Fierce Fiberglass – Bocar XP-5 Prototype

Following such illustrious American sports-racing cars as those produced by Briggs Cunningham during the early 1950s and predating Carroll Shelby’s British-American Cobra hybrids of the 1960s, Denver, Colorado’s Bob Carnes produced his Bocar sports car line. With background including a Glockler-Porsche and a Cadillac-powered Jaguar, Carnes started with the X-1 in his garage in 1958, and development quickly accelerated through several X-2 and X-3 models, followed by about five XP-4s. These early models carried a 90-inch wheelbase and used Jaguar wire-spoke wheels and Girling drum brakes. 

An improved XP-5 prototype, this car, was readied in 1959. Four or five more “production” examples followed after mid-1959. Period ads announced “Fierce acceleration — docile obedience,” and suitability for “racing, hillclimber and grocery getter.”  Based upon a tubular chassis and topped by a sleek fiberglass body, the Bocar XP-5 was powered by either a 283 cu. in. Chevrolet Corvette V-8 or a 370 cu. in. Pontiac V-8 engine. The rakish Bocar stood only 34 inches tall, with a competition-style four-inch windshield. A variety of options were available, including a hardtop, a heater, a radio, and seven suspension setups, plus choices in wheels and tires. Carburetion or fuel injection could be specified for the Corvette or Pontiac engine. Predictably, these lightweight (fewer than 2,000 lbs) terrors delivered shattering performance.

Although prices for finished cars were advertised as low as $3,800, the typical cost was about $8,700. Carnes also sold bodies and frames separately. Priced within the range of ordinary people who wanted a highly competitive racing entry or a fearsome street car, the Bocar was anything but ordinary looking.

A number of Bocars were competitively raced in period, primarily in SCCA events, with such drivers as Augie Pabst, Harry Heuer, A.L. Huttinger and Paul O’Shea. A Bocar competed in the first televised Daytona race in June 1960, where it placed 3rd overall and took first in class. Another Bocar won an SCCA race at Daytona later in the year. A Bocar won an SCCA race on the same track in March 1960, following that by setting a speed record of 175 mph on the beach of Daytona. Repeat, 175 mph in 1960! During its brief racing career, the XP-5 also took many podium finishes all the way from Daytona to Watkins Glen to the Nassau Speed Week. The Stiletto competition roadster was the final Bocar product.

While unknown to many sports car and racing enthusiasts today, the Bocar developed a fearsome reputation in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In its retrospective entitled “Best, Fastest and Most Outrageous: The 50 Most Memorable Cars Ever”, Motor Trend editors wrote, “The Bocar XP-5 was a race car built for the street, which featured a tube chassis and a Corvette 283 engine. Len Griffing drove the Bob Carnes designed-and-built Bocar at Riverside Raceway. In his June ’59 report, Griffing said, “The initial laps were in the 100-mph range. Once in the turns, the throttle does the steering. On the long straight, it tracks like an arrow and the engine seems to rev without limit. 150 mph came up right now.” MT testers clocked the 290 hp, 283 Chevy-powered XP-5, covering the zero-to-60 dash in 6.0 seconds flat, en route to a 14.0-second quarter-mile time, with a trap speed of 100 mph.

This and other road tests confirmed the Bocar’s performance, including acceleration times that would qualify for near-supercar ranking even today. A high power-to-weight ratio was a big part of the secret: roughly six pounds per horsepower, in a car that weighed just 1,650 pounds. Motor Trend described its XP-5 as “a 160-mph sports car” that was nevertheless “a road machine.” “At 100 mph, mashing the throttle was neck-snapping.”

Looking very much like a contemporary Maserati 200 SI, this Bocar XP-5 was reported by a friend who formerly owned it to “…go like a rocket sled.” Chassis 001, the Bocar XP-5 prototype, was restored during the late 2000s with fresh mechanicals including a 450 bhp, 383 cu. in. Chevrolet V-8 with side-draft Weber carburetors. Great for the track at a multitude of vintage racing events or as a raucous and enjoyable high-performance street or tour car, this dual-purpose Bocar XP-5 001 is also very street-drivable as its creator originally intended!


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