The Great British Adventure

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THE FAMOUS GORDON-KEEBLE
01 December | Classics
When you think of glamour, speed and luxury, Slough and Southampton are not the first cities which spring to mind.

But it was in Slough, in the early 60s, that a pair of British men conceived what is now arguably the best classic British car you have never heard of, the Gordon-Keeble GK1. It was at Southampton airport where they built it. The two designers' plan was to create a beautifully-styled and incredibly fast car, which could still carry four people in the utmost style and comfort. 

The chassis was designed in Turin by the now-legendary Giorgio Giugiaro, of Italian manufacturers Bertone. Before long, he would go on to design another British classic, the Lotus Espirit. Built in lightweight fibreglass, the GK1 chassis is a beautiful assemblage of masculine curves and continental class. Complementing the elegant styling was all-out American muscle, in the shape of a powerful Corvette V8 engine beneath the hood.

All that -- plus a suitably luxurious interior -- added up to car which was the equal, and in some cases the superior, of its competitors: the Ferrari 330 GT, Jaguar Mk10 and Mercedes 300 SE. An early prototype of the GK1, the Gordon-Keeble GT, even featured in the classic racing film, The Green Helmet, starring Sid James. So why have so few people heard of the name Gordon-Keeble?

For one thing, between 1964 and 1966 -- when production ceased because of financial problems -- just 99 cars were produced. A one-hundredth and final GK1 was built in 1967 from parts left over after the business had shuttered. But thanks to a combination of the fantastic build-quality and the loyalty of those who owned the car -- and those who aspire to -- roughly 90% of the 100 original cars survive to this day. 

They are now so rare, that buying one is more-or-less impossible, but like a beautiful and endangered bird, their conservation is still a priority for the select band of people lucky enough to possess one. Speaking of animals, the one on Gordon-Keeble's badge is, oddly enough, a Tortoise. At the time, it was regarded as an ironic choice of icon for such a tremendously fast car. But while it may have started as a bit of an in-joke, the way the GK1 has lasted the pace is indeed very Tortoise-like. Perhaps it is not such an ironic logo, after all. 

If you ever get the chance to drive one, do.

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