gentleman named Herb Adams. Peterson’s Kit Car magazine did a story on them in 1991. This one is located in Mill Valley, California and is listed here on eBay. If you haven’t heard of Herb Adams, here’s a great story on him on PontiacsOnline.com that’s very much worth a read. And, a YouTube video of the car.

Herb Adams was a GM engineer who was instrumental in the creation of the Pontiac Trans Am. He left GM in the early-1970s and started a company called Herb Adams V.S.E. (Very Special Equipment), which sold performance parts for Trans Ams and Firebirds, and also for Camaros. He and his company were very engaged in motorsports. His company also built this V.S.O. JackRabbit Speedster, a fiberglass kit car based on the Volkswagen Rabbit, and around 25 more like it. They also built monocoque chassis for Cobra kit cars which became red hot and, from what I understand, the JackRabbit Speedster was dropped after that. There isn’t a lot of information on these things out there, at least that I could find.

From what a few forums have had on for comments, this is probably a heck of a price for a heck of a rare car. Pontiac collectors may be interested in this because of the Herb Adams connection and kit car collectors may be interested because these weren’t some cheesy, ill-handling lump-of-fiberglass. These were fantastic cars.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Adams about the JackRabbit from the PontiacsOnline.com site: “At the time people were in to the kit car thing. It was based on the VW Rabbit. You could buy one (a Rabbit) and take all of the parts off of the donor car. It was very light weight, like 1500 pounds. And the engine was 170 horsepower. It was great car. If you drove down a mountain road I don’t care what you were driving, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. It was front wheel drive. We sold about 25 of those. We started going to the kit car shootouts and we would be the third or fourth fastest car against much more powerful Cobras because of the power to weight ratio. The trouble was that everybody wanted a Cobra. Everybody said the car was “cute” but guys don’t want a “cute” car. We still have one of them. It’s a fun car to drive.” Have any of you heard of a JackRabbit? Have you heard of Herb Adams?

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Comments

  1. Pete Koehler

    Check out Herb Adams and the “Grey Ghost”, a 1964 Pontiac Tempest (not a GTO) that he took Trans Am racing.

    7+
  2. conrad

    Howdy, also listed on eBay now.

    1980 Replica/Kit Makes
    VSE Jackrabbit by Herb Adams VW Rabbit Mk1 based kit car fiberglass

    Thanks

    2+
  3. Rick

    170hp is pushing in a Rabbit. More like 70 with the standard 4 cylinder fuel injected. But saw one of these in person years ago at Carlisle. Neat car, but with no roof option it limits it’s usage.

    5+
    • Mark-A

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Golf_Mk1
      In North America the GTI was only pushing 90hp, in Europe it was 112hp the VW Golf/Rabbit never got a 170hp until years later when the Mk3 got the VR6 which had 174hp in 2.8ltr guise the later 2.9 in the Corrado was 190hp. Sorry but I’m a bit of a VW Geek a Mk1 Golf/Rabbit GTi was & still is my Dream car.

      0
  4. Todd Zuercher

    Any car buff or engineer worth their salt has heard of Herb Adams – and should have his Chassis Engineering book on their bookshelf. But I’m guessing most of us have not heard of this car.

    9+
  5. BReynoldsTA

    Here is a picture of Herb Adams in 2010 at the Trans Am Nationals. He made quite an impact at Pontiac – 1969 Trans Am, Super Duty 455, WS6 Suspension.

    7+
  6. RNR

    What Pete left out of his post on the ’64 Tempest “Grey Ghost” was that it was competitive in Trans Am racing in 1971!!!! I never forgot Herb Adams after that, and I’m a MoPar guy.

    1+
  7. TR Rowe

    In the early 70’s Hotwheels made the Jackrabbit Special which was a similar layout but a far better looking car

    3+
    • KevinW

      The Jackrabbit special is still my favorite Hot Wheels car. Wish I still had it (this coming from a sixty year kid)!

      2+
      • PRA4SNW

        Me too!

        0
      • PRA4SNW

        Here she is!

        0
      • PRA4SNW

        Remember this?

        0
  8. jimbosidecar

    Louden NH, Bryar Motorsports Park. I don’t remember the year, somewhere around 1968 maybe. The Trans-AM field was filled with factory efforts, Penske/Donahue, Ford/Jones, Mercury/Dan Gurney, Dodge/Posey, etc… And out of nowhere the race was won by a 1964 Pontiac Tempest.
    I may have mixed up some of the factory efforts and drivers.

    1+
    • Harry Quackenboss

      It finished 4th in the Trans-Am race at Bryar, NH.

      1971 was the only year the Tempest raced in the Trans-Am Series, although it was raced in amateur races by its 2nd owner in mid-Atlantic and Northeast for several years after.

      The Tempest, which acquired the nickname “The Gray Ghost” car was completely restored in 2015/2016 and debuted at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion in August, 2016 driven by its new owner, John Hildebrand, father of IndyCar racer J.R. Hildebrand. In a field of 38 Vintage Trans-Am cars (1966-1972) started 9th and finished 6th.

      Google will find pictures of the car from the Monterey Motorsports Reunion. A feature article on the car was published in Vintage Motorsports Magazine Nov/Dec 2016 issue. Reprints are available from the publisher.

      John Hildebrand has entered the car in the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival June 2-4 2017. There is no Vintage Trans-Am group at Monterey this August.

      0
  9. 55chevy Chuck Foster

    Being the hoarder that I am, I probably have the KIT Car magazine that’s shown. I remember reading about these, and Herb Adams. It also brings to mind the Spex Elf, a kit roadster based on a 73 up Honda CIvic. It would be fun to test drive both of them, VW GTI Rabbits had a lot of power, and would probably outrun the Civic version. This is probably already gone, money n the bank for a car collector, I wonder if the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville knows about this? That’s a small car fan’s idea of a great time, you will probably see more cars that you’ve never heard of.

    1+
    • Scotty Scotty Staff

      The Lane Museum is my favorite museum of any kind on the planet!

      0
  10. BitNippy

    Never knew he made kits like this. Cool little car.. if I had that beach house, this would be perfect!

    I was probably 12 when I visited Herb’s shop on Cannery Row in Monterey. Early 80s? My dad was doing a pro touring build on a Gen 2 Camaro at the time (before it was called pro touring I believe) and just had to have the VSE suspension. Unfortunately, my parents split not long after and it never got finished. Mom needed the garage space and sold the non running car for $800.. new suspension and all! Still wonder if it ever made it back on the road. I doubt the buyer ever knew what he got.

    0
  11. bog

    Yep, certainly knew of Herb Adams & his Pontiac wizardry, and as mentioned previously…never heard of this vehicle. That “Hot Wheels” Special looks like it was made into a rear or mid-engined vehicle. I talked a buddy into buying a new ’84 GTI, so I know those hum pretty good (I had bought a new RX7 from the same place). Hope someone buys it and has fun with it !

    0
  12. Scotty Scotty Staff

    Auction update: this car was bid up to $8,200 and it was a no-sale.

    0

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