Brill Tritt: The Man Behind Glasspar

Bill Tritt in a G2

We recently featured a car that was listed as a Glasspar G2 by the seller, but as many of you pointed it, it clearly isn’t a Glasspar. Shortly after running it, I received a wonderfully surprisingly email from a Matthew Tritt. In it he stated that the car wasn’t a Glasspar and he should know seeing as his father, Bill Tritt, was the man that started Glasspar! As we emailed back and forth, I asked Matt if he would share a little bit with us about his father. I thought it would be a nice Father’s day treat! He shared some amazing stories about his father with us and offers a look at Bill that you won’t find anywhere else but right here!

Bill Driving a G2

Thanks for the kind words about my father! What most people don’t know is that his personal cars in the years up until 1961 were not too bad either. They include (but I might forget some) a ’33 Packard touring, a ’17 Dodge Bros pickup, a ’48 Mark IV Drophead Jag, a 1915 Roamer-Duesenberg Speedster, a 1931 Springfield Rolls PI convertible sedan, a ’33 Rolls P2 Gurney-Nutting Continental Drophead coupe, a ’39 Rolls P3 sedan (aluminum body with a plexiglass moon roof and leopard skin upholstery with V12, a ’36 Bentley drophead coupe (fabulous!) with exhaust cutout, a ’48 Bentley Continental with a Van Den Plas coach that won the 1948 Paris auto salon(!), a ’38 Packard 12 limo LWB, a ’41 Packard Super Eight limo with overdrive and fabric top cover, a ’59 Ferrari 250 GT with Bertone body, a ’48 Lancia Aprilia Square 4 and a (new) ’58 Borgward wagon. Not exactly his car, but I thought I’d mention my ’34 Packard 12 aluminum bodied roadster that had belonged to Bill Pollack (his driver for the factory G2 race car) and perfectly restored. I tell ya. The P3 Rolls had a licence plate that an English friend told us indicated that it had belonged Churchill, but we never explored that.

Dad was born in Pasadena and raised on his parents orange ranch in Villa Park, California. His dad came to California to attend medical school but met my grandmother, who was a daughter of Richard Hall Gilman; the guy called the father of the California Orange industry. He had come out on a clipper ship when he was 18 in 1862 to seek his fortune and had incredible stories of his adventures, many of which he related to dad when he was very young. I suspect that a lot of these tales had to do with the sea and ships, since most of dad’s early art work (he was quite the artist!) had to do with ships, boats, sailing, pirates and so on – but it was quite clear that he loved boats and cars from his artwork. He also was great at making things, one of which was a Lilienthal glider made with wood, bamboo and linen, that he flew successfully (before my grandmother found out!)

The family went on a steamship trip to Hawaii in 1927 where he was introduced to surfing and surfboards. After their return he began making boards and became one of the first surfers on the mainland, as well as one of the first surfboard makers. He also was an excellent musician and loved jazz. He had a jazz band clear up through his time at Cal State Teacher’s College in Santa Barbara (now known as UCSB) that played gigs all over the place. My mother was the singer in the band. At college he mainly focused on boat design and boat building and also did a lot of sailing when possible.

After graduating from Villa Park High School, dad set off on a round the world trip with his flat track racing bike via steamer. He biked through England, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and France before his bike was stolen in Marseilles. He did some great watercolors as he went, the neatest one being from a canal in medieval Hamburg, which is still around somewhere. This was just before the war and he came away very impressed with Germany and what a beautiful place it was. Everyone he met there was very friendly and helpful; being a handsome young guy biking around the world probably didn’t hurt! Anyhow, he also saw China, Japan, and many South sea islands via tramp steamer before making it back home.

Go Glasspar Ad

During the war he worked for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach as an illustrator and pattern maker, which is where he was first exposed to plastics and resin reinforced fabrics in general. He became life-long frinds with Donald Douglas while there and sold him one of his “Packet” auxillary sailboats many years later. After the war he went to work maintaining yachts in Newport Harbor and built a few small catamarans along the way. These were the only cats on the West Coast that I’m aware of during that period. Things changed when he was asked to build a 21′ sloop for a yachting buddy he knew from his time in Santa Barbara named John Greene. Dad convinced him that he should buld it from a new medium; glass reinforced polyester, which he did. He built two of these boats known as the “Greene Dolphin”, which was the segway into the founding of Glasspar in 1948.

