Ivor and Viv Walklett have lived in Ransomes Cottage, Peldon since 1977. Before and since then, Ivor has been a performance car designer, co-director of a UK car manufacturer, and co-director of a specialist car design and manufacturing business. His fascinating story, set within the world of sports cars and motor racing, is in two parts, starting here.
Ivor was born in 1934, one of four brothers: Douglas (eldest), Trevers (known as Trevor), Bob, and Ivor (youngest).
After doing National Service in the RAF, Ivor joined the family firm in Campsea Ashe, near Woodbridge, which had been
set up in the early 1950s by Bob, with Douglas and Trevor. The core business was agricultural and structural
engineering. (1) (2) (4)
By the mid-1950s the structural engineering business was thriving, and the signs of the Brothers' ingenuity were already there - they even made their own mobile crane, which served them well for many years. (1)
The Brothers were motor racing enthusiasts, and for relaxation they would watch it at Snetterton. Ivor's enthusiasm for cars had started as a boy, and was fuelled by those days at Snetterton. He had been sketching car designs for some time, and with the facilities at the family firm he put his ideas into practice by building a 'Special' from a pre-war Wolseley Hornet. (2) (3) (4)
'G1' experimental car - sketch by Ivor Walklett
Note: Building a Special was a popular way to achieve a sports car. The enthusiast would start with a 'donor car', modify it, buy his own choice of components, and assemble everything himself.
The Wolseley Hornet was greatly modified by Ivor as to be unrecognisable, and would have been enough for most Special builders. Butt Ivor was already working on other ideas. (2) (4)
The Special was worked hard and driven hard, and was a means for the Brothers to learn the principles of car design, build, and performance. No doubt this fitted well with their construction experience, which involved structures, metalworking and assembly techniques.
Then Ivor crashed the Special and wrote it off! It was known as the 'G1' in some circles, but it had no designation because it was only for experimental purposes. From that experience Ivor developed various design concepts, including a small sports car with an aerodynamic body, for racing and as a 'fun' road car, and sold as a kit. (1) (2) (4) (5)
Note. A Kit Car is a set of parts sold by a single company for the customer to assemble, with scope for customer to source certain items of their choice (e.g. engine).
It was designated the G2, and had a tubular space frame chassis, a body in sheet aluminium and Ford parts wherever possible. The result was a very effective sports car, and the tubular space frame enabled Ivor to test his theories on chassis design. Although the car's handling was limited, improvements were made to get it to corner fast and flat, and be more than a match for the sports cars of the day.
In 1957 an RAF acquaintance pressed Ivor into making a replica of his body/chassis assembly so that the acquaintance could build a Special from it. From careful measurements a replica was made for the enthusiastic 'customer'. The Brothers concluded that there could well be other such customers, so they decided to make jigs and other equipment in readiness for going into production with it. They also decided to offer it as a Kit Car, but they knew if they went down this whole path whilst running the construction business, they would be stretched and could fail at both. So they made a major decision to withdraw from the construction business and commit fully to car design, development and manufacture. This philosophy of 'Choose one or the other but not both' was a principle that the Brothers kept to from then on.
In 1958 the response to their advertising and the interest from the motoring press was so good that they set out an area of the Campsea Ashe premises as a production line. They achieved a steady demand for the G2, and many customers were particularly attracted by the quality, as well as being able to buy all parts as a tried & tested package. This resulted in customers quickly getting their cars assembled and on the road, rather than taking too long to build and the owner losing interest along the way. (2) (4)
The first 'G2'
The G2 was manufactured in quantity, with an extremely competitive selling price thanks to diligent cost control by the Brothers. Approximately 100 were produced, and from there they decided to formally become a manufacturer of sports cars, with the name 'Ginetta'. (2) (4) (5)
A new UK car manufacturer
In 1958 The Brothers founded Ginetta Cars from the Campsea Ashe address, which became a limited company in 1960. The founders had official roles: Bob (Managing Director), Ivor (Designer), Trevor (Styling) and Douglas (Works Manager), but in practice they had a more flexible approach:
-_Bob was also responsible for administration, cost control and negotiations with suppliers. Bob and Douglas each looked after car sales;
- Ivor was a talented designer and knowledgeable in car dynamics, structures and the selection of components. Ivor would work with Trevor to convert his concept into something tangible, and Trevor would inject ideas of his own, which Ivor would incorporate into the main design scheme and drawings. Ivor would also design and write the instruction manuals for Component and Kit Cars, and provide all technical information and drawings for Type Approval.
