Castillian Cast-Away: LaDawri Victress Coupe Kit

Garr LarsonBy Garr Larson

This big, black cast-away coupe actually represents a very interesting bit of fiberglass car history, and for only $650 as found here on Craigslist – it would be a (relatively) inexpensive way to build one of the last surviving bodies of “Canada’s first fiberglass car”.

To understand the history of this shell, we have to follow a long and winding road. As the seller notes, its technically a LaDawri Castillian which was sold by LaDawri Coachcraft – founded in British Columbia by Leslie Albert Dawes in 1956. His first (and Canada’s first) fiberglass sports car body was the Cavalier – which had obvious influences from the Corvette C1 that had been introduced just three years earlier.

To capitalize on the success of his original kit introduction, Dawes moved the company to California and grew it to one of the largest kit car manufacturers during the fiberglass customization boom of the late 1950’ and 1960’s. At the same time of this growth, another California fiberglass company (the Victress Manufacturing Company) was selling a similarly inspired sports car – the Victress S1. However, by 1964 Victress’ government contracts had grown too big for them to focus on the kit car business.

That’s where the Victress and LaDawri roads come together. Victress sold the S1 molds to Leslie Dawes, who retooled them to add doors, door jams, and liners. He renamed the models the LaDawri Castilian and Sicilian – and sold several hundred kits. These cars were made to work on a C1 frame or a more affordable Henry J from Kaiser-Frazer. Although it might be a shame to use a Henry J donor for this build – it sure would be fun to resurrect this historical piece of glass on a period-appropriate base. Whether it’s a custom frame and build-up, or a reassembly from 60-year-old parts, I hope this Castilian Cast-away finds its way back to the open road.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. slickb

    I think someone should put a crate engine in the crate car LOL 🙂




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  2. Classic Steel

    I like it and think would really CReATE a good looking car and with some box 📦 in wrenches could assemble easily.

    I would put the newer BOXster engine in the car for power too.

    This would then make it a box office smash with fans!




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  3. Ching-A-Trailer

    I’ve owned not one, but TWO LaDawri Castillian coupes. Can anyone else not inside an insane asylum make that claim?? Both had been built in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The more notable of the two had been built on a shortened 1957 Dodge or Plymouth chassis and was powered by a 392 Hemi with a four-speed. The chassis wasn’t quite up to the task though for the tremendous torque produced by that legendary Chrysler engine – the frame would tweak and the car would veer left when you stomped on the throttle! And of course the four-wheel drum brakes were a throw back of a different era. The other was built on a shortened Chevrolet chassis, and not being a “Chevy guy” we never quite figured out if it was a 348 or 409 engine. It too produced incredible burnouts and would smoke the rear tires if you even looked at the throttle cross-eyed!

    I always marveled though at the tremendous amount of work it took to put one of those cars together. When you bought a body, that’s what you got. Want a firewall? Make it yourself. Want floors? Make them yourself too. Body mounts? Well, you had to figure that out too! Both of my cars had quite a bit of the “inner structure” – that is, the firewalls, floor boards, rear bulkheads etc all made of fiberglass over plywood. Does anyone know anymore – did LaDawri provide patterns or were you left to your own devices to rough out whatever you wanted. Judging by the differences between my two cars, I suspect the latter.

    I know the windshield and rear window was sourced from some sort of early 1950’s Plymouth or Dodge and a 1955 Chevy grill matrix fit the grill opening perfectly, giving a sort of faux-Ferrari egg-crate effect.

    I sold the Chevy powered car to a chiropractor in Norman, Oklahoma who later told me he figured out the motor was a four-barrel 348, not a ‘giddy-up’ 409.

    The Hemi powered car turned out to have a significant and interesting history (and I found out only after I sold it) having been originally assembled to run Bonneville, which apparently it did, it was also drag-raced and for a while was even used as an SCCA road racer, a role I can’t think it was too well suited for with that heavy lump of an engine and drum brakes.

    Cool cars, if nothing else, at least Geoff Hacker will rescue it!!




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    • Robin

      I too have had 2 of these cars. The first was in the 1980’s. It was on a Jag, XK120 chassis, but was removed from that chassis after I sold it, and who knows where it is today. The second was more recent. The body was still fresh from the mold, and was sitting on a Triumph TR2 chassis. I am told that this one is on it way to being completed for the road.




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  4. Chuck 55chevy

    No surprise, it’s gone. On another note, I bought a 1982 Euro XXX Porsche 928 5 speed, yeah baby! Or not, ratty interior, parked a long time, turns over, a guy told me he had one the fuel distributor kept going out so he put a 600 carb on it. I’m such a car hoarder, someone hep me.




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  5. Mike B

    Castillian; would that make a “Lisper”?




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  6. junkman Member

    That’s one I might have chased if it didn’t evaporate in a millisecond. Oh well, there will be more. Time to get back to work on the green sunbeam.




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  7. RandyS

    That front clip on a Maverick to make a Ferrari 250 GTL “Lusso” tribute. hmmmm




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    • TriPowerVette

      I was thinking it was almost a ringer for a 1970 Vega…




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  8. AL

    Ad already deleted. Did anyone save the info? I’m actually in WI.




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  9. TriPowerVette

    Too late… Already gone.




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  10. britcarguy

    It vaguely resembles a Cunningham C-2 Vignale coupe of the same period.

    https://rmsothebys.com/ac15/the-andrews-collection/lots/1953-cunningham-c3-coupe-by-vignale/1071926

    Cunningham only made 25 or so of them to homologate a racing version. There was a Cunningham C-2 in a small town in Tennessee where I once lived parked under a carport. The owner was a recluse that lived in one room of an antebellum home and he would not consider selling. He knew what he had. That didn’t stop me from visiting the car from time to time. It had a Chrysler hemi, 3 on the tree, and a speedo the size of a pie plate. No idea where this car went.




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  11. Rick

    Where are the doors?




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    • ChingA-Trailer

      They disbanded after Jim Morrison’s death.




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  12. Peter

    Still riding that storm I guess.
    Here is what appears to be the same La Dawri body here but it appears to have been restored????
    https://www.rcnmag.com/fresh-finds/victress-c2-coupe




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