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The 1939 see-through 1939 Pontiac

The 1939 Pontiac's see-through body is attached to a steel chassis.

The Plexiglas bodied car was originally built by General Motors (GM) and Rohm & Hass, a chemical company, for the 1939 World Fair in New York City. Back in the day the car cost about $50,000 to build. That's $600,000 in today's currency. Based on a 1939 Pontiac Deluxe six cylinder touring sedan, the car caused a sensation at the World's Fair. The media tagged it the "Ghost Car".

After the Fair it was shown around the USA and finally ended up in the Smithsonian, where it remained through the duration of World War II. From there, it went to a couple of Pontiac dealers in Pennsylvania before ending up in private hands in 1973. It was sold again at auction in 2011 for $308,000.

GM collaborated with Rohm & Haas as a way to publicise the world's first transparent acrylic sheet product, branded as Plexiglas. Using Pontiac engineering drawings Rohm & Haas constructed an exact replica body using Plexiglas in place of the outer sheet-metal.

The see-through body is attached to a steel chassis. The structural metal underneath was given a copper wash, and all hardware, including the dashboard, was chrome plated. Rubber door and window moldings were made in white. The car rides on its original U.S. Royal all-white tyres. Even the running board rubber is white.

From the beginning it was an operating car however it cannot really be used on the road as the Plexiglas would stress fracture at the point where it is attached to the steel chassis. The odometer currently reads 86 miles. Such was the success of the 1939 car that GM and Rohm and Haas quickly built another for the 1940 World's Fair, held in San Francisco. That car, an eight cylinder Pontiac, no longer exists.

David Burrell is the editor of www.retroautos.com.au