Note. Type Approval is formal confirmation by an approved Body that production samples of a particular car design meet the specified performance standards. (6)
- Trevor was the driving force with prototypes, and had a great talent in moulding fibreglass into new and intricate shapes. Trevor and Ivor would also work together on the aerodynamics and styling, which were absolutely vital for racing and sales purposes.
- Douglas personally directed all matters to do with the race cars, as well as running all the in-house manufacturing. Douglas and Bob each looked after car sales.
They soon became a very efficient team with a hands-on approach and a range of core skills that combined well. (1) (2) (4)
Note. From the 1950s small car manufacturers would develop cars by buying-in components and experimenting to get the best combination for their chosen niche in the market. ('components' were anything from engines, transmissions and other complex assemblies down to more simple items such as door catches). Much was down to engineering know-how, and having a company designer with a deep knowledge of what was available, and a flair for the selection of components (and sometimes their modification), was a distinct advantage. Ivor was fast becoming a master at this.
Fibreglass body shells
The success of the G2 encouraged Ivor to develop his other design thinking. Suddenly fibreglass made an impact, and fibreglass body shells for fitting to a Ford chassis were very common.
Note. 'Fibreglass' (also called 'glassfibre') was a plastic resin reinforced with thin glass strands. It could be moulded or 'laid-up' in a mould by hand, and as such it provided opportunities for car builders to produce new shapes for styling and aerodynamics. It has since become 'GRP' (Glass Reinforced Plastic) but even that has been largely superseded by a host of other materials. For convenience the term 'GRP' has been used from now on and in Part 2.
The Brothers felt that the shape of the G2 was limited by its aluminium body, and as Ivor and Trevor already had a plaster mock-up for a new body, they made a mould from it and produced a GRP body to suit the G2. Although the original G2 had driven like a dream, when fitted with this GRP body it was bad ride. Ivor knew that complex changes would be needed, so the idea of a G2 with a GRP body was abandoned. However, the Brothers used this experience to develop their own GRP body shell for people building Specials. Called the 'Fairlite', it was a more-modern shape but was intended as an intermediate product, because their next car (the G3) would need a more-complex body shell.
A scarce photograph of a 'G3' - Ginetta Owners Club
Ivor designed the G3 with a new chassis a GRP body shell, and as a Kit Car. When launched in 1959 it drove extremely well. (1) (2) (4) (5)
The G4 - A star is born
This was conceived by Ivor as a two-seater sports car for racing and/or road use, using different components to the G3. It had a GRP body, much lightness and was available as a hard top, convertible, or both. At the time the new Lotus Elite was beginning to prove itself as a successful road and racing car, and the G4 had a similar image but was aimed more at the market occupied by the Lotus 7. (4) (5)
Ivor's choice of engine was the Coventry Climax 750cc, as used by Lotus to win the 'Index of Performance' at Le Mans in the late 1950s. But there were some drawbacks, including the need to buy the gearbox and transmission from a different manufacturer to the engine (usually not the ideal solution). These challenges were overcome and Ivor was then ready to do more work on the body shape and develop his plans further. The optimum positions for the spare wheel, petrol tank, battery etc. were decided, then the access to various day-to-day areas were decided upon, which in turn set the bonnet and boot characteristics. From there the overall design for the GRP body shell was conceived.
Gradually the basic shape was developed, but before the prototype bodywork could be moulded there was news that Coventry Climax had decided to not produce the chosen engine. About that time Ford launched the 105E Anglia, with an engine that was nearly as good as the Coventry Climax, but when fitted to the Anglia it produced quite a bit less power, but there was scope for improving its performance. At the time Ford engines were popular with specialist car manufacturers and the builders of specials, and there were many people skilled in engine tuning, along wih tune-up equipment becoming available. The Ford 105E engine and the possibilities for tuning it to better performance was the Brothers' choice for the G4. (4)(7)
Towards 1960 a definite plan was coming together on Ivor's drawing board. The whole package from the Ford 105E could be incorporated without difficulty, apart from changes to accommodate the bought-in transmission. The engine was mounted as far back as possible for optimum weight distribution, and Ivor chose the suspension, steering, brakes etc., and designed the means of mounting them. He also improved the chassis to suit.
