1960 Centaur Piranha CRV-II

The CRV, which stood for Cycolac Research Vehicle, was a research project to test the feasibility of other metals and materials in the creation of an automobile. At the time, most of the cars were built from heavy. Plastics were becoming more popular and a proven product, and a potential candidate for a body of a car.

Marbon Chemical, a division of Borg-Warner, devised a way to promote their idea of using plastic in automobiles would be to build a concept. They commissioned Dann Deaver, co-founder of Centaur Engineering, to create a design. Other individuals responsible for designs and working with the plastic forming included William M. Schmidt and the Jentzen-Miller Company.

The CRV was a two-seater roadster that had a futuristic-looking wrap-around windscreen. Mounted in the rear was a four-cylinder water-cooled Sunbeam engine. The frame of the car was built from tubular frames. The body was comprised of a two-piece thermoplastic with the top section comprised of the seat structure and much of the interior. The bottom section had much of the support structure.

The CRV Concept was put on the show circuit to promote the new material and the work and talents of all individuals involved. The car was well received and soon a racing version was commissioned to race in SCCA competition.

The second prototype version of the car was dubbed the CRV-II. It too had a roadster design and built over a fiberglass chassis tub. Power was from an air-cooled Corvair engine mounted in the back. It was successful in racing, even winning the D-Modified championship in SCCA competition. It later participated in hillclimbs and smaller racing events. In modern times, the car still retains its plastic body and is vintage raced in the Western United States.

The third prototype was called the CRV-III. It too was built by Centaur, but it was never a compete car. It was designed as a crash test vehicle. The results of the test proved that the plastic did not offer a great deal of protection.

In 1966, the CRV-IV was introduced. It was a street version of the car that had a coupe roof and a full windshield. There were gullwing-style doors and a Corvair powerplant located mid-ship. This was soon followed by the CRV-V which had a similar design to the CRV-IV.

As with most concepts, these cars were built to demonstrate the feasibility of a product and to promote an idea. Marbon Chemical did not want to handle the responsibility of production, but rather provide the materials. They found the AMT Corporation of Troy, Michigan, which was willing to handle the production. AMT's business was in production plastic model cars.

AMT accepted the project and built a 1/24th scale model and a limited number of full size cars. Their intention was to build as many as fifty examples, though only a few were ever made. After purchasing the rights from Marbon, AMT gave the car a new name, the 'Piranha.' The design was changed rather significantly. They were given real doors and a sheet-steel chassis. The engine was switched in favor of a turbocharged Corvair engine.

Production was shut down in 1969. A few street cars remain, as well as a Chrysler Hemi-engined dragster and a Piranha coupe. Several kit makers offered the bodies during the 1970s.


By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2009

Concepts by Centaur



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