One of the most interesting cars made in the sixites was this AMT Piranha. AMT was the same company that manufactured scale models, except they planned to offer the Piranha both as 1/24th scale kit and a full-size working car.
The concept was first envisioned by a company called Marob Chemical who wanted to promote the use of Cycolac ABS plastic in sports car design. They turned to the Centaur Engineering Corporation and together they developed the CRV prototype. Other partners included William M Schmidt who did the body design and Jentzen-Miller Co. who were specialists in plastic forming.
Several CRV prototypes were made and shown around America to promote all the parties involved. The car used a two-piece thermoplastic body mounted on a tubular steel chassis. The upper half of this body included the seat structure and most of the interior while the bottom supported everything else. These first cars were powered by a rear-mounted 42 bhp Sunbeam engine.
Gene Winfield of the Speed and Custom Division of AMT liked the project so he had AMT buy the rights to the design. The bold project included a 1/24th scale model and a limited run of full size cars to promote the kits. Even though as many as 50 were going to be built, but only a few were made. This was probably because AMT shifted their interest in Don Garlits’ top fuel dragster also based of the CRV.
AMT’s version changed the design quite significantly. Unlike the prototypes, this car used a sheet-steel chassis, real doors and a redesigned upper body. Called the CRV-II, it was powered by a turbocharged Corvair engine and weighed roughly 1400 lbs.
A sole CRV-II was raced in the 1965 SCCA road races and won the D-Modified championship. Afterward, it participated in many smaller events and hillclimbs. The car still retains its original, irreplaceable plastic body and is raced in California.
As many as 12 full bodies were made and some were trimmed for road use. Each was different depending on use. Motor Trend Magazine featured a gullwing coupe in their July 1967 Issue.
Story by Richard Owen
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
William M Schmidt
body / frame
Two-piece Thermoplastic Body over Sheet Steel Chassis