The time spent on finalising the body shape was immense. The Brothers had another principle: they did not market anything unless they were completely satisfied with it, and in the case of the G4 the completion of the body shape was a painstaking process of making moulds, producing test mouldings, refinement, and often repeating again and again until they were totally satisfied.
Attention to detail was not confined to the external appearance, and much time was spent on unwanted air penetration, the double-skinning of the doors, and the stowage pockets. The doors were on large steel hinges for accurate fitting and long life without sagging (another example of Ivor doing things his way and not following tradition) and the scuttle was shaped to accept a particular Austin Healey windscreen. The interior was simple but comfortable, with a lot of experimentation going into the soft-top, to make it neat, practical and weatherproof.
By mid-1960 the design and development was nearly complete and the Brothers were very satisfied. Ivor in particular was pleased with going his own way in the design of a sports car for leisure or racing, with the G4 being very different from the work of his contemporaries.
The Brothers then considered how to offer the car. Specialists such as Lotus were leading the way in selling Component Cars for easy home assembly, and the Brothers decided on that approach for the G4. (4)
Note. Component Cars were sold by most specialist car companies. Each was a near-complete car, with parts and instructions supplied for the purchaser to do a remaining job. As such, Component Cars did not attract Purchase Tax, so there was an attractive cash saving to the customer, who only needed to do a weekend's work installing one or two easy-to-fit items. This resulted in a technically complete and brand new car, which was sufficient for getting the car registered. This was before the introduction of VAT, which would close that loophole! (1)
The prototype 'G4'
A G4 prototype was prepared for the road and it went through a period of road testing, including being put through its paces around the Suffolk lanes. It was launched at the 1961 Racing Car Show, and customer reaction was such that in 1962 the Brothers moved the business to better premises at Witham Essex, with larger workshop areas and a showroom. Production of the G4 resumed and there was rapid expansion. In 1963 a coupé version was introduced alongside the open-top car. (4)
'G4' sales leaflet
'G4' hardtop sketch by Ivor Walklett
In the 1960s GT racing was fierce, with Ginetta and Lotus very close in car development and racing success. Ginetta appointed Chris Meek as their Works Driver, and in his first race in a G4 at Brands Hatch (a circuit he had never raced on) he finished a very creditable 2nd. Chris went on to accumulate lap records and wins, out-performing its contemporaries on the track and helping in effect, to improve the public following for the G4 and subsequent sales. (2) (5)
Note. GT ('Grand Touring') is track racing for two-seater sports cars having enclosed wheels.
Works driver Chris Meek wins yet another race
Chris Meek in his G4 won many races in 1964, and won overall at Snetterton in the September beating a Porsche 904 into 2nd place. His lap record (averaging 91.86 mph) is still valid because the circuit changed shortly after. Many drivers were very successful with their own G4's, such as Johnny Blades and John Absolam.
In 1964 Formula 1 World Champion Graham Hill road tested a G4 GT for 'Practical Motorist' magazine. The resulting article was very complimentary, and the magazine cover bore a picture of Graham with the G4.
By the mid-1960s Ginetta had built-up an international reputation by exporting cars (especially G4s) and having G4s racing in Germany, USA, Canada and elsewhere. Much had been achieved since that Racing Car Show in 1961, with over 500 manufactured from 1961 to 1968. (2) (3) (5) (7)
'Practical Motorist' magazine with a G4 road test by Graham Hill
Note. A Series III version was introduced in 1966/67, which included the then-popular pop-up headlights. Until 1990 there were five engine types up to 2000cc, with one of them producing 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 120mph. (3) (4) (5) (7)
Formula racing cars
In the 1960s the company experimented with single seat racing cars for various 'Formula' categories.
Note. Formula 3 is a category for single-seat, open wheel, purpose-made racing cars. It is a major step for those with aspirations to reach Formula 1. Formula 2 is a global category of single seat, open-wheel car racing, a step before reaching Formula 1. Certain components are the same for all entrants, therefore the cost can be lower than that of Formula 1. Formula 1 is a global category of the highest level of single-seat car racing. Formula 4 was an entry-level category for open wheel racing for young drivers, as a stepping stone from karting to Formula 3. Formula Ford_is an entry-level category of single-seat, open wheel racing, the first major step from karting towards Formula racing.
