WHY DID I BUILD THE TDX ?
In the early 1950's I was fascinated by the new material, fiberglass reinforced plastic and decided to make a body for the "hot rod" I was building. When I saw what could be done with fiberglass, I revised my body design and made my "hot rod" into a "sports car". It ran in a SCCA sports car race in 1954.
In 1955 my friend Jim Rockefeller and I started a fiberglass company called Amroc. We built large three dimensional signs and parts for transit buses. Amroc also built bodies for children's gasoline powered quarter midget race cars for a company called Schiller Engineering, owned by Carl Schiller, one of the early pioneers in the quarter midget race car business. Later, after Jim left Amroc to become a school teacher, Carl and I became partners and started the Larc-Douglas Company which built and sold the quarter midgets and children's sports cars. The cars were built under the name Offyette. When Carl was building the original Offyettes in his garage he found that if he made the bodies thicker than a normal body, he could attach the mechanical components to the fiberglass and he wouldn't need a metal chassis. This concept worked so well that Amroc built all the Offyette bodies with specially reinforced areas and no metal chassis's.
Amroc also built children's car bodies for Robel Corporation who manufactured the Divco truck and the DeSoto convertible children's cars. Amroc also made their own Corvette styled body and a quarter midget race car body which were sold to hobbyists who built cars for their children. Except for the first few Offyette race cars and an experimental Offyette sports car, all the bodies built by Amroc were used with metal chassis's. The experience gained from building the "fiberglass/body/chassis" for the Offyette's convinced me that using the fiberglass material for structures without the usual supporting frames, was perfectly feasible. From then on many Amroc products were built that way. Included were bus parts such as step wells, entry and exit doors, radiator doors, etc. The only metal used was for pivot or attachment points and screens.
Having experienced building fiberglass structures without the usual metal frameworks to support them, I decided that a full sized, full powered vehicle could be built the same way. I designed a small bus which would have a monocoque fiberglass "frame". Because the idea was so radical it was laughed at as ridiculous. It was said that because of the cold flow characteristics of the plastic it would eventually sag under its own weight and that of the metal running gear, And adding the torque of the running gear would twist the structure and the car would "unwind" and fall apart.
Well, I thought it would work and had seen how well the small cars and other parts Amroc built worked I decided to prove my theory and build a full sized car for myself. And, because I had developed some inventions related to the auto industry, I thought what a great way to promote my inventions by putting them into a concept car like the big car manufacturers. So, I designed the TDX which would include not only my ideas for car construction but also my electronic devices that would enhance car safety. I started building it in 1965 and had it ready for basic testing in 1966.
When the TDX was on it's wheels and could run under it's own power I decided that before I would continue the "finishing" I would have to test it and make sure that the basic structure would hold up under normal and abnormal use and stress. The best way was to make it roadworthy and drive it for a while. I went ahead with the basics required to pass inspection and register it. Simple truck clearance lights were used for directionals and brake lights. Sealed beam headlights were positioned with the beams aimed as required and temporarily "glued in place". A small panel made of masonite held the necessary switches and guages and plain indicator lights. Wiring was run as needed and everything taped in place on central dash structure. A single blade windshield wiper was set up and all the required components for inspection were in place. It was time to test the concept. I put about five hundred miles on the TDX and then took it off the road to continue finishing it.
WHERE HAS THE TDX BEEN AND WHY ISN'T IT FINISHED?
The requirements of business and family responsibilities took all my time and resources, and the TDX became a non-priority project. I covered it and parked it in the woods on my property. For the next thirty three years, it was exposed to the salt air from Long Island sound which was only about 500 feet away. It also had to endure falling branches, layers of leaves and sinking into the soft soil. It was a home to creatures of the forest that left nests and even several generations of their brethren. All this worked together to corrode and destroy much of the metal components while the fiberglass stayed virtually unharmed. Layers of body filler have flaked off parts of the TDX surface, but the basic body/chassis is still as good as it was the day it was made, almost half a century ago. The only casualty was the windshield when the top part of a tree broke off and fell straight down destroying the windshield, the horn ring and the top edge of the lower windshield support. The rest of the structure survived just fine.
In 2001 I moved from Long Island and had space to store it indoors. After about twelve years of indoor storage, it was brought out in 2013. From it's long stay in the woods and exposure to the salt air, all the steel suspension and engine components were covered with a layer of rust while the fiberglass structure remained virtually unharmed. Some metal components rusted through or disintegrated. The engine appears to be seized, the exhaust system is gone from the manifold castings rearward.
Lots of rust buster lubricants were used to loosen almost everything that was frozen with rust and corrosion, It was cleaned of leaves, acorns (some partially eaten) and remains of at least one furry creature. The paint was mostly gone and my concept of a super light weight body putty had cracked and lifted away from filled in areas. The same concept is used in current light weight body putty, but with more specialized resins. A set of appropriate wheels and new tires were added. Current plans include, replace the engine and any other components that are not useable, finish the car as planned and put it back on the road. It survived thirty three years of the elements which normally would destroy an all metal car, and after a total of forty five years waiting, it deserves to be resurrected and continue to prove that plastics can be used in structural applications. Everything from fighter planes to race cars make use of structural reinforced plastics. The TDX used fiberglass, today many other materials are used. Carbon fiber and Kevlar, are two newer reinforcements used in applications which were virtually "impossible" half a century ago.
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