Plastic Fantastic: 1967 Piranha


Ok, I am going to bust my 400-word limit here, because this car is just too interesting. Here on craigslist, covered for the second time at Barn Finds, is a 1967 Piranha, with an asking price of $150,000. This car is located in Palmdale, California. If you are of a certain age, the photo will take you back to when you watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. after school, because Napolean Solo and April Dancer drove a Piranha for about five episodes. The car was conceived by Marbon Chemical (a division of Borg Warner) to promote the use of plastics in cars. Designed by Dann Deaver of Centaur Engineering and formed of Cycolac, a plastic – not fiberglass – it was christened the CRV – Cycolac Research Vehicle. After a warm reception for the two-seater, Deaver decided to race a version of the car. Success on the track encouraged Marbon to build a few more CRVs. Now the plot thickens. The cars did not do well in crash testing, and production was becoming expensive and complicated. Marbon, which never intended to make cars, sold the rights to AMT Corporation, a model maker with big ideas for a full-sized plastic car. AMT had hired Gene Winfield to consult on the design of its models, and it seemed like a natural step to task Winfield with bringing this new car to market. The car was then renamed the Piranha. We have Pat L. to thank for this amazing tip!

Winfield built a couple of racing versions that acquitted themselves well in drag and sports racing venues. Meanwhile, Winfield had proposed to NBC that he build a Dodge Charger for a new series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The Charger was nixed for publicity reasons, and Winfield suggested the Piranha as an alternative. NBC agreed and the most famous Piranha of all was built in coupe form. Street versions of the cars – running a rear-mounted Corvair engine – soon followed. The seller indicates that his car was purchased from Nick Whitlow, an automotive historian, and expert on the Piranha. The seller says Winfield himself is working on this car in his Rod and Custom shop; Sam Foose is also mentioned.

The Corvair motor has been rebuilt to its stock 160 bhp; the transaxle is also finished and the drivetrain has been tested. The seats have been recovered. A shortage of funds is listed as the reason for the sale in this October article from Hemmings profiling the same car. Note that it apparently comes with its windshield and full instrumentation, not shown in the craigslist ad.

While the ad mentions the car as a GM prototype, that is not true. Its only connection to GM was via the supply of Corvair engines, which was cut off when GM quit making the Corvair. Thereafter, the fate of the Piranha faded. The remaining bodies were sold here and there, and others were apparently made of fiberglass and destined for VW chassis. My conclusion is that it’s difficult to tell exactly how many cars were made in kit form. For more information, here is Nick Whitlow’s site. And now, as always at the end of these essays, is the question of value. What do you think this car is worth?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Going over to the BF

    Going over to the
    For Sale page there was a comment that said there was no information that Gene Winfield had anything to do with the car. Seems like no one read your words above. There was another comment about Winfield’s abilities to design and build cars that was as much BS as I’ve hard about anyone from some one who doesn’t know squat about anything. That said, price is one the moon for a pile of parts. Beautiful cars when finished.

    Like 3
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Site’s a little quirky this morning…..

      Like 1
    • Jay Souza Member

      about four too many zeros

      Like 1
  2. alphasud Member

    Wow! $65000 dollars added by painting it gold. The seller is a wee bit optimistic about a kit car. He’s even a bit optimistic about what a stock 4 carb Corvair engine makes. To set the record straight the 4 carb 164ci Corvair engine produces 140hp gross. The turbocharged 164ci version produced 180hp gross. As far as what it’s worth I guess it’s more like what it’s worth to you to own parts of a kit car that is shrouded in mystery.

    Like 8
    • KenB

      This was never actually a kit car.

  3. The Other Chris

    That is Gene Winfield standing next to the car in the second picture with the car in primer.

    Like 2
  4. Cowboy

    I built a LOT of AMT models over 50 years, but they were vastly more affordable. I wonder how much glue you’ll need to finish this?

    Like 8
  5. TheOldRanger

    Looking at this and looking at the price, my thought is “a fool and his money are soon parted”

    Like 3
    • Tony Primo

      My thoughts are to put on a respirator, they have been huffing paint fumes for far too long!

      Like 4
  6. Threepedal

    You pay for the ad, you get to name the price

    Like 2
  7. PairsNPaint

    Way back around 1970 or so, I spotted an unwanted Piranha body (both pieces) laying in the grass behind a VW dealership in Olney, MD. I could have picked it up for $100.

    Like 3
    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations Dave at OldSchool Restorations Member

      I think Geoff Hacker DID …

      Like 1
    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations Dave at OldSchool Restorations Member

      I think Geoff Hacker DID pick it up

      Like 1
  8. Paul N

    and I think we have today’s Joke of the Day

    Like 1
  9. Howie

    The seller has been breathing too many paint fumes!!

    Like 1
  10. Comet

    One pic shows it in a paint booth. Another shows’ it in a garage. What’s that about? The selling author seems to be quite a pitch man. As for asking prices…I’m willing to let my beat to hell Yugo go for $50,000.

    Like 1
    • grant

      Maybe they moved it from the garage to paint during the course of the project? And maybe they’re the type that takes pictures of works in progress? Seems logical to me.

  11. Martin Horrocks

    The only time I have seen one of these was about 15 years ago at Monterey vintage races. There´s some strong competition in that event, so I was pretty surprised when the Piranha won its race.

    However, this is a lot of money being asked!

    Like 1
  12. Bo

    Maybe it’s worth it if includes the rear mounted machine guns and the anti-aircraft rocket launcher that the UNCLE car had…
    I love that hidden dash panel.

    • PairsNPaint

      LOL. 0:51 – pushrod seals let loose!

    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      The UNCLE car definitely looked better with April Dancer at the wheel.

  13. John Traylor

    Too many zeros in the price

  14. mike

    is it just me or does the topless version look like Speed Racer?

    Like 1
  15. George Birth

    $150K for this pile of “Gold parts”??????????????????????
    Not even if were 18carat gold plated!!

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