EDITOR'S NOTE: Recently I was asked if I knew anything about "Piper Cars". I was told his friend has one, a kit car, and wondered if there was any relationship to the Piper Aviation Family. I told him I did not know, but would research the question. The following is a report based on information from our Archives, Internet information and personal communication with John Piper a grandson of William T. Piper Senior.
PAM Board Member and WebMaster
The PAM Archives produced a file that contained an email dated March 2, 2009 From James Taggart of California to The Piper Museum.
I am attempting to contact someone who can supply me with information on The Piper Cars. I understand that a Piper Automobile was manufactured around the early 1980's and possibly in California. I own one of these cars which is called a 'Piper Gazelle'. I am told that the car manufacturing was undertaken by two grandson's of William T. Piper. I can find no reference to the Piper Automobile in my web searches. I understand the Piper Automobiles were featured in the magazine Kit Car Monthly around 1982.
Would you have any contact information for either or both of these grandsons and anyone else involved with the Piper Cars?
Another email dated April 2009 in the file was from Ira Masemore, Archives Curator (at that time), to William Piper, grandson of William T. Piper. The response from the grandson was also included.
Dear Bill Piper,
I am Ira G. Masemore, Manager of The Piper Aviation Museum Archives. Recently we received an email from James Taggart who owns a Piper Gazelle and upon my request has sent us color photos of the car. None of us in the Archives had heard of a Piper Automobile. Would you be so kind as to share the history of this car?
Ira G. Masemore
Manager, Piper Aviation Museum Archives
Thank you for your kind inquiry. Over the next few days I will try to put together a brief history of my brother Tom's and my experience in the Kit Car Industry. It was an interesting time of limited opportunity when the large automobile manufacturers killed the "convertible" because of legislated safety concerns.
I have some pictures scanned and will be happy to forward them with you and will look for more I have stored away.
Thank you again for writing.
Unfortunately, the folder containing these emails did not contain any additional information and did not include a brief history from Bill Piper. The information may have been lost or was not sent as Bill Piper was an Attorney in Texas and may have gotten too busy and overlooked sending the history.
What makes the story even more difficult to complete is that both Bill Piper and his brother Tom are now deceased. Bill Piper died August 29, 2013 (Obit).
A search on line for "Piper Cars" first revealed a British origin:
Piper Cars was a United Kingdom manufacturer of specialist sports cars (an associate company of a camshaft and engine tuning parts manufacturer of the same name). The company was initially based in Hayes, then in Kent, with production taking place from 1968 at Workingham, Berkshire and from 1973 at South Willingham, Lincolnshire.. From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_Cars
In addition, A Piper Sports and Racing Car Club was also found in The United Kingdom. http://www.thepiperclub.org.uk/ Neither of these British organizations appeared to be related to Bill and Tom's Piper cars.
Additional research showed that indeed a " Gazelle" Kit Car was sold, but who designed the car was not revealed. Three ads for the Gazelle were found, but only one had specifics of the car and was sold by Tiffany Motor Cars not by a company called Piper Motors or Piper Automobile.
The two additional ads had little detail and no seller or designer's name was given:
The only ad found that listed the seller as "Piper Automotive" was called "The Lance" that appears to be similar to the Gazelle, but no specifics were given.
A Piper Motor Company was found in Bloomfield Iowa with the owner listed as Eric Piper. It is not known if this is the company that sold the above "Lance", but it appears not to be the company that Bill and Tom Piper owned.
It was then recommended by other Board Members that John Piper, brother to Bill and Tom be contacted to see what he knew about his brother's venture. In an email of October 2016, John Piper wrote:
- Tom and Bill worked together on their kit car in the San Francisco area in the early to mid 80's. As far as I knew, it was their design.
- I think the name for it was the "Gazelle" and I think they called the company Piper Automobile Company. They had a disagreement about the car after a couple of years and Bill moved to Salina Kansas (where I was living when I worked for Beech Aircraft) and brought some of the tooling with him and started building kits there - pretty sure he named his version the "Piper Rogue". He may also have built a model called the "Lance". The kits were designed to fit on a VW Bug chassis. (Can't recall if he or Tom 's the one that used the name Piper Automobile Company. Both are deceased. But I don't think either one of them used the name Piper Motors.)
- Eric Piper is not a member of the WT Piper family at all. There were only seven of us in that third generation with the name Piper, and I and my cousin Patsy are the only ones still alive. So, I have no idea about him or anything he did - kind of ironic that he had a kit car company too.
Summary and Questions:
From the information available, it appears that Tom and Bill Piper jointly built a kit car called the "Gazelle". When Bill moved to Kansas he continued to build cars that were named the "Rogue" and possibly the "Lance". Their company was probably named The "Piper Automobile Company" which is not the same as Piper Motors located in Iowa. Their cars are most likely not related to Piper Cars of The United Kingdom. Questions unanswered include how long did they manufacture these cars and how many were built?
If anyone has any additional information about these cars please contact the Editor.