Now let's look at the 1975 Leata specifications. The Leata could not be classified as a kit car, nor was it intended to be. With the exception of the frame, construction of the entire vehicle took place in the Stinebaugh shops, one son in charge of machining, one responsible for fiberglass layup, another for the upholstery, and so on. Numerous nephews looking for interesting work supplied the additional needed manpower.
Another divergence from the typical kit car was the Leata's build quality. Don Stinebaugh, in the words of a former employee, "really sweated the details." The full text of one promotional piece reads: "One of the best engineered engines in America. A 2.3 Leata with electronic ignition. Heavy duty Spicer rear end. BR78x13 steel belted radial ply tires. Heavy steel frame. 3" x 1 1/2" of 1/8" stock. All wearing parts listed in Owners Manual. Easily replaced in well equipped parts houses. Real instrumentation. Speedometer; ampmeter; fuel, water and oil gauges set in recessed housing. Walnut grain wood trim on the glove box, radio and heater controls. All set in a padded dash. Deluxe harness type seat belts. Wing windows. Deluxe adjustable, foam padded vinyl upholstered seats. Deep pile 100% nylon carpering [sic]. All of fire retardant materials. Continental kit attached to frame. Chrome bumpers and guards with protective rubber inserts. Dual hydraulic brake system. Full A frame coil spring. Independent front suspension. Ten gallon fuel tank."
Not exactly deathless prose. Yet, it speaks volumes about a man's pride in his creation and the engineer's belief that the public could arrive at only one rational purchasing decision when presented with the cold, mechanical facts. Another anomaly: this type of prosaic sales pitch supposedly died out in 1923 when Ned Jordan's ads began sending potential Jordan Playboy buyers "Somewhere West of Laramie," launching the now-universal practice of selling the sizzle rather than the steak. Stinebaugh figured that if the steak was good, the sizzle would take care of itself.
Stinebaugh chose fiberglass as a body material not because he was fond of it -- "I don't like it in my boats and I don't like it in my cars!" -- but because if thick enough it provided great structural strength. As if to demonstrate, one purchaser flipped his speeding Leata one rainy night, skidding 65 feet on its top. No harm came to the driver, and when the Leata was put back on its wheels it started right up. The Stinebaughs made it good as new simply by cutting off the old, bruised top and splicing a new one in its place.
When the government demanded proof of crashworthiness, Stinebaugh built a cement wall and, in front of members of the local press, towed a stock Leata into it at 40 mph, then got in and drove off. He offered an open challenge to the Big Three to do likewise.
The Pinto engine gave the undersized car astonishing performance. A young couple asked the company to buy back their new Leata after a trip to Seattle netted them a citation for unwittingly doing over 90 mph. They told Stinebaugh the car was just too scary for them to drive.
On the next page, find out how the press and the public received the Leata when it debuted in 1975.