This gorgeous and tiny green machine is a Glass Sport Motors Dart Roadster. GSM was founded in Cape Town, South Africa in 1958 by Bob van Niekerk and Willie Meissner after Meissner discovered glassfiber reinforced plastic manufacturing during a visit to England. So-called fiberglass was still a fledgling technology at the time, and certainly had not reached South Africa by the late 1950s. This was bleeding edge sports car racing tech in its day, and looks quite fetching some 60 years later.
The tail-fin sports car design is quite British in appearance, and that may have something to do with the fact that it was designed in England by South African pen Verster de Wit, who was working on the Sunbeam Alpine at the time. De Wit helped van Niekerk and Meissner develop their design into something workable, and helped them to produce a body mold. The pair made one body while in England, and sold the prototype in order to fund their return trip to South Africa.
The Dart was built as a fiberglass body draped over a steel ladder frame with a transverse leaf spring at the front, and individual coil springs at the rear. A variety of engines were used in-period, and while most were sold with either Coventry Climax or Ford power, a small handful were fitted with Alfa Romeo 1300cc engines as well.
At the time, this car was the pride of the South African sports car community. The chassis shown here was purchased by South African born Ernest Pieterse, who would later go on to compete in three Formula One races. He built the car specifically to compete in the famed 9-hours of Kyalami. This was the first car to receive Alfa Romeo Super Veloce + engine power, and Ernest also fitted disc brakes, making it a real weapon of a race car at the time. He paired with another South African, Gene Bosman, for the effort.
Competing against Porsche 356 Speedsters and MGA Twin-Cams, the Alfa-powered GSM hot rod qualified on pole and streaked away into an early lead. Pieterse’s home-built braking system eventually failed him, as the fluid boiled during the race, forcing them to retire. In their place, a four-cam Porsche 356 took over at the point before also retiring. This allowed a second GSM Dart, this one Climax-powered, into the lead, where it ultimately finished, a few laps up on the competition. So while this was the faster of the two GSMs, it was not the race-winning car. It may be the one to own today, however.
This car has since been treated to a complete nut and bolt restoration, and has been accepted for display at the Quail Lodge motorsport concours this year. It spent some time in Petersen Museum Trust ownership, and was displayed in the museum from 2013. It is currently road legal and ready to drive. If you just have to have it, like I currently think I do, you can bid on this fascinating little machine when it crosses the auction block during Russo And Steele’s Monterey auction later this month. They provide very little information about the car on their site, but you can see the full listing by clicking here.