Given the excitement and curiosity around much of the automotive industry, there’s little obscurity that goes unnoticed. From the 1940s Tucker conspiracy to the year Chevrolet didn’t make a Corvette to the enthusiast world of RWB Porsches. Each attracts its own dedicated fans and shrewd historians, bringing a little-known topic to light. But one domestic atelier of ludicrous automobiles seems to dodge the limelight year after year. Despite their flamboyant coupes, few have ever heard of the likes of Zimmer, the all-American, neo-classic custom design house.
What is the Zimmer Motor Car Company?
For the many who don’t know what the Zimmer Motor Car Company is, it’s shrouded in mystery. There’s little on the Internet about its beginnings, but here’s the jest.
Zimmer Motor Car Company was founded in 1978 by chairman and president Paul Zimmer and his son, Robert Zimmer. The idea to create depression-era inspired cars from contemporary vehicles after the father and son duo sketched out a design on a napkin at dinner. The neo-classic car movement was gaining steam at the time, with several other niche manufacturers restyling modern cars with 1930s looks in fiberglass.
Hemmings says Zimmer hit its stride in the mid-1980s. Employing more than 175 people, the New York-based company built as many as 300 cars a year, raking in $25 million annually.
What were some Zimmer creations?
Zimmer’s “Golden Spirit” cars were the company’s first customer vehicles. But they also built the sleek “Quicksilver.” Effectively, they were elongated Pontiac Fiero conversions. Zimmer chose the Fiero because it would retain its rigidity once the plastic body panels were removed, thus able to withstand 15 inches being added to the total length. Otherwise, Ford was their go-to.
From 1982 through the 2000s, they used readily available Ford Mustangs from the factory. Zimmer wouldn’t touch the Mustang’s drivetrain or mechanicals, nor did they change the interior. In a 2009 interview with Boston.com, company owner Art Zimmer (no relation to founder Paul Zimmer) said other low-volume producers made mistakes making “major modifications to a base car, moving the engines around, the drivetrain, transmissions.” He added, “any time you start moving major components around, after two, three years, you end up with a rattle trap.”
The modification involves cutting the donor car’s frame right in front of the radiator. Zimmer explained that only the front wheels are moved forward to make room for an elegant Gatsby-like long front end. Fortunately, the car keeps the factory warranty since the major mechanicals are kept intact. Otherwise, modifications include chromed horn trumpets below the round headlamps and exhaust hoses on either side of the V-shaped hood.
What happened to Zimmer Motor Cars?
There was an ownership switch in 1997 when Art Zimmer revived the defunct Zimmer brand as the Art Zimmer Neo-Classic Motor Car Company, LTD. They began building out SN95 and S197 Mustangs with their “Golden Spirit” model, producing 10 to 20 examples yearly. Despite wanting to compete with Aston Martin, Bentley, and Maserati, Zimmer’s hopes were dashed when enthusiasts fell out of love with depression-era cars.
Open Corporates shows that Zimmer’s company is currently listed as “inactive.” Given the brand’s relative obscurity, it’s unclear whether the design house still exists or when it shuddered.
Can you buy a Zimmer today?
The most recent Zimmers are based on late-model Mustangs, at least the two-door variants are. Four-door Zimmers could be built out of Lincoln Town Cars. Beneath the radical exterior, the Mustang-based Golden Spirit has the factory 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with 412 horsepower from the factory.
It’s a mystery how many cars Zimmer built over its decades-long existence. Yet, seeing one, let alone catching one on sale, is rare. Examples from the 1980s will set eager buyers back less than $16,000, listings on Bring a Trailer show. More modern Golden Spirits will put potential owners back more, like one that recently sold for just under $30,000.