For Formula 3, the Ginetta G8 had a 'monocoque' design (based on a single structure instead of a chassis and bodywork) and many other advances. It went well in the shakedown testing, and was once tested at Snetterton alongside Graham Hill in his Formula 1 BRM, sharing a time slot on the track. Hill was interested in the G8 construction, and Ivor explained the technical complexes but Hill declined to drive it because he was contracted to BRM. The G8 had four races at Snetterton, and in the first, Chris Meek managed a very credible 3rd. But soon after, for commercial reasons it was time to concentrate fully on the upcoming G10.
Ghost drawing of the G8 Formula 3 racing car
Ivor testing a G8 Formula 3 car at Snetterton, 1964
For Formula 2, The G19 was part-designed but only one example was ever made. The project was abandoned in around 1969. (1) (2) (5)
For GT racing the G12 was conceived. In 1965 the G4 was still selling well, but the Brothers felt that a mid-engined car was the way forward. Ivor had already done some conceptual work, and from this the development work was started. It was very modern for its time, with the mid-engine, lightness, a GRP body, and a simple 'minimalist' design. It was Britain's first mid-engined GT car, and two were initially built in 1966. (1) (2) (3)
Illustration of the G12 for 'Motorsport' magazine
One was raced for the first time at Silverstone. It won with a new lap record! That season it broke more lap records, and with a 1600cc engine it was raced at the Autosport Championship at Snetterton, coming 2nd behind a Daytona Cobra. Conceived by Ivor and designed by Ivor and Trevor, this car was world class. Up to the end of 1967 sales soared and lap records fell. But Lotus did not stand still, they developed their own mid-engined Lotus 47, and there was not much between the two cars. (2)
G12 testing at Snetterton 1963/64.
2nd left: Mike Twaite, Editor of 'Motoring News', 3rd & 4th left: Ivor and Trevor Walklett
Richard A. Petit, head of the Advanced Vehicle Concepts Studio at Ford Motor Company, chose the G12 on which to base his body design for the 'Ultimate Automobile' in 1966. Petit offered Ginetta his body moulds to enable Ginetta to produce the eventual car, but sadly it didn't go ahead. (2)
A Formula 1 design was worked on in 1969 (designated G20 but not the G20 of circa 2002). It was based on a BRM V-8 engine, but was abandoned at the design stage due to costs. (5)
When Formula 4 and Formula Ford began, Ivor and Trevor soon had designs for both, designated G17 and G18 respectively. Both cars had the Formula 1 look, and two were made with Hillman Imp engines (G17) and two with Ford Kent engines (G18). Formula Ford became the more popular of the two categories, bringing forth much competitiveness and endless development work for Ivor and Trevor. Many evenings were worked, and with the need for top-grade staff in almost every capacity, large resources (people and money) were used on these cars. (1) (2)
Ginetta's involvement with Formula racing was at a time when it had its hands full with the next car, the G15. With the racing being so demanding, the Brothers decided to put all technical effort into the upcoming G15 (on their principle that if they tried to do both, they wouldn't succeed at either). (2)
The importance of racing with regard to sales
Single-seat cars normally generate a small number of sales, but if they win well on the track, the manufacturer would tend to gain enough prestige that could lead to a full order book. Also, for the multiple-seat Ginetta models, it was a case of 'Racing improves the breed', whereby sales promotion was achieved by winning races and not by paid-for media exposure (such as advertising). (1) (8)
The G10 and G11
Ivor and Trevor were totally absorbed in designing and developing the G10, working well into the night on occasions. The first prototype was shown at the Racing Car Show at Olympia in 1965, complete with a 4.7 litre Ford V8 engine. It was first raced in a GT race at Brands Hatch in 1965, competing against some of the best, including Jaguar E-Types. It won, with works driver Chris Meek at the wheel.
The Brothers had a racing winner, and a potential sales winner in the USA because their American importer was already successful with selling G4s. But a sudden change in the USA categories for sports cars left the G10 specification high and dry. So the G10 had to be abandoned, but a reasonable market was expected if it had an MGB engine (designated G11). Unfortunately there were supply difficulties with MGB, so the G11 did not materialise either.
