My Car Quest

May 26, 2024

Kit Car Super Car – The Sterling

by Mike Gulett –

The Kit Car super car is an important part of car culture. Like most kids from the ’60s I saw the ads in the car magazines for very cool looking car bodies in need of a chassis, usually a VW Beetle chassis, and I dreamed of owning one of those very cool super cars.

In the 1950s the invention of fiberglass allowed this new light weight, low cost material to be used for car bodies. This combined with the success of the Volkswagen Beetle over the next couple of decades and we see the growth of the Kit Car market follow.

Fiberfab - Car & Driver October 1968

Car & Driver October 1968

The Volkswagen Beetle is important because its low cost, reliability and ease of maintenance allowed many car lovers to use the VW as the chassis and power train for their planned Kit Car dream car. Most of the Kit Car companies designed their bodies to fit on a VW chassis.

Kit Cars were the super car for those who could not afford a real super car. The styles were sleek and aggressive looking and powered from the rear by a VW air cooled engine that anyone with a well stocked tool box could work on. The emphasis was on looks and low cost not performance.

This was a world wide trend and each car country had its own list of Kit Car manufacturers that appealed to their local customers.

The car magazines were filled with advertisements for the Kit car body of your dreams. With names like Devin, Valkyrie, Bradley GT, Banshee, Aztec, La Dawri and Sterling.

 

Devin

Devin – photo by Mike Gulett

Valkyrie

Valkyrie – photo by Bob Wachtel

Sterling

This is a 1972 Sterling Kit Car which is based on the British Nova Kit Car. In Australia it was sold as the Purvis Eureka. Of course it is a fiberglass body designed to fit on a VW Beetle chassis.

Designed and engineered by Richard Oakes and Phil Sayers the Nova was introduced to the US in a 1973 issue of “Car & Driver”.

Sterling Kit Car

Americans Norm Rose and Cecil Robertson struck a deal to manufacture the Nova in the US under their company name California Component Cars. The car model name had to be changed because Chevrolet already used the Nova name.

Production of the Sterling began in San Lorenzo, California in 1973 with a total of approximately 875 cars produced by California Component Cars.

Sterling Kit Car

Sterling Sports Cars was in Pennsylvania at one time and there is a Sterling owner’s club and this Sterling enthusiasts site.

Versions of the Nova have appeared in movies, including “Cannonball Run II”, “Death Race 2000”, “Winners and Sinners”, “Condorman” and “Mani Di Velluto”.

Sterling Kit Car

I ran across this example, my first sighting of a Sterling, at a San Francisco Bay Area car show in 2013.

Sterling Kit Car

Look at that “door” – even Lamborghini does not have anything like that!

Sterling photos above and all magazine scans by Mike Gulett.

Sterling Kit Car in Road & Track

Road & Track – July 1975

Join the conversation and let us know what you think in the Comments.

Universal Plastics Ad

Road & Track April 1966

Universal Plastics Ad

Road & Track December 1966

FiberFab Ad

Road & Track April 1966

FiberFab Ad

Road & Track December 1966

Portions of this article were originally published in October 2013 and in March 2019.

Summary
Kit Car Super Car - The Sterling
Article Name
Kit Car Super Car - The Sterling
Description
The very unusual Sterling Kit Car is an attention getting "super car".
Author

Comments

  1. I’m trying to place original source of the tail lamps but have a hard time. Triumph TR7? I guess this looked much better20 years ago. Bit too much body deformation especially at the front

  2. Claus T. sent this email message to me,

    How about this one for sale in Denmark?

    http://www.ez-biler.dk/biler//vis/264601592/VW-111-1.6-Nova-1d

    • A much better execution. Ferrari badging and what appear to be adhesive bling vents detract but can be removed. What’s the price? At 3100 DKK its just under $600. Maybe it’s 31000 DDK?

  3. the...Cecil Robertson says

    Actually production began on San Pablo Ave., Oakland, Ca., we later moved to San Lorenzo, Ca. (if you would like to check details…feel free to contact me.

    • Hi I bought one from San Lorenzo, 100’s one made. It was a life experience. Wish I still owned it. What a fun car.

