This bizarre ghostly car is believed to be the last of its kind. Aptly named as the “Ghost Car”, this Pontiac Deluxe Six’s body is made out of transparent Plexiglas. The Ghost Cars were originally made in 1939 by the partnership of General Motors and the chemical company Rohm & Haas, these cars were sold for $25,000 and became the first see-through full-sized American car.
The development of the Ghost Cars was already started in 1933. Made to promote the future of the automobile industry, these cars were built specifically for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair and became an instant celebrity for General Motors’ “Highways and Horizons” booth. Even today, these Ghost Cars are certainly a mystical sight on the road.
Only two examples were built and this 3-speed manual transmission Ghost Car is the last one. With only 86 miles on its odometer, this ethereal classic will be sold for the 4th time of its life. The price when it was first purchased in around the 80s is undisclosed.
This last Ghost car was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s last July 30, 2011, and was expected to be sold from $275 to $475,000. According to an RM Sotheby’s Spokesperson:
“The car is in a remarkable state of preservation. It’s a testament to the longevity of Plexiglas in an era when automotive plastics tended to self-destruct within a few years. Although it has acquired a few chips and cracks, it is structurally sound and cosmetically clear, showing off the Ghost Car’s innards as it did in 1939. This motor still turns heads as much as it ever did. It is not, obviously, suited for touring but as a unique artifact from automotive and cultural history.”
At the end of the auction, it was sold for $308,000.
A standard Pontiac Deluxe Six would look like this in the Pontiac showrooms during the late 30s.
The life of these Ghost Cars started when Rohm & Haas used the designs for the Pontiac four-door Touring Sedan to make an exact copy of its body that is made out of transparent acrylic glass.
The body was supported by a metal structure that was copper washed and chrome plated to give it a skeletal look. The rubber molds, including the tires, were finished in white. To give life to the Ghost Cars, an L-head 6-cylinder engine was used. It also featured an independent front coil spring suspension, live rear axle that has semi-elliptic leaf springs, and hydraulic drum brakes on all fours.
Although the Ghost Cars never went into full production, the materials and technology used to build them were applied to building military aircraft during WWII and was also applied to other areas such as creating light fixtures, signs, trains, and other full production cars.
GM Heritage Center said that a 2nd Ghost Car with a Torpedo Eight Chassis was built for the 1940 Golden Gate Expo that was held on Treasure Island, San Francisco Bay.
All of the Ghost Cars were regularly used in dealership tours across the country. After its services as a touring car, this Ghost Car made its way to Washington, DC and was featured at the Smithsonian Institution. It remained there until 1947 until it was passed on by several Pennsylvania Pontiac Dealers.
In 1973, it was featured in Pontiac-Oakland Club International’s first annual gathering. Don Barlup from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania bought the Ghost car. Barlup assigned S&H Pontiac from Harrisburg to partially restore the car and in 1979, Barlup sold it to Leo Gephart who was also a collector.
The father of the current owner bought this Ghost Car from Gephart around the early 80s and has never been sold again. As expected, the Ghost Car does not have any standard vehicle serial numbers which also include the engine number.
The transparent fiberglass body is immune to rust but it is not immune to scratches, cracks, and chippings which this one has a few of them. Even so, after more than 70 years, this Pontiac Deluxe Six Ghost Car is still a one of a kind classic car that continues to be a head turner wherever it goes.