The History of the Gaylord Gladiator

In the mid-fifties, the vehicle repair shop Friedrichshafen (FIF), which became part of the Zeppelin Group, was awarded the contract to build a spectacular vehicle. Two rich American brothers, Jim and Ed Gaylord, had set themselves the goal of building a sports car of superlatives. For more than a year, Friedrichshafen has been working on an extremely expensive and costly sports car: the Gaylord Gladiator. Overall, only three chassis were made, only one was finally fitted with a body. After the completion of the vehicle in 1958, the car went with including a rolling chassis in the private possession of the family Gaylord. The third manufactured chassis is still missing today. After restoring the vehicle and rolling chassis to their original state, the perfectly preserved Gaylord Gladiator, complete with chassis, numerous spare parts, engineering drawings and other historical documents, was sold to an elderly Arizona car collector.

At the beginning of 2017, the Zeppelin Group received a purchase offer for the historic vehicle via the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. A stroke of luck for the group, because the vehicle was hidden for many years and was considered lost. “The Gaylord Gladiator has an invaluable historical value for us as a company. With its exceptional workmanship and absolute customer orientation in the production of the car, the Gaylord still stands for values that make the Zeppelin Group a leading solution provider in its fields of activity, “says Peter Gerstmann, CEO of Zeppelin GmbH. The Zeppelin Group has its origins in the metal industry and today employs more than 8,300 people at 190 locations in 35 countries. The company follows the motto “We Create Solutions” and offers solutions for the construction industry and plant construction.
For the city of Friedrichshafen, the extraordinary vehicle is not only a special magnet for the public, but also a historical proof of the strong innovative power of the city. “Especially since aviation, Friedrichshafen has played a special role in mobility since the beginning of industrialization – the Gaylord Gladiator is further proof of the visionary strength and uniqueness of the city,” says Andreas Brand, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Zeppelin GmbH and Lord Mayor of the city Friedrichshafen, proud.

Ahead of its time: Technical sophistication combined with German workmanship
Not only the design of the Gaylord Gladiator, which goes back to Brooks Stevens – a real big name in US automotive design – but also the sports car’s technology are spectacular in view of the year of construction 1957. In addition to amenities such as electrically adjustable seats, power windows, power steering, brake booster and air conditioning, the Gaylord Gladiator also had a coupe roof, which could be sunk at the touch of a button completely in the trunk. These features were absolutely unique on the international car market at that time.

Despite the complex overall concept, the many innovations and the high quality requirements, the success of a planned small series of 25 vehicles at a retail price of $ 10,000 per sports car never turned up. Only one out of 25 planned vehicles was ever completed. Quick, the calculated retail price proved unrealistic, further price adjustments through further innovations such as the installation of air conditioning made the vehicle unaffordable. To stay economical, the price was initially revised up to $ 15,000, then $ 17,500. For comparison, a Mercedes 300 SL cost at that time about 32,000 DM. At a rate of 4.20 DM per dollar, the Gaylord Gladiator was more than twice as expensive and cost in the mid-50s converted about 73,500 DM. As a worldwide unique vehicle is the Gaylord Gladiator not only a unique piece of the classic car industry and a valuable treasure for the Zeppelin Group, but a true gem of Friedrichshafen industrial history.

The Gaylord Gladiator in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen
The perfectly preserved vehicle, the mobile chassis and the exciting history of its formation and history will be part of the exhibition opening “Innovations! Future as destination “presented to the public on May 17 at 7.30 pm in Germany. From May 18 to November 4, the Gaylord Gladiator will be part of the exhibition “Innovations! Future as a destination “at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen. Thereafter, it will be made available to the Zeppelin Museum on permanent loan from the Zeppelin Group for an indefinite period.