A G11 at the Ginetta Racing Show, 1966
Accreditation as a British Car Manufacturer
Ginetta Cars applied for membership of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This status was not easy to achieve because in addition to the application requirements, the applicant company must prove itself in a 2-year 'probationary period'. Ginetta Cars passed, and in 1967 was awarded full membership and the status of being accredited as a 'British Car Manufacturer' (one of only 14 at the time).
Ginetta exhibited at the Motor Show for the first time in 1967, with a pitch luckily next to Rolls Royce and Jensen. Colin Chapman, Head of arch-rivals Lotus Cars, personally gave his congratulations and good luck on making their first Motor Show. (2)
This was a 'use every day' two-seater sports coupé, aimed at the young sports car driver. It had a GRP body, plenty of boot space, much internal comfort, and simplicity (the hallmark of all Ginettas). It also had tried-and-tested parts from other cars, but the seats were Ginetta's own, designed by Ivor. It was to be available as fully built with full European type approval, or as a Component Car. With a Hillman Imp Sport engine mounted at the rear, it achieved 0-50 mph in 8.5 seconds, a top speed of 100 mph and up to 50 mpg. (1) (4) (5)
It was launched in 1967 with the marketing on par with the Lotus Elan. It was produced from 1968 and exhibited at the 1969 Motor Show, where it attracted 200 potential purchasers. Many customer visits and demonstrations followed, and order levels enabled production at full capacity with 40 or more orders always in hand. Expansion was therefore vital, so the company moved to large industrial premises in Sudbury, Suffolk and operated there from 1972. With 30,000 square feet on nearly 4 acres, there was expansion of facilities and more employees. Ginetta was now on par with the MGB's and Triumph TR's. (1) (2) (3)
Production line at the Sudbury premises
The G15 had success on the track too, especially for Alison Davis, a top driver with many wins in her G15, culminating in her becoming the British Womens' Racing Driver Champion in 1971. Eight years later, again in a G15, she became overall champion in the main Production Sports Car Championship - Britain's first lady National Race Champion! (2)
Alison Davis with her G15 and trophies
The G15 was Ginetta's most successful model. It went through five series, with finally a special 'Super S' version having a Volkswagen engine for the USA market. Around 800 G15's were built until production ended in 1974. Sudbury was an exciting time for the Brothers, who were now looking forward to the next car, the G21. But storm clouds were brewing... (3) (5)
Researched & compiled by Geoff Gonella
Peldon History Project
Sources of information:
(1) In discussion with Ivor Walklett.
(2) '31 Years of British Specialist Car Manufacturer - Ginetta the Inside Story' by Bob Walklett, 1st edition 1994. ISBN 1-870519-28-0.
(3) Ginetta Enthusiasts website, article 'History & Evolution of the G33': www.g33.co.uk/pages/history.html
(4) 'Four Brothers 4 - The History of the Ginetta G4' by Trevor Pyman, 1st edition 1990. ISBN 1-870519-07-8 (chapter 1 & performance annex refer).
(5) Ginetta Owners Club website, section 'Ginetta Models': http://www.ginetta.org/goc/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=73 [visible to members of GOC only]
(7) DARE UK website: www.dareuk.com
(8) 'The Imp Site': www.imps4ever.info/specials/ginetta.html
a) Items of text from Source of information (2) have been used with permission from Ivor Walklett on behalf of the late Bob Walklett.
b) Items of text from Source of information (4) have been used with permission from Trevor Pyman, author and copyright holder of (4)
c) The text on Type Approval is from Source of Information (6), courtesy of the UK Vehicle Certification Agency re.Type A (contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government License v3.0.)
d) Items of text from Source of information (7) have been used with permission from Ivor Walklett on behalf of DARE UK.
e) Various pictures, and permission for their use, have been generously provided by Trevor Pyman, author of the book 'Ginetta road and track cars', 1st edition 2018. ISBN 978-1-78500-415-5, currently available through bookshops. Most other pictures and supporting information are courtesy of Ivor Walklett and courtesy of the Ginetta Owners Club.
f) For the remaining pictures, the copyright owners could not be found despite the best efforts of the author.
These have been used minimally and in good faith, and if the rightful copyright holder wishes to correspond on this,
they may write to the author of this article c/o firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ivor and wife Viv, 2019
End of Part 1. Go to Part 2