Leata: The Miniature Retro Luxury Car Brand from Idaho

It only lasted three years.

6d ago

"Inventor" is a term not commonly associated with people from recent times.

Don E. Stinebaugh of Post Falls, Idaho, patented 48 inventions and earned a good deal of money selling a powerful snowmobile engine he designed. Possibly the most interesting things that he created were the 1975 Leata, and it's successor, the 1977 Leata Cabalero.

The 1975 Leata's design took inspiration from Stinebaugh's favorite car, the large 1939 Lincoln Continental; however, the Leata's diminutive size made it look either cute or bizarre, depending on the viewer. It came with a vinyl roof that was either body-colored, black or white, and the trunklid-less rear end was adorned with a continental kit. Because there was only room inside for two seats, the extra space served as the cargo area.

The body was made out of fiberglass, the frame was built by a racecar producer in Spokane, Washington, and much of the mechanicals were sourced from Ford. Under the hood lay the 2.3-liter 83-horsepower straight-four from the Ford Pinto, with independent coil-sprung suspension providing the space; there were leaf springs at the rear. The brakes were hydraulic drums, the gas tank held ten gallons, and the transmission was a four-speed BorgWarner unit.

Inside, the Leata featured a heater, a radio, vinyl upholstery, Walnut trim on the glovebox, and gauges for speed, fuel, water, and oil. Body styles included a coupe, a sedan (the only difference from the coupe was that it had a roof rack), and a pickup with a five-foot-by-five-foot bed. A fuel economy figure of 50 MPG and a top speed of 100 MPH were claimed, but not tested.

Prices started at $3,295 ($15,952/£11,739/€13,206 in 2021 currency), which was more than a Ford Pinto. Furthermore, the factory could only produce one car per week. 22 1975 Leatas were built in total--17 coupes, three pickups, one sedan, and one convertible. No photos of the convertible exist, and the only pictures of the trucks are from 1975. The last known whereabouts of the sedan were in a 2013 Idaho State Museum exhibit, and six coupes were known to survive as of 2014. Two red ones are owned by a Puerto Rican with a YouTube channel called THE CONTRE.

The 1975 Leata was followed up by the 1977 Leata Cabalero. Unlike the 1975 Leata, the Cabalero was a liftback, and the rear bench seats folded down to provide 26 cubic feet of cargo space. A pickup was also available.

Features included an AM/FM radio, cruise control, acoustic sound insulation, power windows, air conditioning, an 8 track tape player, a 13-gallon fuel tank, and a 12,000-mile warranty. The only engine option available was a 60-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder unit working with either a 5-speed BorgWarner manual or 3-speed GM Hydramatic transmission to achieve 28 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway.

The powertrain and chassis were borrowed from the Chevrolet Chevette, which had a 0-60 time of 19.6 seconds; Stinebaugh added 350 pounds to the weight of the vehicle, which did no favors for the acceleration or the braking. Furthermore, the Cabalero cost about $10,000 ($42,983/£31,632/€35,583 in 2021 currency), which was more than double that of a base model Chevette.

Just 97 Cabaleros were made, bringing the total of all Leatas produced to 119. It is unknown how many Cabaleros remain, and only five of the ones left are pictured on the internet--two brown coupes, one blue pickup, and two red pickups. The brown coupe with the Washington plate resides in Akron, Ohio, but the pickups' whereabouts are unknown.

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Comments (5)

  • That is very interesting, good article!

      6 days ago
  • That must have been a difficult to research topic

      6 days ago
  • There were a few of both versions moldering in/around Umatilla County, Oregon in 2004-05. There was a '75 coupe in the lot at RDO Equipment in Pendleton in '05 but I couldn't get pics at the time

      2 days ago
  • The Cabalero did much better with the addition of the SUV version many years later...

    Canyonero. you want it.


      4 days ago