Sebring The Sibling by Demand
Sebring Series 1
In the mid ’70’s, a small company called Custom Coach Builders started producing a variant of the Sterling called the Sebring. Custom Coach, we believe, was a company that was hired to pull bodies for the then present California Component Cars Midwest plant in Illinois.
Al Hildenbrand, one of the lead engineers for fiberglass and production for CCC at the Midwest plant, felt that the Sterling could use a “facelift” and more user-friendly seating. He approached the owners of CCC with a pitch to redesign the Sterling with a higher roofline and redesigned cockpit interior allowing for more headroom and storage space. That plan was rejected.
So, Al went out on his own and bucked the Sebring himself – no molds were apparently used from the Sterling at all, according to recent finds, though most owners reject that as the first series Sebrings were virtual copies of the Sterling, right down to the windshield. Recent information from original owners is placing the Sebring as being introduced in 1976, with the car body fitted Sterling style to a VW pan. First and second generation Sebrings all had fiberglass floorpans that were already lowered.
The floors were a seperate mold, so there will be variations on floors – some cars will have retained the stock VW pan. The nose was chopped back and the headlights (open on early Sterlings) were now retractable. A functional bumper was added to the front for extra protection and the headlight placement was raised to meet minimum federal requirements. Two rows of louvers lined the hood to provide cooling for water cooled engines with a front-mount radiator, and the lower body scoops prevalent on the Sterling were eliminated.
The cockpit was restyled to provide more headroom and a slightly larger engine compartment. Al’s vision for the Sebring was to make it street legal in all 50 states, passing all federally mandated safety features. First generation Sebrings have a canopy “cut” very similar to the Sterling. It was these cars that Al approached Bremen Motors to mold and build. When demand outweighed production, Al bought Bremen Motors (and introduced a score of other style kit cars).
Al at one point started ARX Industries and together with Bremen, restyled the Sebring with a deeper canopy, longer tail section (for larger engines) and a few interior styling changes. The Sebrings were known as the Turbo – for the fact that Bremen had initially planned on installing turbo VW engines, but when that didn’t pan out, they found that a watercooled GM engine would work just as well.
Many Sebring Turbos left the factory with 3.8L GM engines under the rear deck! When all was said and done, and the kit industry started to fold once again in the early ’80’s, the Sebring total production run between the first and second generation didn’t exceed more than 450 cars, which is surprising considering how popular the kit was!