We may be in a renaissance of design, but there was a point in time where car design was ever evolving. In the years before and after WWII, cars featured styling that we consider iconic today. Even so, some cars truly stand out in that time, and one that took pre-war styling to new extremes was the 1938 Phantom Corsair.
Rust Heinz was a member of the H.J. Heinz family (the ketchup people), and wanted to build something with striking styling– and the power to match. He tapped Maurice Schwartz of Pasadena-based Bohman & Schwartz coach builders. Heinz wanted to build a standout car and sell it in limited numbers, at a price of $12,500 ($207,000, adjusted for inflation). The project actually cost about $24,000 to make just one example. That would have been a $398,000 if built today.
The car had seating for six– highly unusual for a coupe of any era. The unique body had a tube frame steel chassis, wrapped in a steel and aluminum body, which measured in at only 58 inches high. To power this big-yet-short coupe, a Cord V8 was used, sending power to the front wheels through an electrically controlled four-speed gearbox.
The Cord V8 was supercharged, making 190 horsepower. Combined with the aerodynamic body, it could reach a top speed of 115 mph. Heinz’s untimely death meant only one example of the Corsair was ever built. The one that does exist remains as a stunning example of the fantastical whims of style and design in the late 1930s.
- 1938 Phantom Corsair