First published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is considered by the American Literary Association to be among the 100 best American novels published during the last century; it is also F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work. While the story line is a standard tale of unrequited love, it is Fitzgerald’s vivid, flowing descriptive imagery and rich character development that makes his work so timeless.
The novel’s setting of New York City during the “Roaring Twenties” calls to mind images of Art Deco skyscrapers and extreme opulence in fashion and design. This was also a high point for automotive design as Duesenberg, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce offered ever more luxurious models.
This lavish elegance is what Gatsby Coachworks, Ltd. sought to recreate in the 1970s.
Business partners Sky Clausen and Larry Munson founded the company in San Jose, California in 1978. Their first model was the Cabriolet, a neoclassic car that offered classic styling on a contemporary (at the time) platform. The Cabriolet uses a modified MG Midget body riding on a 1977-79 Ford Thunderbird or Mercury Cougar chassis. Though it is styled to look like the 1930s, it is not a reproduction of any particular car.
Gatsby started out selling completed, turn-key cars. According to a 1979 article in the Deseret News, the price of a brand new Gatsby Cabriolet was $65,000. The company later came out with the Gatsby II, which sold for around $42,000.
Production peaked in the early 1980s with up to 50 turn-key cars being completed per year. The company began offering the car as a do-it-yourself kit starting in 1982. With prices starting at $2,600 to $3,000 for the basic components and $6,650 for the Deluxe kit, the Gatsby Cabriolet kits were vastly more affordable than the completed models.
Gatsby was sold to JPR Cars, Ltd. of Gloucester, Virginia in 1997. The company made some changes to the Cabriolet’s design which makes it significantly easier for customers to assemble. Cabriolet kits are still available today for about $15,000. JPR introduced a new kit called the Gatsby Griffin in 2003, which is based on a 1980s Ford Mustang.
I spotted this Cabriolet at the Scottsdale Pavilions car show. I’m not sure if it was one of the original turn-key cars from the early 80s or if it was built from a kit. The owner has cleverly registered the custom license plate “RGATSBY.” If I see this thing around again, I will be sure to take more pictures and ask the owner lots of questions!