Founding father: Ginetta G2

| 27 Aug 2021
Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2

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He furrows his brow and nods sagely, curious and approving. It’s running beautifully, if not very tunefully.

And with that, the bonnet is reattached and securely strapped down. It’s action stations: time to harness all 40 or so brake-horsepower and assault a B-road.

It is going to be a voyage of discovery, mind. This car has covered whole tens of miles these past few decades, after all.

During a recent sortie it unnerved its co-owner, a man with thousands of competitive miles under his belt, which prompted a suspension rejig. But hey, it’s best not to dwell on these things…

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The Lotus Seven similarities diminish from the ’screen back

Getting into a Ginetta G2 is easy because there’s nothing so bothersome as a roof or doors to contend with.

There is, however, the small matter of threading your legs into the footwell. A certain amount of ankle articulation is required thanks to the positioning of the steering column and the placement of the pedals.

That said, in this regard it is no worse than many comparable 1950s ‘specials’, the ’52 Lotus MkVI included.

And, unlike other kit cars of the period, you don’t feel perched. It is something that bit more sophisticated than just another rebodied Ford Pop, all things being relative.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
A lack of doors means access is easy, but you must thread your legs into the footwell

The 1172cc four-banger is in a reasonably high state of tune but the idle is far from lumpy.

However, the clutch is either in or out: there is no room for slippage. Release the Ford ‘umbrella’ handbrake, pile on some revs and we’re off with only the merest hint of a bunny-hop.

It’s loud, that’s for sure, and the little Ginetta is more eager than preconceptions would have you believe.

The three-speed Ford ’box isn’t super-slick, but nor is it hard work with familiarity. Reverse is where first is found normally, the shift action across the gate being remarkably short. It has received a remote gearchange upgrade, which was a typical mod in period.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The correct 1172cc Ford sidevalve has been reinstated

Double-declutching is advisable and, inevitably, there is a little driveline shunt when pottering, but this soon dissipates.

Once out into open countryside, the Ginetta is in its element. You certainly wouldn’t guess it’s an aged sidevalve, not least because there’s greater flexibility than you might imagine: it has torque.

On a shortish blast, the G2 is huge fun when pulling hard. The ride is on the firm side of unyielding, but that is to be expected.

Nevertheless, it tracks straight and the mechanical drum brakes – mostly by cable – work effectively if not hurriedly.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The Ginetta G2 is light and agile, so feels faster than it really is

The steering, too, has less play than expected. It’s a modified Ford worm-and-peg arrangement, and the large aluminium-spoked wheel doesn’t writhe in your hand.

Nor is there much in the way of kickback. What impresses, or rather comes as a surprise, is that it doesn’t feel the least bit skittish. It doesn’t want to kill you.

Most cars of this ilk wander, sometimes alarmingly so, but that isn’t the case here, with only the odd mid-corner bump upsetting its equilibrium. There’s pleasure to be reaped here.

But in many ways, and on so many levels, that is to be expected. It is a Ginetta, after all.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
Here is this Ginetta G2 in 1959, after it was completed

This storied marque has straddled the line between the kit-car industry and the mainstream production firmament for more than 60 years.

And that is before you factor in its motorsport activities, Ginetta having tackled everything from single-seaters to, more recently, sports-prototypes.

The G2 was the jumping-off point for all of that and more. What impresses people is generational, but the specials boom of the 1950s fuelled the imagination of many an impecunious young blade.

This was a period of make do and mend, let’s not forget, so it is little wonder that the prospect of being able to build your own sports car using readily available proprietary parts caught on.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
Here is this G2 as found in Wales in 1980

And how. According to one estimate, as many as 22,000 kits – or at least bare shells – were supplied in total during this period.

That figure seems a bit high, but, given the involved nature of the construction process, it is small wonder that many remained unfinished.

Ginetta was late to the party, and there was little to suggest that the marque would go on to bigger things after it began promoting its wares in 1958.

The G2 looked less adventurous than some of the more fanciful rival offerings – although, to be honest, most of those looked better as renderings.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The G2 looked less wacky than some of its contemporaries

As was so often the way, the move into offering kit packages followed the construction of a home-brewed one-off.

Ivor Walklett created a stark roadster that comprised modified Wolseley Hornet underpinnings and an aluminium body that apparently bore a passing resemblance to a Maserati 4CLT.

It came to a sticky end against a tree stump, its pilot having got a bit carried away while blasting along the winding driveway that led to the family seat in Chillesford, east Suffolk.

Ivor, the youngest of five brothers, was undaunted and, along with sibling Trevers, set about creating a bodyshell out of glassfibre to suit a Ford 8/10 chassis.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
Tasty period tweaks include an Aquaplane head for the Ford ‘four’

However, impatience set in so they decided to create something a bit simpler, if only as a stopgap.

With the experience of the Wolseley special to draw on, a simple ‘Clubmans’ car was mapped out that comprised a multi-tubular spaceframe with mounting points to accept standard Ford axle assemblies, complete with transverse springs, steering components, engine, ’box, radiator and so on.

Little modification to the running gear was required, save lengthening the steering column and shortening the propshaft, which allowed the engine to be sited low behind the front beam axle and steering links.

The chassis frame also anchored the aluminium body panels. In essence, flat sheets were riveted over the tubing, the same material being used for the floor, the transmission tunnel and the bulkheads. The only remotely complex shape was the nosecone, which was moulded from glassfibre.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
Remote gearchange was a common modification when new

Reaction to the car was such that Ivor and Trevers persuaded a further two brothers, Bob and Douglas, to join them in marketing kits.

