Smiling Roadster: 1962 La Dawri Sebring

la-dawri-smile

How could you not love a car with this visage! Obviously just happy to be rescued from being off the road since 1978, this rare fiberglass kit car from the early 60’s is eager for a new home. It may even have the best grin this side of a Bugeye. Thanks goes to Jim S for finding this car here on eBay!

la-dawri-catalog

I had never heard of a La Dawri until a friend of mine picked up an unfinished kit that he’s mounting on a TR3 chassis. Looking at Geoff Hacker’s tremendous internet resource Forgotten Fiberglass one can find a copy of the entire 1963 La Dawri catalog. Amazingly, Les and Joan Dawes were offering 14, yes 14, different kit types, of which the Sebring was one (and chosen to be on the cover).

volvo-drive-train

This particular Sebring was constructed in 1962 by a gentlemen said to now be in his 90’s. Somewhat unusually, it was built using a Volvo PV544 drive train. Supposedly this was a custom tubular frame, but I’m not so sure—there are components that certainly look like a Volvo PV544, and some that look like a GM X-frame, but I’m no expert on either of those. Can an astute Barn Finds reader help us out with identification? It certainly does look solid, with massive trailing arms locating the solid rear axle that I believe are from the donor Volvo.

roll-bar

Look at those rear bumperettes! And the “roll bar” which obviously wasn’t there to help with rollovers. It certainly added some style to this body, though.

la-dawri-cockpit

Interior shots show a much more finished appearance than was typical for a kit car of this period. The Volvo dash is well integrated and it’s apparent that the original builder agreed with Volvo that padding was essential in areas that might contact people. I love the wrap-around windshield, although that look was starting to become dated by the 1960’s.

drum-brakes

Large drums front and rear provide the stopping power. I think these are from the Volvo as well. I found an article on converting the front ones to discs, apparently it’s pretty easy, so if you are drum-phobic that shouldn’t stop you from choosing this beauty.

seized-engine

The engine is not as good a story though. The seller states it’s locked up, and it looks like someone has made some attempts to free it up, although all parts removed seem to be included in the sale. I think engine availability and even swapping to a later Volvo engine is an option though. The original Volvo serial number plates are also present, along with a plate issued by the State of Pennsylvania. However, there’s no title.

bumperettes

While beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, this is one special I’m having a hard time getting out of my mind. I think the distinctive lines, coupled with Volvo reliability could yield a terrific little sports car with hardly any chance of passing yourself on the road. So, do you think this smiling roadster would be happy in your garage?

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. Don Sicura

    I especially like the safety steering column………lol

  2. Mark E

    About one of the most unique projects one could hope to find. It’s also rare enough that you won’t have kibitzers at a car show telling you how the gargenfram is incorrect or the flabbitz bar should be connected with a 3/8″ bolt, not a 1/4″ one! -_-;

  3. Kevin

    I see who stole the legs off my BBQ grill. Never thought of using them as a bumper before.

  4. Leon

    Bumper bar looks like part of someones walker or conduit pipe bent to shape

  5. viking

    This car needs a 1962 or later B18 engine, they are plentiful and inexpensive, the B16 was only an avreage quality engine of its time.

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    This is an interesting entry. ‘Glas body kits like this La Dawri make me think about the postwar time when sportscars were popular, but mostly from Europe and expensive for their size. GM showed that ‘glas worked well for a car body, especially when you considered that it didn’t take a bunch of panel presses the size of a house to make the components. Just make some molds and then mix up some resin to go on the woven ‘glas cloth—all cheap stuff to buy. And you could do it in your garage.

    This La Dawri got further along than many ‘glas car builds, and it’s good to think that it actually got driven and used the 20K miles that are claimed for the car. The photo evidence that it was registered and used in PA is reassuring.

    I might quibble with the tubular space frame chassis claim, because it looks to me like a mix of original Volvo frame parts and box section members. But I doubt that many of these were made with tube space frame chassis anyway. The Volvo components should be easy to R&R, or replace with later, better units.

    The description seems straightforward and honest and if the reserve is reasonable it should sell. I hope it sells to someone who will get it into running shape and then put some photos of it up on Barn Finds and on the Forgotten Fiberglass website.

    The seller is in Grosse Pointe, MI, a place where lots of US car company people live. He has sold some pretty rare and unusual machinery, with almost 100% positive feedback. My guess is that if you want an early ‘glas bodied car that you can actually drive in your lifetime you could do OK with this one.

