Electric Prototype: 1959 La Dawri Conquest

Here’s one that probably asks more questions than it answers. It’s unusual on two fronts as it is a rare, small-production specialty car known as a La Dawri and it has been converted for electric operation. There’s not too much information included in the listing so let’s see what else we can conjure about this unique combination. Located in McKean, Pennsylvania, this 1959 La Dawri Conquest is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $3,150, five bids so far tendered. Thanks to Darrun for this most unusual tip!

La Dawri Coachcraft was a Canadian builder of fiberglass sports car bodies that operated between the years of 1956 and 1965. Production moved to the U.S in 1957 and the original model La Dawri, called the Cavalier, was renamed the Conquest. The fiberglass bodies were designed to be adapted to a Thunderbird, Corvette, or Henry J frame though a tube frame, similar in layout to a Henry J’s, was available. Running gear had to be sourced from a manufacturer such as Chevrolet or Ford. Production numbers are hard to come by but the conventional wisdom is that about 100 Conquest bodies were produced. A smaller version of the Conquest, known as the “Quest”, was manufactured too, along with coupe bodies for a competitor known as Victress Manufacturing, also of California.

There is no backstory on this Conquest other than the seller stating that it has been in storage for years and “This car has a developmental gasoline – battery- electric propulsion system that was developed for the direct current motor and generator”. He does not elaborate beyond that or indicates if all of this home-grown experimentation actually runs. He does suggest that with its existing frame and suspension, it could be converted back to a traditional gasoline-powered car.

The fiberglass body of this La Dawri is a bit rough and pretty wavy. It does look to be intact, however, with no obvious seam separations or substantial cracks. There is more than a passing resemblance to an early C1 Corvette here. And that makes one wonder why a sports car enthusiast would pursue a Conquest, along with the effort and needed parts acquisition, instead of just buying the ‘Vette in the first place. Trim, things like grilles and bumpers, etc., are of unknown whereabouts. Of note is the optional, removable fiberglass roof.

The interior is interesting as the instrument panel is clearly constructed for electric use. The specific details are not visible but the gauges look like they might measure volts and amps more so than RPM and engine temperature. Beyond that, there is not a lot to discern besides a flat, worn-looking bench seat and a “GE” emblem, center stage in the steering wheel.

Under the boot are a fuel tank, an electric motor, and a driveshaft that is all part of the electric drive. It’s a primitive-looking arrangement but there is another image that captures a collection of fuses, relays, and electric components of some sort up above the motor on the underside of the rear valance. Someone obviously put a lot of thought, time, and effort into this conversion. The last registration sticker is 1961 so does that mean this La Dawri was converted that long ago or has it just been off the road all those years and the conversion occurred later? Better yet, was this Conquest ever solely powered by internal combustion? Perhaps not but it would be great to know the story.

At this point, Elon Musk probably has nothing to worry about but a gasoline charged, electric propulsion car from the early ’60s was way ahead of its time and clearly a topic more relevant today than it has been in the 59 years since this La Dawari was last on the road. The question is, what to do with it? Value-wise, it probably makes more sense to drop back and punt, go full gasoline-powered and try to restore this La Dawri to its original, intended state. But if you’re venturesome and have some electronics knowledge, you could try to apply some 21st-century know-how to the electro-propulsion system that has already been started. What do you think, which way would you go?

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Comments

  1. JohnD

    Developmental = does not work. At least in my garage . ..

    Like 9
  2. ken tilly UK Member

    If you are wanting to learn about fibreglass sports cars then “undiscoveredclassics.com” is a very good site. La Dawri’s are often discussed. I have always considered myself a “purist” and yet I love the site as there are some very talented people constructing and restoring some incredible oldtimers.

    Like 2
  3. Dusty Stalz

    I’m just under 6′ tall and am trying to figure out how I would get behind the wheel, especially with the top on.

