David Loring and His Kit Cars
Today I am going to write about David Loring and his kit cars. My passion has always been vintage VW kit cars. Since the day my mother let me buy my first kit car magazine in the early 1980s I was hooked. At that time I would have never guessed over 30 years later I would still be into these great cars, and be writing on what I believe is the best source for vintage vw kit cars on the internet today.
There is a very good chance that most of our readers have never heard of David Loring, Loring Design, or the kit cars he designed and built. To be completely honest up until a few years ago I had never heard of him either. I had the opportunity several years ago to start communicating with David and getting a great story about him and the great kit cars he built.
I have been wanting to write an in depth story about David Loring and his Kit Cars but time has always gotten the best of me. Now that I am freed up a bit I figured now is a good time. I am going to share a bit of history about David Loring, and then I will move on to some of the cars he built.
David Lorings story is a great one. Just like many great kit car builders it did not appear that it was a career path he thought he would take at a young age. He attended Wala Wala College (Pre-Med) Pacific University and Howard University . He then served in the US Army, and finally at the Art Center in Los Angeles . It was during this time that he designed several fiberglass sports cars and race car bodies. In addition he won several awards for his work.
It was out of a small shop in Sausalito California that his designs took shape. Using nothing more then a few drawings, wood, paint scrapers, and some really STINKY mud from the San Francisco Bay his designs took on shapes that were not seen in that day and age and even today kit car enthusiasts would love to drive.
Kit Cars were not an easy business for David Loring. During the time he was building these great kit cars his designs where stolen no less than 4 times. Sadly the entire kit car business has always been about taking work that was not yours, but this time instead of a kit car company creating a Ferrari, Lambo, or Porsche kit car, they stole original designs and passed them off as their own.
His designs were so unique for the time, that it would be really hard for anyone to pass off these cars as their own without getting caught. But other kit car companies took the chance.
We are going to do a quick rundown of these thefts as they were told to us by David Loring. There are also pictures so you can see the striking resemblance between the Loring kit cars and the others.
Mantis Gezelle/Kellison Shark – The Mantis Gezelle was featured on the Loring Design brochures of the day. It was also published in books and other articles. Looks wise I feel it was ahead of its time. It used a Porsche chassis which was plentiful at the time. Design wise it would be highly unlikely that two people would have been able to come up with the same idea.
The story goes a little something like this…David Loring gave his #4 Gezelle kit car body to a custom wheel manufacture. This wheel manufacture was the same company Jim Kellison used. This manufacture assured David that they could get him dozens of fast orders, if his uncle could show it off in a Northern California business location with lots of “Car Guys” that were in and out of his shop. David said at the time the man was very convincing, and admits he was just to busy to check everything out ahead of time.
Unfortunately this person was not very honest and as soon as he had possession of the Gezelle Body he transported it to Lincoln Industries. A Jim Kellison Company. From there Jim Kellison had Bill Devin change it up a bit and rushed to get it into his most recent and largest catalog . The end result called the “SHARK” had some slight changes, such as the larger headlights and smaller doors, but the body design is the Loring Gezelle all the way.
Here is a photo of the Original Loring Gezelle and the Kellison Shark. Pretty safe to say there is no dispute as to if they are the same kit car…
Mantis Targa/Invader GT – I have used this comparison as a reference on several occasions over the year. As most of you know the Invader GT was one of the most popular kit cars that came out of the 1970s . The history of the Invader GT as most people know it is that it was created by a young art student named Bruce Weeks. It was in every magazine of the day (usually with Bruce next to it) they sent out 1000s of brochures and there are PLENTY of them around today.
The real story is David Loring had already created the Mantis Targa. These kit cars where in magazines, brochures, etc. Bruce Weeks was an Art Student (sculpture) at the College of Marin and after seeing the David Loring car he wanted to warehouse them. This part gets a little hazy to me I must admit but from what I gather Bruce Purchased a body at a really good price and that body was produced at Benicia Industries in California. But instead of producing 1 as it was discussed. Bruce Weeks had them produce 2, claiming that HE was the designer of the body.
Sadly the rest of the story as we know it is correct. Bruce Weeks went on to sell 1000s of Invader GTs. It was changed several times over the years and towards the end of its run it was a horrible looking kit car. You can tell if it is in early Invader GT based on the Mantis Targa pretty easily. You just have to look at the little air vents up to the roof line, among other things.
Eventually Bruce Weeks sold the assets of the company to Roy Kaylor and to this day Roy has the molds sitting in his redwood forest “Junk Yard.
Here is the Original Mantis Targa on the Left and an early Invader GT Kit Car on the Right.
Loring Mantis Aegean /Invader GT5 – Speaking of Roy Kaylor. Some of you may or may not have heard of Roy Kaylor. Roy is an interesting guy. He is a 70 something Electrical engineer. He had a company called Kaylor Energy Products. This company sold adapter kits for the VW bug that would make them electric. This was done using salvaged WW2 Bomber Starter Motors (if I recall ) and a simple controller.
A few years ago Roy was featured on a show called Hoarders. The show revolved around a massive piece of property he owns in the California Redwoods. He has owned It for 30 years or so. The officials in the town had been trying to get him to clean up approximately 5 acres of 155 that he had used as his personal junk yard. At that time he had an estimated $20,000,000 in fines adding up. But just like most hoarders he did not see the problem (And still does not). This was not junk after all. Everything was there to further development of various projects he was working on .
I personally think you should be able to do whatever you want with YOUR property. In Roy’s case this was not a 155 acre junk yard and surely not bothering anyone. This was a few acres on his property and a power grab by local government. In all fairness I have spoken to Roy on several occasions and he is soft spoken and seems to be a pretty nice guy.
By now I guess you are asking yourself “What does this have to do with David Loring?” Well many years ago Roy Kaylor was promoting a car called the Invader GT5. This was in Electric car books, magazines, etc. Because he used the name Invader I am guessing this was AFTER he purchased the autokit assets. The problem was the Invader GT5 was really the Loring Mantis Aegean .
David Loring and Roy Kaylor were to partner up to create an Electric “Prototype Car” This Car was to use the Loring Mantis Aegean (based of the Mantis Targa and Gezelle) as the body and Electric power by Roy Kaylor. This joint venture was to give all coach building credit to David Loring. Instead and almost immediately Roy Kaylor presented the #1 Mantis Aegean as his own design. The first Mantis Aegean kit car is still around, as it another that we have shown on our website years ago.
I have tried on several occasions to purchase the #1 Mantis Aegean from Roy. Since my first conversation with him a few years ago it appears he would rather just let it sit and Rot under the redwoods then see it restored and enjoyed. Sadly the end result will most likely be the City will go in and send everything to the crusher.
David Loring still has some of the original cars that he built and had in his brochures. Sadly a factory fire did some damage to some of them, and completely destroyed others. But it is great to see that he does still have some of them. Hopefully he will find time to restore one or more back to their original glory, or pass them on to someone who will.
I personally think David Loring still has at least one more original design left in him. Get to sculpting David ! If you think you have a Loring Design kit car, and you are not sure send us an email with some photos or comment below