In 1960 I had a shop in Burbank, California with about 5 employees doing custom auto and boat upholstery. No request seemed unusual at the time, from suede leather headlining to diamond tufted rumble seats. One day a group of Lockheed engineers brought me a ragged piece of canvas with sewn-in wooden slats, rubber bands, crude hooks and other miscellaneous innovations. They asked if I would be interested in making about a dozen of these and I remember saying "What the hell is it, a chastity belt for Godzilla ?" They replied that it was a protective cover used by the Porsche factory for road testing new cars and on unofficial loan to them.
I accepted the challenge and completely redesigned the German cover, spending about as much time road testing as sewing. After about six weeks and a small mountain of scrap material we finished 12 covers. Within a week the Lockheed engineers were back asking for 50 more covers. We made a total of about 150 covers at that time, all for Porsche 356 models, until I had to discontinue the project because of an overload of upholstery work.
I relocated to Newport Beach, California10 years later where some enthusiastic Porsche friends asked me if I would make a version of the cover for the 911 series. I designed a 911 version from memory upgrading the older 356 covers. I also placed a small ad in Road & Track using the German description of the covers "Steinschlagshutzshulle". Dissected the word means, stone/strike/shield and for short I tagged it "Bra". "Bra" is the name I adopted from the beginning and Road & Track is where I tested the waters as a mail order business. In view of this I feel justified in making the claim as the originator of the "Bra" since there isn't a trace of similarity to that original pile of canvas to what is now known as a "Bra".
For the first couple of years the only covers I made were for Porsche vehicles. As orders gradually increased I decided to go into other makes. It seemed to me, in view of the enthusiasm for the newly introduced Datsun 240-Z that I couldn't miss with this addition. But I found out differently. Acceptance by Z-owners was not immediate nor were sales for other makes. In 1973 I applied for a $3,000 loan. When I said that I wanted the money for material to make car bras, all I could see were the soles of the banker's shoes as he went over backwards. It was about 5 years, around 1975, that the bra began to show signs of interest for anyone other than Porsche owners. Soon it became obvious that those funny looking things were starting to sell and I was no longer the only one making bras. Now of course anyone with a sewing machine and a pepper tree to set up under is into the act. Today most people know what a bra is but I only wish some of these late-comers could have been there in the early days when only a handful of Porsche enthusiasts knew what a car bra was.
Our cover is still the standard used for reference by all of those who have entered the business in the last few years. To bear out this statement, there isn't a cover on the market that hasn't copied parts or all of the Colgan Custom Bra.
Bill Colgan - 1988