The thing about dad that made him such a standout was his “eye”. There were plenty of guys getting into building with glass in the late 40’s/early 50’s, but very, very few of them had such a great feel for what looked “right” and were able to translate a vision into a good, finished product. I guess this is why there’s a G2 in the Smithsonian and why Glasspar was far and away the most successful producer of fiberglass boats up to 1960. He had a long list of “firsts” to his credit, but I believe that one of the most enduring is the 17′ Seafair line of power boats, that and the cult classic G3 ski boat. The cars, the Ascot in particular, would have been the most important thing for the company had it not been for the funding having been pulled by a very short sighted decision by the bean counter cabal. These people (one or three of em) were not creative people, had no “eye” for anything other than money and managed to destroy the company almost immediately after dad left the company in ’61. Anyway, that’s a very short version. I should probably try and put something more detailed down while I still remember most of it!
Cheers,
Matt

If you would like to learn more about Glasspar, you can find more history about it here on Hemmings. I want to personally thank Matt for sharing this with us! As I read Matt’s story, it made me realize what an extraordinary guy Bill was, but also that he was just a regular guy who had a special talent for turning fabric and resin into something special! His contributions to both industries will be felt for years to come. And from everyone here at Barn Finds – Happy Father’s Day!

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    A great story! Bill Tritt appears to have been one of those classic constructors who thrived in California, like Bill Devin, Max Balchowsky, Troutman & Barnes, Frank Kurtis and others whose names I’ve forgotten.

    As one who grew up a major car fan in SoCal, I always wondered what was the catalyst: was it the weather, the profusion of aircraft plants? Whatever the cause, I felt fortunate to see the creations of these “greats” on local highways and race tracks.

    I know there’s space here for more of Matt Tritt’s recollections!

  2. Robert R. Member

    Great follow up! Thanks for the details and some of the history.

  3. Rocco

    I agree with RayT!

    I know there’s space here for more of Matt Tritt’s recollections!

    Read more at http://barnfinds.com/brill-tritt-the-man-behind-glasspar/#UvbkJQhDvDWAl9J1.99

  4. Gary Chittenden

    Matt, please write the book, or maybe a screenplay. This would make a great movie.

  5. Glen

    I’m thinking his Dad’s artistic talent gave him his “eye” for what looked “right”. He sounds like a fascinating person.

  6. greg tritt

    Matt forgot to mention he was also a pretty nice guy. I also remember we had a new ’54 ford ranch wagon,(which we used to tow the G2 racecar with) a ’33 Pontiac roadster, a 3.8 Jag. saloon, and a ’59 Mercedes 300 sedan… But who’s counting . Cheers, Greg

    • Carol jean

      Hey Greg – emailwhen you get a chance I am moving and have some Glasspar
      Stuff of yours

  7. jim s

    yes, a very fitting fathers day post. i too think a book is needed. thanks

  8. john C

    Really have enjoyed learning about so many new things, and seeing cool methods of transportation here on Barn Finds. Great Fathers Day story here, and wonderful write up on Mr. Tritt from his son !!

  9. Deborah

    My husband, a lifelong collector that is trying to retire now, has two Glaspars, both are actual barn finds that he didn’t restore. If anyone wants pictures, I can get them for you. I know where the cars are currently stashed in storage buildings.

  10. Fred Busack

    I have a Hudson River Boat Company Packet and would like to get in touch with Matt Tritt — since he probably helped build this boat when he worked for his father, Bill Tritt, in the early 1960s in Costa Mesa, CA! We think it is boat #31 of the fifty or so that were produced between 1960 and 1962. We think this because it is rigged to sail and actually has the original sails with the number 31 on the main – but we would like to know if this is the correct way to determine the boat number and approximate manufacture date since these early boats had no molded manufacture date in the hull. Thanks.

  11. Bob McCandless

    Hello – I am trying to get a hold of Matt Tritt. I have something of his fathers I think he would like. -Bob McCandless

  12. Dave

    Back in 65 Dad bought a dark blue G2. It had a Caddy dual quad engine mated to a LaSalle 3 on the tree fitted to 49 Ford chassis. It wore a pair of fat slicks and was said to be a dirt track racer. Fast as hell too.The seller told Pop it was a Kurtis, and thats what we always called it…but I can’t find any records of Frank Kurtis ever owning one.

  13. Gerald [ Jerry ] Fishel

    I started working for Glasspar R&D in June 1957. I had the pleasure to work under Bill for 9 years! When ever we started a new mockup [hull or deck] Bill was always available to answer any of our questions . We would take the proto-type boat down to the back bay to test out how it preformed . I look back to how much fun it was to work for Bill and our very talented crew ! I’m still in touch with a few Glasspar friends and we get together every once in awhile !

  14. Randy Straight

    Great history here….I have #24 Hudson River Packet, built in 1962, teak decks, oak trim…just love it. My wife and I have taken her out almost every week for the last 10 years, cruise the Newport Harbor, she has a Red and White Stripe Canvas Top on her now. Lots of thumbs up from those who see Bill’s design work, This . I also have the original sails(#24) and boom spit in storage.

  15. Noel Ramos

    I think the headline should read BILL Tritt, not bRill. I don’t think his name was Brill. :)

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