    • i just found one out of grass valley , ca. made in 1970 by sterling sports cars oakland, ca. with door/body id tag #SO85 and yes i do have photos of the car and the id tag showing at is out of oakland, ca. it also has chey corvair motor with about 15k miles and it was last driven back in 1980!! i got it for about $5k, but now it need some work!

      • Cool! I don’t have that one in the registry yet – visit us at nationalsterling.org and contact me through there!

      • Christopher J Bowman says

        Crazy thing i have stumbled on this site and im reading what to i see. A sterling found in grass valley? Im from grass valley. Wonder if that was my uncles? I wanted to rebuild one of those for so long. The history is amazing and they look so cool.

    • Richard Faucett says

      Cecil; I am trying to find ser number of my sterling I know it was early??? I am living in Liberel Kansas and 91 years old sold the car because could not use it in mt. of colo. in 1983 the little alum v8 was working good when I sold. Dick Faucett

    • Dawn Wilkey says

      Can you please text or call me 707 349 9227 I have a complete body and frame. I want to sell but I have no idea what to ask for it

  4. How the hell can I buy one of these. Serious buyer here, looking to buy one, or build with engine and other customizations.

  5. Tom, keep your eye on the marketplace page of my website. I try to update it as often as possible to reflect what I find for sale across the country. Full kits are no longer available, just replacement parts. Most cars appear on Craigslist and eBay.

  6. Looking to buy one can u guys help

  7. Responded on the dune buggy page to your question. See answer above.

  8. Alfonso Cocoros says

    very good publish, i actually love this website, keep on it

  9. I have S040. Restoration well under way and moving fast. Hope to have it road worthy this month. Love this car!!

  10. I just picked up a roller for next to nothing. I am 6’2″, so I might flip it. Make offer!!! Located in Sacramento

  11. Paul Garrison says

    Hi . I just purchased one of theses cars I would like to know if there is parts book available . I’m either going to fix up my car or flip it for the right kind of money .. my vin # is ccc133 its got a tag from Oakland ca, any in fo on my car would be cool ty .

  12. I just saw 11 of these in the middle of nowhere Australia, ELEVEN. Had to do some googling to figure out what they were. The canopy helped me identity them

  13. Curious to know if Universal Plastics Corp actually ever produced anything, anyone know?
    Thanks
    jim

    • Jim,

      That is an interesting question. I searched and found this article by Geoffrey Hacker, the expert on these early Fiberglass cars and companies, – the link is below, I am still reading.

      https://www.undiscoveredclassics.com/featured-stories/the-mystical-and-many-cars-of-the-universal-plastics-company/

      • Jim,

        Below is the conclusion from Geoffrey Hacker (with a photo of the cover of a Universal Plastics brochure),

        “The brochure shown in the gallery of pictures is the first of the brochures produced by Universal Plastics, well designed, and professionally printed. A letter included in the brochure dates it to early 1966 – the same time the ad appeared in Road and Track in March 1966. An 8×10 glossy picture of a finished car was slipped inside the brochure with the caption, “Sebring GT-2 by Universal Plastics.” By golly, they actually may have made a car or two. It certainly is starting to look like it from the brochures and picture available from Art’s collection.”

        • Here is the photo that Geoffrey Hacker says is a real car made by Universal Plastics (the Sebring GT-2).

          Has anyone seen a Universal Plastics car in person?

  14. Read Geoffry’s articles which were great, would seem that he and Harold Pace (who was a very good friend of mine) were trying to find out what ever they could about the company… Interestingly enough I did MapQuest the address on the brochure and it is actually a not terribly large warehouse facility that still exists today. but does not seem at least at the time of the picture was taken on MapQuest to have been occupied.

    Obviously if you tried now to do reproductions of factories concept cars not even changing the names you would certainly get shut down fairly rapidly, wonder if that happened to them as well? Would be interesting to know… Picking the Corvair Monza concepts along with the Cougar on the Cobra chassis were quite ambitious project for the time and a several of my personal favorite concepts..

