For those without an intimate knowledge of British sports cars, the following is a brief history of Ginetta Cars Ltd from 1958 to 1992..............
GINETTA CARS COMPANY HISTORY
Ginetta Cars Ltd was founded in 1958 by the four
Walklett brothers, Douglas, Trevers, Bob and Ivor – all of whom were motorsport
enthusiasts, but they were already in business as agricultural engineers. The
youngest brother, Ivor, like so many others in the 1950’s designed and built
himself a Lotus Six style special using Wolseley Hornet parts. This showed such promise that the brother’s
decided to produce a kit that would take Ford components, as an addition to the
existing fabrication business. This was known as the G2 and around 100 were
built between 1958 and 1960. The G2 became the G3 in 1960, now with a
fibreglass body and again sold in reasonable numbers.
By 1961, Ginetta Cars, as it was now known, and in
particular Ivor Walklett came up with the concept of a practical sports-car
that could double as an effective weekend racer. The pretty and ultra light-weight
G4 established the Company’s reputation and led to an expanded business in new
premises at Witham, near Chelmsford in Essex. G4 production continued until
1969 but later re-appeared as the G27.
The 1960’s were a highly prolific period for Ginetta,
and saw the development of the G18 an G17 single-seaters, and a still-born F1
design, the G20. The 4.7 litre Ford V8 engined sports car, the G10 appeared in
1965 to rival the AC Cobra, but was killed off by homologation difficulties. It
went on the become the somewhat tamer MGB-engined G11. In 1966 as the G4’s
racing career was coming to an end the mid-engined G12 was introduced, and
became the GT car to beat for several years. It was later joined by the larger
By the late 1960’s the Company turned back to road
cars and in 1968 produced the Hillman Imp powered. G15, one of the prettiest
coupes ever built. Such was its relative success that production was
transferred to a larger factory at Sudbury in Suffolk. More than 800 were made
before the oil crisis of 1973 and the closure of a purchase tax loophole
brought production to an end in 1974. The G15 was followed by a larger sister
car the G21, again with Rootes power units. As with the G15 this car was “Type
Approved” for series production as completed vehicles, rather than component
or “kit” builds. Around 150 were built
up to the end of 1978, and led to the G23 and G24 which, however did not go
into production beyond a few prototypes. They did, however evolve into the G25,
G26, G28, G30 and G31 “kit cars”, and the slimmed down business relied on them,
a revised G4 and the GRS Tora utility to maintain itself.
By 1986, the Walkletts had decided to return to the
”big league” with a fully Type Approved
mid-engined 2-seater coupe, the G32, which had evolved from the earlier
G25. The G32 was well received and plans were laid to relocate to a new factory
in Scunthorpe to accommodate the full potential of this ground breaking new
design. However in late 1989, the Walklett brothers decided it was time to
retire and accepted an offer for the business from a consortium led by
Sheffield businessman Martin Phaff. Ivor
Walklett, however remained as Technical Director.
Once the euphoria of acquiring the business had subsided,
it became clear that life would not be easy for the new owners; Toyota launched
their own mid-engine sports car, the MR2 at a price that Ginetta could not
match, and production and Type Approval problems loomed, delaying the launch of
the G32. Returning to volume production was proving troublesome, and sales
targets for the new car were now in doubt.
success of the TVR Griffith it was decided to produce a high performance
roadster based on the venerable G4, which had now become the G27 kit car. By
stretching and widening the car, and using Rover V8 power and Ford Sierra
running gear, Ginetta produced the G33 in a matter of months, and it was
launched at the 1990 Motor Show, to great acclaim, leaving the G32 and its
convertible sister in the shade.
But problems at the factory mounted, and cash was
running short. In a bid to raise much needed cash, a deal was struck to put
back the “heritage” sports cars in to production and supply them to Japan. Now
increasingly cash-strapped the company was attempting to supply the G32, the
under-developed G33 and the classic G4 and G12…..
But what did for the company came out of the blue, and
those of a nervous disposition should look away now!
In 1992 the
British government, struggling to
maintain the pound sterling in the European
Exchange Rate Mechanism, finally gave up and as interest rates reached 15%
Chancellor Norman Lamont announced that the UK would leave. The pound slumped
against all the major currencies. Ginetta’s bankers, Barclays, had (for obscure
reasons connected to its income stream) denominated its borrowings in yen, and
as the company’s debt soared overnight, called in the Receiver.
After 45 years Ginetta was sunk; but Martin Phaff,
just three years into his tenure, had other ideas……….
Some of what happened next appears on the following