My Car Quest

November 22, 2017

The Ugliest Car At Amelia Island – Or Maybe Anywhere

by Mike –

I couldn’t look away, it is so ugly, especially from the front.

Spohn Convertible

Spohn Convertible

Built in 1957 this is a Spohn Convertible, it is one of the last Spohns built (that is a good thing in my opinion). Spohn was a coach builder from Ravensburg, Germany, who was credited with building bodies for the pre-war Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz and Maybach.

Spohn Convertible

After the war, Spohn purchased left over cars from the US military to use the chassis in the coach building business.

Each car built by Spohn was built to the buyers specifications. Less than 200 Spohns were made and no two are alike (also a good thing that there is not another like this one).

Spohn Convertible

This particular Spohn was built on a 1939 Ford chassis with a 1953 Cadillac 331 cid V8 engine and it has a 3-speed Ford transmission.

I am not going to tell you the names of the owners but one of them is the star of a very popular TV car show about chasing classic cars.

Let us know in the Comments if you think this is the ugliest car you have seen, or offer up an uglier alternative.

For some better looking cars at Amelia Island take a look at the photos by Rich Truesdell at Automotive Traveler.

 

 

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Summary
The Ugliest Car At Amelia Island - Or Maybe Anywhere
Article Name
The Ugliest Car At Amelia Island - Or Maybe Anywhere
Description
This Spohn Convertible has to be the ugliest car at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, or maybe anywhere.
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Comments

  1. That could be the ugliest car in the world not just at Amelia Island!

  2. When I saw the first photo you put up, I immediately thought it was designed by H Simpson and Son, or a custom built parody of it.
    Certainly, you cannot fail to be noticed when driving it. Just a matter of whether the people seeing it go blind or find themselves in paroxisms of indeterminate emotions that leave them unable to drive, walk properly or otherwise precludes rational behaviour.
    I thought it wasn’t so much touched by the ugly stick as given a flogging with it.
    Perhaps it was Spohned on?
    That the rear is only wildly disturbing compared to the front may be a blessing, but,…….
    I’ve told my kids that if they don’t start behaving, I’ll find one of these in a barn and buy it for them (and hide all the keys to all the other cars).
    I am truly intrigued by cars such as these. Can’t drag my eyes away, just like train wrecks, dam bursts, or the lady with 20ft of toilet paper trailing from her skirt.
    Is it ‘on behalf’ embarrassment or morbid fascination?

    • John in Fargo says:

      I was going to reply similarly, but this says it all! LOL!!

      I think the famous TV personality-owner is proudly standing to the upper-right of the photo. He devoted a good deal of one program to obtaining this car, which I thought might be tongue-in-cheek but probably not. He DOES have diverse automotive interests. As I recall, the car used a BMW 319 chassis – even more blasphemy!

  3. Yep, I said it was ugly and I meant it.

    • Hello Guys , as much as we love the same cars like iso’s, Bizza’s , Monteverdi’s etc I dont agree ..
      If this car had a much more stunning color like ice blue , different bigger wheels it would look already much more different !
      I can see myself driving around in it ( at night ) and scare the hell out of people.
      That is so nice about special body cars , there is always somebody who likes it !!

  4. This car was in the class “What Were They Thinking?” and I don’t think there is an answer to that question for this Spohn.

    • JamesWm says:

      Just remember “even the little black beetle is beautiful in the eyes of its mother”.

      Try and buy one. And while you are waiting, understand their history.

    • Its 1952 and the American style customization of cars is in its infancy and designs are literally “all over creation”. Owner Laven is in Germany and longs for his ’39 Ford to be done in the new Sport Custom style which is popular. Laven loves his Sabre Jets which were painted with a reverse cant sabre stripe similarly to Harley Earl loving jet aircraft and sword sabres. It all came together as this car for this American patriot hero pilot. God bless him.

  5. Joe Davidson says:

    I saw this car on the flight line at the 435TFS ,479 TFW George A F B.California in 1958. The OWNER was Col. GEORGE LAVEN Jr. who was the Commander of the 479 Tactical Fighter Wing .Col. Laven flew a F-100-C aircraft serial no. 54-076 from our 435 T F S ! I

    • Thank you for posting a bit of Spohn Custom history for us Joe. Thanks to Col Laven for his service and though you may have been a civilian employee on base, my hunch is you personally knew Col. Laven because you were also serving in our military. Thank you sir.

  6. Georg F. Simonis says:

    As a stylist and german I have to utterly admit what has been said about the Spohn above – but please weigh that againts their 1932 IAA-exhibit Maybach Zeppelin – one of the most influential designs ever!
    I would really like to find out, who actually held the pencil of the drawings for the 1957 Spohn. If he is of german origin, you might at least draw the conclusion, how intensive his wish was to be liked by americans. Sometimes these exaggerated examples show us, how important it is, to be aware of ones own identity – and – how easily things turn out to be a ridiculous joke if you dont.
    always like Your input Mike, thankyou!

    • The designer in the case of all Spohn Custom cars (about 24 were built) was the owner of the car driven in (for this build, a ’39 Ford). This car’s original owner and therefor designer, was Col. George Laven, Jr. Laven would have verbalized, perhaps with photos at hand (of the Earl Le Sabre and others) what he wanted done. Josef Eiwanger, head of Spohn Karosserie, would have penciled out the request which was then cost estimated and okayed for build by owner Laven.