    • James Rice says

      Jim: I am a Corvair friend of Mel Francis. I was in his shop a few weeks ago and saw the two models of the Monza GT and SS he has, He did not give me your name.

      I’ve been poking around a little bit about kit cars of the 2 GM Design cars. I remember seeing a brochure for them in about 1986, I assumed they were from FiberFab, but maybe not. At the direction of Geoff, I found the web site…and pictures if the models you have created of the Monza GT, SS and Astro 1. I would very much like to get 2 sets of the three cars. One set for me and one set for the Corvair Museum which The Corvair Preservation Foundation has open just south of Springfield IL.

      I would prefer completed model, as I’m loosing a lot have hand I coordination. Please contact be about this idea.

      Thanks
      Historically Yours,
      James Rice
      Pekin Il 61554

  15. wallace wyss says

    I don’t think the automakers making one off show cars bother to get design patents on them, so making a car like the above (is that a photo of a model or the real car?) you probably would not hear from their lawyers unless you used the names (That was the Corvair Monza SS) In a way, if you do a quality job you’re doing a service to the fans some of whom would have bought it from the automaker but now have to buy it from a replica maker.

    • Actually Wallace, that is a scratch built model I made of one of the concepts in 1/24 scale here are a few others that I scratch built as I am a huge fan of these creations…

  16. SKIP HINOJOS says

    I HEARD IF A PERSON WANTED TO USE A BUG ENGINE IN THESE CARS THEY WOULD USE A FRONT WHEEL DRIVE TRANSAXEL, FROM A N OLD CADILLAC OR OLDSMOBILE, MOUNTED IN THE IN THE REAR OF THE STERLING..

  17. Sacramento Autorama 2019

  18. and from the rear

    • Bob Wachtel says

      I would say that they’re both Valkyries, the copper one and the gold one with the stripe. I had the silver one with the Cibie rectangular headlamps surrounded in “flat black”. Those two and mine were V-8 powered. Mine had a late Corsair transaxle mated to a Ford to Chevrolet bell housing with and adaptor and a hi-po 289ci, 271 hp Ford V-8.

  19. Brian Johnson says

    Looking to buy a sterling nova gt anyone out there that has one for sale or trade i have a 62 bug with 2276 cc engine idf webber carbs engel cam

    • David Morgan says

      Hi Brian – I have a seriously neglected Sterling that has not been used in over 10 years… Let me know if you want info.

      Dave Morgan

  20. Daniel Peppard says

    Hello all I just bought a Sterling kit car body. It came with everything but the dash and back window louver. Any ideas of where I can find these two items????? The body was built in Oakland, CA and has a number on it CCC422 any idea of what year this body could have been built… Thank you all

  21. I have a 1976 Sterling kit car that I’m trying to restore but having a hard time finding parts for the car. I need the windshield washer & blade, a new hydrologic for the top and the back hood to cover the engine. Can anyone direct me to a site that sells parts for these cars?

  22. bRIAN sMITH says

    lOOKING FOR A STERLING TO REBuILD, I am well versed in fiberglass and have built a few I am in Michigan

    • William Murphy says

      Hello Brian,
      I’m located in Sturgis Michigan. I have the “upgraded” version of the Sterling that has been sitting for quite some time. It’s called a Bremen Sebring Turbo. My intent was to restore it but life got a little hectic and it’s now sitting in my garage. From the information that I could find, it’s one of two that we’re factory built instead of being a kit. Due to my current situation, I am willing to part ways with it. If you’re interested please contact me at wm101891@yahoo.com.

    • How much will U spend”

  23. Scott Colquhoun says

    Hello. Looking to buy a Bremen Sebring I but it has a cracked windscreen. Anyone know where a replacement can be bought and approximate cost?

  24. Tranas Spietis says

    Mike Gulett wanted to see a GT2 in the flesh.

    Here’s a picture of one taken February 20, 2021 passing through Lithuania on a Polish car carrier. Russian or soviet number plates.

    The picture you posted seems to be what the designers wanted it to look like. In the end, that had to settle for real world front glass. Considering it’s 1966 – it’s still looks great in today’s world.