The first advert appeared in Autosport in February 1958, with a basic body/chassis package costing £156.

The price was arrived at by weighing a chassis. It tipped the scales at 156lb (71kg), so…

An area of the family’s agricultural engineering workshop was then set aside and Ginetta was born (the G2 bit was added later, the prior special being referred to retrospectively as the G1).

Orders trickled in, and a split-beam front suspension set-up appeared as an option.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The Ginetta G2 with its proud co-owner Roger Collins

However, the G2’s time on the market proved fleeting. The brothers pressed ahead with completing the glassfibre body that had been in the throes of creation for several years.

Available from November 1958 as a bare shell under the Fairlite banner, it was offered in a considerably more advanced state of built, complete with a square-tube chassis, as the Ginetta G3 in early 1960.

At the end of that year, the Walkletts announced the G4, the model that went on to put the marque on the map.

The success of this car was such that they were able to move away from fabricating agricultural edifices and concentrate solely on making cars.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
Ginetta’s G2 is a pretty sight on the road

As for the G2, according to Trevor Pyman’s authoritative Ginetta Road and Track Cars, few if any were made after mid-’59.

As to the vexed question of production figures, the factory claimed that about 100 kits were sold. That is perhaps a little fanciful, but it rather depends on whose estimates you credit.

Around 25 seems to be the consensus among marque historians. The car pictured here is a rare survivor, with no more than half a dozen known to exist.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The G2 has a well-stocked dashboard

360 KNU was constructed by Keith Jeffreys and registered on 25 March 1959.

The then university student and his future wife later guided ‘Virginia’ to Monaco and back before selling the car to persons unknown in London in 1962.

A subsequent owner reconfigured the G2, adding a squared-off tail section and Lotus Seven-style clamshell wings along the way. It was also equipped with a 1.2-litre Ford pre-crossflow ‘four’ in place of the old sidevalve unit.

Scroll forward to March 1980 and the car was acquired by its current keepers, endurance rally veterans Roger Collins and Peter Davis.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
There is a single side exhaust pipe

They had spotted an advertisement for a Ginetta placed by a Tony Herbert of Dinas Powys.

Curiosity got the better of them, and upon arrival in south Wales they were shown a pile of bits that they discerned had once been a Ginetta G2.

The duo purchased the remains for £400 and set about restoring the car… eventually.

Progress was hampered somewhat by Davis’ competition endeavours – that and his creation of the delightful Liege sports-car-cum-trials-machine, and subsequently manufacturing it in series.

Collins, too, had a thriving engineering business, so the Ginetta’s reanimation was of the stop-start variety.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
This is an easy car to have fun in on back roads

It fell to Davis to return the car’s spaceframe to its original configuration.

Given that he has made chassis for everything from the William Towns Microdot concept car to sports-racers, that should have been no great hardship.

However, there was no similar car to compare it to or drawings to work from. Nevertheless, he resisted the temptation to go his own way, being determined to rebuild it to how it appeared in the late 1950s.

The finished article was then coated in Tekaloid coach paint, just as Ginetta supplied frames to customers in period.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
This Ginetta’s tall wheels are from a Ford Pop

Meanwhile, a decrepit Ford E93A was purchased and relieved of its running gear, each part being rebuilt before being transposed.

The 1172cc engine was treated to twin SU carbs and a four-branch exhaust manifold in addition to a raft of period aftermarket equipment.

This stretched to an Aquaplane cylinder head, water pump, engine mounting bracket and valve-chest cover.

The body, meanwhile, was fashioned by Collins and Davis. Given that so little of the original coachwork remained unmodified, they didn’t have much to go on until the rolling chassis was spotted at an event by its original builder.

Jeffreys had a rummage in his loft and found several snapshots from the late 1950s, which showed it from various angles.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The Ginetta G2 was rare even when new – today it is all but unknown

By the end of the ’80s, the G2 was virtually complete and sitting on a set of enamelled 17in Ford Pop wheels.

It was almost ready to hit the road, but was instead placed under a dustsheet.

Following much prompting from the owners’ club, Collins and Davis were persuaded to finish the plumbing and wiring to display it at a kit car show in 1996.

Ivor and Trevers Walklett, the original design team, enthused over the G2 but pointed out one detail that wasn’t quite right: the colour of the badge on the nose.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
The steering wheel has a pleasingly simple three-spoke design

Save the lightest of use, which consisted of little more than a few local jaunts, the car was placed in storage again, sometimes outdoors.

It was disinterred long enough for an attempt at an MCC trial in the MendipHills, during which it suffered from chronic overheating, before returning to hibernation.

Fast-forward to 2020, however, and the various lockdown periods provided a spur for Collins to revive the Ginetta while Davis was away in France.

One of the main jobs was changing the front suspension set-up. When acquired, the car was equipped with an aftermarket Stanley Beardsell & Co split-beam arrangement. This was deemed to be borderline lethal so it was replaced with a solid Pop beam axle. Once the caster angle was sorted, it transformed the handling.

Classic & Sports Car – Founding father: Ginetta G2
This Ginetta G2 has finally been finished, thanks to lockdown

So much about the G2 appeals.

It represents the period when Britain’s cottage industry of specialist car manufacturers was born; one when a lack of money was not necessarily a barrier to success. If anything, it spurred creativity.

The first Ginetta didn’t break moulds or push envelopes, but it wasn’t without influence, even if it was only on those who made it.

Images: John Bradshaw


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