Back in November, we were excited to learn that Dave Shuten, of Galpin Speed Shop, will be restoring the X-Sonic Corvette to its 1960s appearance.
The X-Sonic was a groundbreaking custom car in the late-1950s that not only inspired Ed Roth to begin crafting his famous bubble tops, but also helped introduce the custom-car world to hydraulics.Hydraulic suspension (and its spiritual descendent, airbags) on custom and lowrider cars is commonly known today. But where and when did hydraulics make the leap from being aircraft parts to automotive suspension pieces?
The answer, of course, is in post-World War II California, where two enthusiasts—seemingly separately and unbeknownst to one another—used parts found in military surplus stores to create the first suspension systems that could be impracticably low for car shows but raised for driving.
Today, Logue and his Fabulous X54 have faded from popular memory, but Aguirre’s bubble-topped X-Sonic persists as the poster child for “the first” hydraulics-equipped custom car.
As a successful contender on the indoor-car-show circuit of the 1960s, the X-Sonic went through a few iterations and wound up heavily modified, including the aforementioned bubble top, substitution of a Turboglide transmission for the original three-speed, and even the elimination of a conventional steering wheel in favor of an electric motor controlled by toggle switches!
The bubbletop and unconventional steering marked the transition of the car from street custom to all-out show car.
The X-Sonic as it appeared in 1963 with bubbletop and no headlamps.
Aguirre last showed the heavily restyled X-Sonic in 1964, then placed it in storage for a few years before selling it.
The hulk, largely stripped of its custom exterior parts but still recognizable and still hosting most of its hydraulic system, showed up at a Corvette restoration shop in the 1990s where it was headed for recycling.
After identification by hot-rod historian Pat Ganahl, the car was saved but languished unrestored until recently.Shuten, who previously restored Ed Roth’s Orbitron and cloned his Mysterion, has not announced a timeline for the restoration, but displayed the car at the 2021 LA Auto Show and the 2022 Grand National Roadster Show.