A Shallow Vet is an animal doc that you’re really not sure you want anywhere near fido. In contrast, today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Shala Vette is a custom fiberglass buggy by the famous designer Dick Dean, and you need to decide if its price makes it a dog.
You know why we don’t do motorcycles here very often? It’s because you guys freak out over them. Once the furor died down a bit, yesterday’s 1970 Kawasaki A1SS did manage to roll away with a 60% Nice Price win. Good times indeed.
Do you lay in bead night after night, pooled in sweat, staring at the ceiling and unable to sleep because of your lamentation of a world bereft of a vehicle that is a mashup of a C3 Corvette and Disneyland Autopia car? Well, change those sheets and stop counting sheep, because today’s 1969 Shala Vette is here to put your mind to rest.
Dick Dean was born Richard Dean Sawitskas, but was dubbed Dick Dean by a syllabically challenged Autorama announcer, and the shorter version stuck. A graduate of Pasadena’s prestigious Art Center, College of Design, where he studied under none other than Strother MacMinn, Dean opened a customizing business in Michigan after a short and unhappy stint at a steel mill.
It wasn’t until hooking up with George Barris in 1959 that Dean’s fortunes took a turn for the fortunate, and he started to make a name for himself. After moving to California, Dean worked his way up to running Barris’ Kustom City shop where he oversaw the creation of a number of custom creations for which Barris of course took all the credit.
One of Dean’s interests was Dune Buggies, having built a number of Meyers Manx cars, and eventually designing his own Beetle in disguise, the gull wing’d Shalako. That car led to Malcolm Bricklin commissioning Dean to develop the former Subaru importer’s namesake folly. Before that however, it led to the object of our attention today, the Shala Vette.
What the heck is a Shala Vette? Well, it’s a dune buggy that looks like a kiddy car version of the C3 Corvette. As such, it’s a fiberglass body on a shortened VW platform powered by a VW flat four... out in the back.
Only about 10 of the Shala Vette bodies were ever made, and while they turn up for sale from time to time rarely do you find them in as nice a shape as this one. Yeah, that’s pretty subjective as this Shala does evidence its age as the gel coat appears dull and there is wear on some of the hard edges.
The interior is a plastic tub on the VW's waffled floor and into that have been placed a pair of vinyl and fabric seats, probably donated from a van. The ad claims the pan underneath all that is free of rust and it appears that the car has disc brakes up front, which is a plus.
The seller also says that the car runs and drives despite having been in storage for the past ten years. If its owner hasn’t maintained its non-op status then the cool gold-on-blue California plates may not be presently usable. ’69 was the first year those were made available.
Dean oversaw a lot of custom cars for TV shows and the movies, and you might remember the Shala Vette from the 1975 trashploitation flick, Death Race 2000 where a heavily modified one was piloted by the star and mortifyingly embarrassing death experiencer David Carradine.
While it’s cartoonish in the extreme, the Shala Vette has a provenance, and seeing as this one’s apparently in drivable shape - albeit with what looks to be a grab bar instead of a windscreen - that raises the question, what is it worth?
The seller of this Shala is asking $3,500 to take it off his hands. You now need to vote on whether than’s a deal or not. What do you think, is this Dick Dean custom worth that kind of cash? Or, is this Shala’s price a shall not?
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