  7. I own a Spohn Custom. You have the story wrong on how the cars were sourced. You have the number built wrong. They were designed by the car owners and not by Spohn staff. With the exception of a very few that were similar to each other, there was huge variation in design. You demonstrate a lack of knowledge about Spohn’s coachbuilding history. I maintain a Facebook page called “Spohn Custom Enthusiasts”.
    Certainly Spohn’s postwar Custom owners were not designers when they asked Spohn to build their dream cars. But they were mostly USAF pilots and deserve our respect at least for the fact that many chose the most influential concept car in the world, Harley Earl’s GM Le Sabre as their choice for rear end styling.

    • Wayne Graefen,

      I do appreciate all comments on My Car Quest but I prefer a civil discussion and civil disagreements (so I deleted some of what you wrote). Everyone’s opinion is welcome as long as it does not come along with insults directed at other people.

      You entered your Facebook page URL incorrectly, I corrected it so that My Car Quest readers can visit your FB page if they desire.

      The original owner of this Spohn was identified by a My Car Quest reader which you then republished on your Facebook page without credit to My Car Quest.

      More people will read about Spohn cars here than in just about any other source for a long time and that is a good thing for all classic car fans, especially lovers of the Spohn marque. Google Spohn cars and you will see this article in the number two spot on the search results.

      I would be happy to read about the accurate story for Spohn cars from you. Send the story to me in an email.

  8. Thom Ollinger says:

    This story highlights one of the pitfalls of being a custom builder of almost anything. There you are in your shop trying to pay the bills, and someone comes in and says “can you build this”. Out comes the napkin sketch (reference the Spinal Tap movie) and you see an idea from somebody with no design skills. You have a house payment coming up, what do you do? Because of this I once “tubbed out” a Chevy Astro van. And then the buyer complained the van had a bumpy ride. Hmmm, could it be the 2 foot wide tires on the back? Sometimes you build what the buyer wants just to pay the bills.

  9. Ugly? I think that is a rather harsh word for this car.

    Spohn was certainly a risk taker and not playing to the average aesthetic, but consider the times when this was being built. The design ideas are within the parameters of a boyhood fantasy of a super car or Flash Gordon comic interpretation.

    The front of the car is a visual interpretation of the speed streaked photos and animated exaggerations of moving forms. So blurred and agitated is the speed of the car that it appears to be exceeding it’s own skin, duplicating the frontal features – the lower part being the actual front end, but the upper being the G-forced facial expression as the shape distorts backward on the car.

    The rest of the car design is quite “normal” borrowing themes from GM’s LeSabre show car and other customs of the period.

    While I personally don’t find the front end of this car attractive, I also would not wish certain important works of contemporary art in my home, even though they remain part of the historic lineage and risks that artisans take all the time to push the envelope of their craft.

    Consider this – Mike publishes this blog daily and this one is generating of the most active responses to it. Why? Because as an artist, Spohn has done his job – to invigorate the public and roust them to awaken their voice.

    • Raffi,

      You are right this post is generating a lot of interest which is good for all car lovers especially lovers of the Spohn marque.

      I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the corollary that ugly is also in the eye of the beholder.

  10. Ciaran Payne says:

    About the UGLIEST car I have ever seen, although it has some semblance, in places, to the DAIMLER DART SP 250, on STEROIDS!!!!

  11. Hi Gang..

    I’m glad to see all the comments and couldn’t agree more with Raffi. In my neck of the woods – Forgotten Fiberglass – you should see the designs we’ve found. Actually…we have one that we’ll be sharing soon that makes any Spohn look tame. Bob Gurr inspired and gullwing doors to boot. Whew!

    There seem to be so many cars out there that were designed “quietly” – that when produced made a mark on the public that sounded like a church mouse. The Spohn designs were a result of a risk – one that Spohn took in allowing the owners who commissioned the work to participate in the design. The results seem to me to be akin to “folk art” for cars – a category that within the art world garners more respect with each passing year.

    Wayne is right on the mark with Spohn’s history. We have shared quite a bit of Spohn custom history on our website and you can click on the following link that shares 10 articles on Spohn:

    http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/category/sport-custom-cars/spohn-coachworks/

    And what makes this more interesting to me is that Spohn was only one coachbuilder outside America building custom cars for Americans. Another was DM Nacional in Mexico:

    http://www.sportcustom.com/dm-nacional/mexicos-automobile-dm-nacional-custom-sports-sport-custom-cars/

    And if you scoot back to the 40s a company in Holland (Gatso/Gatford) was building cars with American power and (at the very least) publicizing them in America too. Click on the following link:

    http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/sport-custom-cars/the-1947-gatford-gatso-sports-car-an-american-based-special-built-in-holland/

    So…you’re right. Spohn made cars that were ugly – and so did many companies – and so did many people. And this still happens. But the history that they were part of is remarkable which makes each of the very few Spohns found as of today spectacular. At least to me 🙂

    But wait until I find and bring home my first DM Nacional or Gatso/Gatford. Now then we’ll have something to talk about….*wink*

    Keep up the good work Mike and “My Car Quest” gang…

    Geoff Hacker
    Forgotten Fiberglass/Undiscovered Classics

  12. Eddie Medero says:

    Ok the car is not a corvette or nothing similar but I have seen uglier cars driving around. Go take a pick on any dealership and you’ll see some ugly new cars. They all look the same so it is kind of refreshing to see something different

  13. So ugly it hurts to look at! I was really surprised when Wayne Carrini of “Chasing Classic Cars” made such a big deal over this car. I love his show and have much respect for him but this thing regardless of it’s history is just plain awful.

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