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Full View Plexiglass Bubble-Top Introduced in Los Angeles

The year was 1947 and today’s press photos were taken in Los Angeles of a “full view” plexiglass “bubble top” manufactured by the Fabriform Corporation of Bayesville, Ohio installed on a Ford convertible. Earlier, Fabriform manufactured clear plastic bubbles and blisters used in World War II on bombers to cover machine guns and gunners.

The eye-catching automobile top attaches to a car in the same manner as the original fabric top and is easily installed and removed for storage. The pictures of the accessory top were taken in an unknown Ford Dealer’s used car lot in Los Angeles that handled the one-quarter inch thick roof. The press release with the images reported that “a choice of tints is planned for the future.”

This plexiglass top is not the first to be used on an automobile, the clear plastic was introduced in the thirties and is shown on a 1939 Plymouth and other vehicles, and also used for a 1950s Plymouth chassis. Share with us what you find of interest in this image, along with any additional information found covering this top in more detail. The photograph is courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

28 responses to “Full View Plexiglass Bubble-Top Introduced in Los Angeles

  1. Without a doubt the interior of any vehicle equipped with one of these tops got really hot really quickly. I read that the early GM Futureliners had bubble canopies and those proved to quickly become very uncomfortable for the drivers and were retrofitted with the style commonly seen in most photos.
    I did have a friend visit our house one day in the ’70’s driving a first gen Corvette with a clear bubble top. It was secured in the back with turnbuckles and cables. The front used the OPEN top clips.

  2. In `47 Raymond Loewy designed a Commander Starlite coupe with the wrap-around rear window, and a plexiglas panel over the front seats–much like Ford’s Skyliners/Sun Valleys of `54-`56. The car as I recall was to be his personal driver, and he drove it down to his new home in Palm Springs that year. Well, as you can imagine, not such a good idea. I guess the sun down there with that untinted top just baked the interior, making the car only driveable on cloudy day or at night. Sure wish I knew what happened to it, but it was probably scrapped in short order.

    • It sounds like you are talking about the Vince Gardner Studebaker… which is very much alive and well today.I photographed this car. Last time I saw it in person was a couple of years ago. At the time it was sitting in a museum in Dayton, Ohio, but has since moved to another museum–or so I hear. Car was actually converted into a sports-roadster with clear bubbletop and has been restored more than once. Another unusual feature of the car was dual exhausts that exit out of the middle of the tail lights!

  3. This is a real step up for Fabriform Corp.: This top is much larger than any canopy used on any WW2 airplane. The tint would definitely be a must. The plastic top on the mid ’50s Fords was tinted; wonder if Farbriform supplied it.

  4. There is a photo on the web of a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertilbe Coupe with a full Plexiglass top, which was apparently commissioned by the owner. The b&w photo was probably taken in the immediate post-WWII period. The top may have attracted some national press attention when newly installed. The owner, I’ve heard, lived in the Westchester County, NY area.

  5. What’s ironic is that apparently nobody had the desire or ability to produce a steel top for placement on a convertible body until GM did it in 1949 with Buick/Olds and Cadillac. The “hardtop convertible” took off and became a new body style sensation kinda like what’s going on now with crossovers.

  6. Anyone remember the 1975 AMC Pacer? Aside from being pure ugly, there was so much glass, that it was unbearably hot inside! I worked for a multi-line dealer that had recently dropped their AMC franchise. Common complaint: the AC could not keep up with the heat. I can only imagine how unbearable a full “bubble top” would be.

    • Drove Pacer field cars through one summer in Atlanta and several in the midwest and the AC never had an issue. As an AMC field repo I never heard that complaint.

    • I had a 1976 Pacer in high school and throughout college. While it had its share of issues, being too hot inside was not one of them and the AC worked fine for me. This was in the midwest and we had more than our share of warm days!

  7. I had a ’69 corvette with solid T-tops. I was able to purchase a one-piece plexiglass top for it, out of the back of Motor Trend magazine , so they were still being marketed as late as the end of the ’60’s.

  8. My dad had a 1950 Olds 88 convertible with at plexiglass hood. The car was purchased from Worcester Motors, an Oldsmobile dealer that was located at 258 Park Ave., Worcester, Mass.

    • Olds provided those for showroom material when the OHV V8 came out in `49. They weren’t ment to be driven with it, due to the heat generated by the engine. A neat item if you ever see one!

    • Okay, this may be (slightly) off topic, but I saved my money to buy a clear 1956 Oldsmobile toy car that was see-through, with moving engine and drive train parts, and about 2 feet long. I saved and saved for that toy and looked at it every day through the toy store window. It was $6.50 in mid-50’s money — expensive for a toy at that time.

  9. ^ ^ ^ ^ Not actually a Plexaglass hood. Only 2 Plastic windows in the center of the stock oldsmobile hood to show off the new Rocket 88 engine. Tires a few around today and the cars can be driven normally.

  10. Ed Roth said he formed the shape of the bubble top for his Beatnik Bandit or Orbitron or whatever by rigging a compressed air nozzle on the floor of a pizza oven,then placing the flat piece of Plexiglas into the oven,heating it up and then slowly feeding air through the nozzle till the bubble formed.
    Does anyone out there believe that story?
    I sure don’t.

    • More likely to have drape-formed the sheet into a concave form upside down…..that’s how we did a lot of 1-shot parts forming in auto design school.

    • I think I do. Recently, a business contact of mine was making clear plastic food tray covers for his catering business in a similar fashion.

  11. Loewy’s 1941 Lincoln Continental with the lift-off Plexiglass panel and Vince Gardner’s 1947 Studebaker with the Plexiglass windshield and bubbletop both survive — and info/photos are online. Can you direct us to see photos of the ’47 Commander Starlight and ’41 Cadillac 62 referred to here? Thank you!

    • There is a site called “kustomrama” that has a section on bubble top cars. There is a picture of the Studebaker and mention of the Cadillac.

  12. Like Fabri-Form, after the armistice a lot of war materiel manufacturers scrambled to find new products to replace the lost business. One outfit in the Chicago area had a lot of leftover stamped metal components for hand grenades that they creatively repurposed into a spring-loaded kid’s toy cannon that “shoots wooden shells!” (How did I never have one?) Do a search for the “Howie Cannon,” I think there was a Hemmings article about it some time ago.

  13. I wonder what the designers imagined as far as a safe (scratch proof) on-and-off lift device for an owner’s garage. First thought was a rubber suction cup, like the small ones which came on the business end of an arrow with my childhood bow and arrow set; then I thought about the black rubber suction cup on the end of a toilet plunger, perhaps a trio of similar but oversize rubber cups which when lowered onto the plexiglass dome would scrunch down on the smooth plastic and provide enough strength via their suction to allow the heavy bubble top to be cranked free of the car and swiveled over to a carpeted ‘landing pad’ where the bubble top could be stored when not on the car. It cannot be true that the inventor of “shake and bake” was inspired by a ride in this car on a sunny day over a bumpy road in Los Angeles.

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