1959 BOCAR XP5
The American road-racing scene in the post-war period was a time of abundant creative energy. As Detroit pumped out cheap, readily available V8 engines, many aspiring engineers, designers, and racing drivers experimented by blending those American engines with sophisticated European chassis and svelte, easily reproduced fiberglass bodywork. The period that gave us the Kellison and the Devin also brought a newcomer to the scene – Bocar.
The Bocar was created in the late 1950s by Bob Carnes, an experienced racer and hill-climber who achieved moderate success in the Denver, Colorado, area with his Porsche Spyder and Jaguar XK120. He modified his XK120 with an OHV Cadillac V8 in the quest for more power, christening it the “Jagillac.” Bob found some success with the car, winning the Buffalo Bill Hillclimb in 1956. But it was a crude device, and he was after something that combined the power of the Jagillac with the handling of his Porsche. The Bocar project began in 1957 with a prototype called XP-1, based on a unique spaceframe chassis utilizing Porsche/VW-based suspension and a Chevrolet V8 engine.
While many of Bocar’s contemporaries were destined to be one-hit wonders, Bob Carnes persisted with evolving his design through several series. The XP-1 through XP-4 were essentially development cars that served to drum up interest in the project. By the time he arrived at the XP-5, Bocar finally achieved a modicum of success and a limited production run. While exact figures aren’t known, most experts agree that about 15 XP-5s were built, and no two were exactly alike. Central to the XP-5 was a Chromoly tubular chassis, modified VW-based suspension, finned Buick drum brakes, and a slick fiberglass pontoon body with a distinctly menacing front end. The most famous Bocar XP-5 is the beautifully prepared blue and white “Meister Brauser III” of Augie Pabst, who ran the car alongside his ex-Reventlow Scarab in the 1959 SCCA season. The XP-6 followed, based on the XP-5, but with a considerably longer wheelbase, revised suspension, and a 400-horsepower supercharged Chevrolet small block. Just one was built, and similarly, the XP-7 and Stiletto were produced in single-digit numbers.
This remarkable 1959 Bocar XP-5 is a particularly intriguing example that is offered in exceptional, unrestored condition. The history of S/N 0004 is known back to day one when it was ordered by a friend of Bob Carnes, Air Force Lt. Wendell Burgess, of Texas. While most Bocars featured Chevrolet power, this is the only one to utilize a Ford V8. Before it ever turned a wheel, Burgess set about modifying 0004 to suit his specifications. He was quite tall and was not comfortable in the standard 90-inch XP-5. Working with input from Carnes, Burgess had the chassis stretched by about 12 inches and the one-piece fiberglass body lengthened and reworked with taller sides to balance out the proportions. It is suggested that this car inspired Bob Carnes to built the XP-6, and some consider this car the unofficial prototype for the later model.
The work took longer than Burgess hoped, and in 1960 he called upon his friend Ivan L. Frank to help complete it. Eventually, Lt. Burgess’ interest waned, and he sold the car to Ivan, still unfinished. Mr. Frank used some connections at Ford to kickstart the project. In 1965, Garnsey & Wheeler Ford of Greely, CO, agreed to supply a new 289 cubic-inch Hi-Po V8 and T-10 four-speed transmission, along with some funding in exchange for the use of the Bocar to promote the new 289 engine Ford’s high-performance range. Frank finally completed the car, which he painted Rangoon Red with white rocker stripes, straight from the Mustang catalog. The Bocar was displayed in area Ford showrooms between 1965 and 1966 and then went on to have a steady race career in local SCCA events through about 1972.
Incredibly, S/N 0004 remained in Ivan Frank’s care until 2015, when it traded hands to the most recent owner. Instead of subjecting the car to a full restoration, the new owner chose to honor its preserved, original condition by performing a thorough mechanical overhaul while leaving the marvelous patina intact. As offered today, the body wears its original Rangoon Red paint, trim, and windscreen. Frank added the “XP-6” badges when it was completed in the 60s, though this is officially an XP-5 chassis. Riding on magnesium Halibrand knock-off wheels shod with period-correct Michelin Pilote-X tires, it has a fantastic presence and is easily one of the best-looking of the 50s sports car specials.
The mechanical overhaul was done to make this a safe, fast, and reliable mount for events like the Colorado Grand Rally. The work encompassed a complete engine, drivetrain, and brake system overhaul. The restoration team carefully preserved the original chrome finned valve covers and even kept the patina on the original radiator, which was overhauled and updated with an electric cooling fan. The restorers did careful preservation work in the cockpit, including restoration of the Stewart Warner instruments to ensure accurate readings. The efforts paid off, as the new owner enjoyed running the entirety of the 2017 Colorado Grand.
Weighing approximately 2,100 pounds and with over 250 horsepower on tap, the Bocar is a serious performer and a superb driver’s car. As offered, it is in excellent mechanical condition and remains ideal for rallies, tours, and all manner of driving events. With its well-documented history and marvelous patina, it is also a sure bet for preservation class honors on the show field. The sale of Bocar XP-5 0004 presents an incredible opportunity to add a unique piece of American motorsport history to your collection.
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