  25. Tranas Spietis says

    Poor man’s 904 GTS. 🙂

    One of Porsche’s great designs…

  26. Hi, Here we have a Remake of a Fiberfab Bonito Type 2.
    The German Jörgfrieder Kuhnle started in 1966 Fiberfab Karosserie Kunstofverarbeiterung Gmbh.
    He is the designer of the FT Bonito.

    Jörgfrieder Kuhnle worked for Fiberfab USA in 1964 in Santa Clara (Caliornia, USA).
    Fiberfab USA was owned by Warren Goodwin.
    Fiberfab USA started to make tuning parts from 1964 and from 1965 they started to make the first kit cars like the Fiberfab Banshee Aka Caribee.

    Mr Jörgfrieder Kuhnle released 3 FT Bonito models.
    The first model was the Type 1 and was developed in 1967 and presented for the first time in September 1969 in Frankfurt IAA Germany and there were only 68 type 1 models made till July 1971.
    These are the models with the round taillights from the Karman Ghia Type 34.
    They can be recognized by the shorter nose and a rounder body and round rear side window.
    3300 mm in length, 1720 mm width and 1020 mm high

    The second Type was the Type 1 model and a Type 2 model blended together.
    The blended concept was a short nose Type 1 and Type 2 rear body only 3 were made.
    Non of these concepts has survived.

    The third and final design was the type 2 from January 1972 till 1978 and from these models were 1236 made.
    They can be recognized because of the rear rectangular pre mounting structure for the VW Bus T2B Rear lights.

    3350 mm in length, 1680 mm width and 1150 mm high.

    The type 1 models are rare and only a handful are original and complete.
    R.I.P Jörgfrieder Kuhnle and thank you for making a car that was for me…love on the first sight.

  27. Bob Wachtel says

    I met Warren “Bud” Goodwin, who owned Fiberfab USA in the late 60’s at the Fiberfab facility in Sunnyvale,Ca. Perhaps they moved to Santa Clara later or maybe Bud just lived in Santa Clara. I went to the facility to check out the quality of the Valkyrie kit with the rectangular tube frame and all the components necessary for installing a Ford K engine with 289ci & 271hp along with a Ford to Chevy bell housing and an adaptor and input shaft for the Corvair 4-speed manual transaxle. I then purchased the deluxe kit from his distributor in Mamaroneck,NY by the name of EDP Enterprises run by Eno DePasquale. I went there eventually with my close friend Tommy and we purchased 2 deluxe kits and the rest is history. Unfortunately Tommy’s Valkyrie was stolen from him when he moved to Florida. My Valkyrie was finished in Sebring Silver and was eventually sold while on display at the annual car show at the NY Coliseum. The rest of this story can be found on this great website.

  28. Reading all the posts was as much fun as the article… thanks to all who contributed…

  29. Nice reading, brought back many memories of the ’70s and 80’s when I owned a few of these cars. I thought that the industry would mature but that was not the case.

    Regards,

    Paul Pollock
    WebCars! / Corvette Story Webmaster
    http://web-cars.com
    http://corvettestory.com

  30. Geez, Mike, I don’t remember this many folks responding since you did the “patina” article!

  31. Glenn Krasner says

    Mike,

    A couple of years ago, I was shopping in a strip mall on Long Island, NY, and a guy pulled up in a red car that looked exactly like an original Ford GT. When he stopped the car, which had an incredibly loud roar, no fewer than six different people went up to him within 30 seconds to find out what the hell that car was. He said it was a kit car that he purchased from a guy locally, and he replaced the engine with a larger Beetle engine than the guy had in it, and that was it. I don’t remember him ever mentioning the actual kit car name, though.

    Not exactly a kit car, but a beautiful sports car using the Beetle chassis and engine, that was manufactured in Brazil was the Puma. Every once in a blue moon, you’ll see one come up for auction on Bring a Trailer, usually located in Canada, as they were not legal for import to here in the States.

    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  32. Man I have never seen a post receive so many followers requesting help buying a car !

  33. I have a Sterling # S 0 36 . I bought it back in 1976.. Its been setting in the barn for several years..

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