  7. sir mike

    neat car..wonder what part of PA it spent it’s life in??

  8. Bob

    Looks like a bumper car steering wheel. Would be an interesting project.

  9. Chris A.

    Unusual to see a La Dawri as a Volvo build, as MG T series and Triumphs were more common. As for Pennsylvania, the underside rust could come from anywhere in the commonwealth due to usual northwest wet weather, but I doubt it was driven in our salt laden winter weather. To do it safely, the body would have to come off as that underside rust is pretty severe. Neat project though.

  10. Alan (Michigan)

    This car has a lot going for it, in terms of appeal, servicability, and potential. As far as performance goes, with the engine, and even the radiator set back behind the front axle, the design is true Front-mid-engined. That should in theory at least help in the handling department. Just do completely away with the bumper system, or do a proper job of fabricating some attractive ones. Either way, the finished car could be a stunner, IMO. The windshield has a Corvette look to the shape, I think.

    I am curious about the sticker wrapped around the front bumper. I can read the number “00446”, but not the red printing above it. There are a lot of possibilities in my mind, from some sort of inspection tag, to an item number from a long-ago auction.

    Anyway, apparently the car is less than an hour from me, probably under 35 miles. If any BF car freak is hotly interested in obtaining the car, I am available to pop over and see it in person, and I can take a cameral along for specific photos needed.

    • Daniel Faussie

      See attached photo of sticker on bumper. This car has never been sold before.

  11. gunningbar

    I agree …nice project with a real chance of completion. Curious to see what it sells for.

  12. Denny

    I changed mine to look like this ..

  13. Alan (Michigan)

    Borrowed a few styling cues from a Chevrolet product, eh, Denny? Looks pretty good! I’ll bet that has a lot of people scratching their heads, ha! The shark’s fin driver fairing has to be a real attention-getter.

    So, did you borrow power/driveline pieces as well as the shiny bits, and wind up with a hotrod roadster?

  14. Brian (Michigan)

    So I’m the buyer of this little gem in the rough. Trailered it home on June 10 to it’s new home in Rochester Hills, MI. Trailered it over to a local Culver’s restaurant Cruise and it generated a lot of interest. The engine is a Volvo B16 with twin carbs from a B18. Trans, rear end, suspension, brakes are all from the donor Volvo, but the frame was clearly custom built from square tube stock.

    I plan on removing the front and rear bumperettes (they are welded to the frame), as well as the roll bar (will put it aside as it looks original), replacing the Volvo engine with a 1963 vintage 289 Ford small block and dressing it up in period parts such as Offenhauser or So-Cal style rocker covers, etc. I will also update to a Ford 4 spd. The front frame rails will need to be re-done to handle the increased weight and torque. We’ll see how the rear end holds up after that. Considering the Mustang II style front suspension, steering, disc brakes, etc that is commonly sold for Cobra’s and hot rods.

    The trapezoidal Volvo dash will go and be re-contoured to house vintage look Stewart-Warner gauges. Steering wheel and shaft will be replaced with a nice wood rim / chrome 3-spoke style such as a Carrera.
    Wooden wheel wells to be replaced with aluminum sheet. Cockpit, trunk and engine compartment will be updated with aluminum sheet as well.

    I’m liking the wide white tire look and may keep that, but downsize from the 15’s on the car to 14’s as the tire is extremely close to the fiberglass body in turns.

    I’ll gladly take opinions and comments. Don’t know what the new color scheme will be. Any suggestions?

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      Hey Brian,

      Three years on… And I just tripped across this listing.
      I also live in Rochester Hills, and wonder if you are driving/showing the car?

      Just curious,

  15. Brian R

    For anyone researching LaDawri Sebrings, This is body #8

    • Carl

      Where did you find the body number? Curious, I just found a La Dawri in a barn. Interested in the car
      Has a Crosley drove line on it.

  16. Brian R

    Thanks for your interest. I thought this was a really interesting car when I found it. Unfortunately I’m not working on it yet. I need to update my backyard landscaping for various reasons, and I’m currently working on a 1939 Mercury. But for the LaDawri, I plan on pulling out the Volvo engine since it is not running. I want to upgrade to a V8. I have a 1961 vintage 361 Chrysler engine, and a 1963 vintage 289 Ford. I have to upgrade the frame and am looking at building a new frame with better suspension than the Volvo suspension used. Not sure when I will get started as I’m spread pretty thin right now.

    Like 1
    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      Understand that! (I seem to be in the same mode….)

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.