    Like 1
    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      Dusty, that’s a great question. Having restored several, I can tell you there is no legroom, and the setaing is high because the frame kick-up is right under the drivers seat . These were not designed for the Corvette or Thunderbird frame, as the article claims…they were designed around the Henry J Frame, and most all of them were put on HJ or 49-51 Ford Sedan chassis, regardless of the engine to be used.
      Unlike the Devin’s, Victress, and similar bodies, LaDawri bodies are THICK and HEAVY..very heavy. ,,, I can easily carry a Devin Body around the shop, but not these heavy-weights.
      .

      Like 4
    • Callsign

      It’s nt such a small car. Check my link below for photos!

      Like 1
  4. Kenneth Carney

    I certainly wouldn’t turn this one away. I’ve been interested in electric cars for years. Not because I’m a tree hugger,
    but as an alternative mode of transportation after a hurricane. Here in
    Florida, foreign owned gas stations jack
    up the price of gas to between $8 or $10
    per gallon when they have it. Yeah, it’s
    price gouging but the DAs are afraid to
    prosecute ’em for fear of starting an
    international incident. If you played your
    cards right, this car would make a dynamite alternative to your gas burning
    vehicles especially since all you’re gonna
    be doing is running errands anyway. All
    you’d need would be a solar array powerful enough to charge the car while
    it’s parked at your house. A solar cover
    could be used to charge the car when at
    work or at the market. I guess I get my
    interest in EVs from my stepdad through his work on the Henney Kilowatt in the
    early 60s. Yup, this one checks all the boxes for me.

    Like 3
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    After getting wiped out by Hurricane Irma in ’17 I can appreciate what Kenneth is saying. We stocked up on fuel before we evacuated so had plenty when we got back. Got electric to the house 5 days after we got back with our motorhome. Hot, sticky and glad to get the A/C running. Fuel prices went through the roof, when it was available, due to limited fuel for tankers and drivers recovering from the storm. We use a bunch of small solar for the motorhome and our box trailer we carry our race cars in. This all said, alternate power will certainly help our transportation needs.

    Like 2
  6. scott m

    That right 3/4 aft view very attractive. Corvette? Electric? Fiberglass? Who knows, who cares!

    Like 1
  7. Callsign

    I think this is a case of someone having this “great idea” of what to do with some old fiberglass body he found laying around and not knowing what he had.

    Electric La Dawri? Give me a break. This needs a restoration and a souped flathead Ford or better still some big old vintage Buick power. That hardtop is a gorgeous addition.

    I’m guessing that most of the world knows what this is too, because there are currently 223 people watching the auction. Hope it goes to a good home that appreciates this terrific find for what it is.

    More information here at the fantastic Undiscovered Classics web: https://www.undiscoveredclassics.com/forgotten-fiberglass/mike-bobbie-machados-ladawri-conquest-restoration/

    Like 4
    • Mike Puma

      As the new owner, I can confirm it now has a good home. As well as an owner who appreciates the history of both the car and the experimental drivetrain.

  8. Bigbird

    Unless you are an electronics engineer with DIY skills I would return this one back to a SBF or SBC with 6 sp. manual. Keep it as original looking with updated and reliable up to date parts. It would be a fun car to drive any where. I admit I don’t know if the frame or steering could handle it. Very different looking would have to view in person.

  9. Little_Cars

    Steering wheel appears to be 56-57 Lincoln, but not very sporty. Wonder if the original build had more Lincoln in it but went haywire along the way?

  10. Bill McCoskey

    The windshield appears to be a 1953-62 Studebaker C or K [coupe or hardtop] rear window. Anyone know what it was originally intended for?

    • JohnD

      Someone can add more but I think they used GMC truck windshields turned over.

      Like 1
  11. Jaker76

    Always had an interest in electric vehicles as a neighbor way back in the 60’s, a coal mining engineer always was building them on either VW Bugs or corvairs. His issue was he was way ahead of battery technology plus the weight of all those batteries and limited driving range. That being said this vehicle screams run away unless someone is simply after the body! Other than the body this is a pipe dream that would be a money pit! Hope who ever does win the auction puts it into the original meant to be design.

  12. Bill McCoskey

    JohnD,

    Once I looked at the GMC windshield and “turned it over in my mind”, I think you are probably correct. Thanks

    Like 2
  13. Paul Oberman

    Looks like someone left their hotwheel out in the sun too long

    Like 1

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