Before the GT40, before the Daytona Coupe, before the Cobra, before an American sports car really had much success at all… Bob Carnes sat in his workshop in Lakewood, CO and wondered what it would take to beat the likes of Maserati, Ferrari, and Porsche. He tried with the Corvette and like many before him, failed.
“To hell with it,” he thought. “I’m just gonna build my own car.”
Bob built his first prototype in 1958 and called it the Bocar X-1. This prototype then evolved into the X-2, X-3, and X-4 using a 90-inch wheelbase, Jaguar underpinnings, and Girling drum brakes. By 1959, Bob thought he might have a winning combination of parts and began work on his first production car – the Bocar XP-5. The Xp-5 carried many of the underpinnings of the prototypes, but moved to a Volkswagen front suspension and a 283-inch Chevrolet for power.
The car was relatively successful in short bursts. In fact, an Xp-5 driven by Art Huttinger placed second in the first ever televised running at Daytona and broke a record for the fastest time ever recorded on the beach – 175mph.
Following that success, Bob dropped the Xp-6. This variation featured a longer wheelbase (104-inch) and a blown (off the crank) small block Chevrolet fed with a Corvette fuel injection system. Only one was built as Bob’s attention soon went to the Bocar Stiletto – a streamlined racecar with the same motor setup for the Pikes Peak Hillclimb.
The Hillclimb was going well for the slippery roadster until the 4-speed took a shit and they had to call it a day. Just a few months later, Bob’s shop burned down in a mysterious fire and Bocar was dissolved as a company.
No one has really been able to pin down just how many Bocars were sold, completed, and raced. It’s thought that there are around 20 examples left today – two of them being Stilettos. So if you’ve seen one yourself, it’s likely been an Xp-5 from the original production run. I’ve seen two with my own eyes and both were modified into more of a “street rod” than race car… gorgeous, but also sort of disappointing to the senses in a way.
The thing is, Bocars were actually pretty damned quick. The Xp-5 weighed about 1,650 pounds and made roughly one horsepower per six of those. The damned thing went zero-to-sixty in under 6-seconds in 1960 and Motor Trend claimed it stopped just as quickly as it accelerated. “The only thing keeping this lovely racer from outpacing Ferrari is the pilots that command them.”
I’ve done extensive searching and haven’t been able to find much international or even national success with the Bocar short of it’s 1960 Daytona finish. It seems as though the car shared the same fate as most of the other independent efforts before and since – unrealized potential.
Editor’s Note: I mentioned in the feature that many of these have been “Street Rodded” to a point. You can see an example of one such car in motion here. Also, there’s actually a Bocar on the market right now. It needs some period detail work for sure, but it’s not a bad place to start.