The car production benefits GRP offered, be it for low-volume specialist self-build cars or mass-built components, quickly spread around the world. In France, for example, Citroën innovated GRP for the large roof panel of its revolutionary DS in 1955, with the plastic material also proving a winner closer to home. Numerous British specialist sportscar body makers sprung up in the 1950s, such as TVR, Ginetta, Elva and Marcos, with both Rochdale and Colin Chapman’s Lotus pioneering the first GRP monocoque bodies by the end of the decade.
Over the subsequent years, plastic bodyshells not only formed the backbone of a thriving kit car and specialist sportscar industry, but also moved into the motoring mainstream, with a wide spread of car makers selling GRP-bodied models. These ranged from the Reliant Robin and Bond Bug, through to early examples of the Ferrari 308 GTB, as well as the BMW M1, Saab Sonnet, Ford RS200, Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’, Renault Espace, Pontiac Fiero, Vauxhall VX220, Citroen Bijou, Lancia Stratos and the Studebaker Avanti, to name but a few.
Despite the subsequent development of alternative hi-tech production materials such as Kevlar and carbon fibre, GRP still remains the favoured building base of many of today’s specialist low-volume car makers, especially within the successful UK self-build car industry, as I was reminded at the May Bank Holiday annual Kit Car Show at Stoneleigh.