Coachbuilt: The ASC Story
A Dakota convertible? And a Paseo convertible?
The American Sunroof Company has one of the most interesting histories I've seen in a while. They are responsible for some of the weirdest convertible cars, like the Dakota convertible, and many others.
History of the Company
You may better know American Sunroof Company as ASC, or as American Specialty Cars, and they changed their name to that in 2004.
Founded by Heinz Prechter in the early-mid 1960s in California (different sources state different years and cities), they specialized in creating specialty-use convertible conversions for a variety of manufacturers over the years. At the time, Prechter was a German foreign exchange student attending San Francisco State College, and his entire life, he was fascinated by the automobile.
Soon after starting his company, Prechter found himself having mild success with local dealers who wanted sunroofs installed on their cars. Soon after, he was installing sunroofs on Hollywood celebrities such as Steve McQueen. A short time later, Ford asked car customization expert George Barris if he knew of anyone who could install a sunroof in a Lincoln, and Barris recommended Mr. Prechter.
Because of this recommendation, Prechter was soon installing sunroofs for many special projects for Ford, and soon enough, in 1967, Prechter landed himself a contract with Ford to install sunroofs on 200 Ford Cougars. He got to work in a former car wash, and when he finished one batch, a new one appeared for him to convert.
In 1968, when Ford released their new Cougar XR7-G, 431 of 619 units produced had ASC installed sunroofs in them. Due to his success, Heinz left his brother Christian in charge of the Southern California operations, and moved over to a factory in Detroit in 1970.
In their new factory, they were able to offer many new special touches to cars they customized, including a new subsidiary called ASC Custom Crafts. This new subsidiary did interior upgrades on Cadillacs, as well as a few for Thunderbirds and various other Fords.
If I were to go over every single car that ASC had made, this article would take an eternity to read. Instead, I will just go over a few highlights and major moments in the company's history.
In 1982, Buick finally began to sell the Buick Riviera Convertible, which had been converted by ASC. The car cost nearly $30,000 in 1982, which is almost $80,500 in today's money. In spite of this, the Riviera Convertible was selling reasonably well.
1983 Buick Riviera Convertible
In 1984, ASC teamed up with McLaren to produce the ASC McLaren Mercury Capri and Ford Mustangs. ASC McLaren Mustangs and Capris had a few things to differentiate themselves from normal mustangs including a new spoiler, valence, special ASC McLaren wheels, shocks and springs, and some unique badging.
ASC McLaren Mustang
This would not be the end of ASC and McLaren's relationship, as in 1987, they teamed up once more to manufacture the now-legendary Buick GNX, which stands for Grand National Experimental. To make this icon of a car, McLaren developed a turbocharged V6 making supposedly 276 horsepower, but actual power output was more around 300 brake horsepower. The GNX was the true American muscle car of its era.
Next up was a brave decision by Dodge, as they decided to have ASC convert a handful their 1989-1991 Dodge Dakotas to convertibles. This was the first time a pickup truck came a convertible from the factory since 1931. Only 3,759 Dakota convertibles were ever made, making them an obscure classic, although a Shelby Dakota convertible was never made.
Dodge Dakota Convertible
Following the general trend of convertible pickup trucks, Marlboro Racing commissioned 10 Marlboro Edition GMC Syclones to be made as a grand prize for a promotional sweepstakes. Besides the bright red Marlboro paint job, the 3 inch lowering kit, and many other little modifications, the Marlboro Syclones were sent to ASC to be converted to T-tops. That is the coolest thing in the world, a 1 of 10 GMC Syclone T-top.
GMC Syclone Marlboro Edition
ASC also had a fair share of business with Japanese manufacturers. They made around 1800 Toyota Paseo convertibles for the 1997 model year, and they were responsible for the 240SX convertibles, as well as the 300ZX convertibles.