On the road with a 120 m.p.h. version of this excellent kit car
One of the most pleasant features of the British Motor Industry is the number of small firms supplying cars for the individualist which still manage to stay in business in spite of the many adverse factors which work against small companies in our present economical situation. One of these is Ginetta Cars of Witham in Essex, who make the attractive little car which we have recently had the pleasure of testing once again. The last time we tried the Ginetta was in 1962 (September issue), when we found the car very much to our liking, and ever since then the firm has been turning out several cars a week and have completed the necessary 100 cars for homologation purposes. It is homologated with the 997-cc. Ford Anglia engine, but the car we tested had the 1,500-c.c. Cortina GT engine.
The basic layout of the car has changed little since 1962 and it still features a multi-tubular frame of 1 in. x 18-gauge steel tube, with the centre glass-fibre body section bonded into the chassis, complete with bulkheads, floors, tunnel and foot-wells. The chassis side rails are lowered at the door openings and fairly deep double-skinned glass-fibre doors are fitted. The front body section is hinged at the front and attached by spring clips, while the rear body section is quickly detachable. This tail section has been modified since our previous test to dispense with the small tail fins and lengthen the bodywork by 8 in. to give more boot space. The front suspension remains basically unchanged, with double wishbones, coil-spring/damper units and an anti-roll bar, but the spring mountings have been re-located. The earlier car used a Ford rear axle but present models have a B.M.C. axle which is located by trailing arms and an “A”-bracket with near-vertical coil-spring/damper units. Steering is by rack-and-pinion and drum brakes are fitted all round, although front discs are an optional extra.
The Ginetta sells as a kit of parts and the basic kit with Ford 105E engine and gearbox sells for £499. An extra £18 secures the Cortina 1,200-c.c. engine, and for only £26 extra the 1,500-c.c. engine and gearbox can be obtained. Unless the owner contemplates racing at National or International level where the 997-c.c. engine would be obligatory, the 1½-litre engine seems to be the best choice, for it is so much more flexible and gives much greater performance than the 105E.
Our test car was fitted with a Cortina GT engine further modified by Ginetta to give around 95 b.h.p. with modified cylinder head, alloy rocker cover, single downdraught Weber double-choke carburetter on a new inlet manifold, and a chrome-plated exhaust manifold, while internally the oil pump capacity has been increased to give better lubrication. This work adds £99 10s. to the price, or, if desired, the engine can be fitted with two sidedraught Weber 40 DCOE carburetters on a suitable manifold, and this engine costs a total of £110. This may seem a lot but Weber carburetters cost £24 each!
Numerous other extras are available and our test car was fitted with just about every available extra and would cost a total of £748 to buy. The kit comes with a windscreen but without hood, which costs an extra £22 12s. 6d., complete with sidescreens, but our car was fitted with the new glass-fibre hard-top, which costs £49 10s. The normal screen must be removed to fit the hard-top as it is supplied complete with its own integral laminated screen. If the hood is not required the £7 10s. cost of the normal screen is deducted. Perspex side windows to go with the hard-top cost £9 a pair. The hard-top can only be fined with the latest Series 2 bodywork which costs £15 extra, the old-shaped rear end being included in the basic cost of the kit. The car was also fitted with Girling 9-in. disc brakes at the front costing £25, and the car was completed with an electric cooling fan at £5 19s. 6d. and a rev.-counter at £9 15s. This brings the total cost of our test car to £748 14s. 6d., although, of course, nearly £100 of this is accounted for by the modified engine.
The car was virtually brand new when we took it over and we had to complete the running-in period before commencing serious testing, so that we were able to put over 1,500 miles on to the speedometer in the space of a fortnight. Even while running in it was obvious that the Ginetta was going to perform very creditably indeed for it would burble along at 4,000 r.p.m. in top at around 68 m.p.h. and was obviously eager to go much faster. The test car had the highest available axle ratio of 3.7 to 1, against the normal 4.2 to 1, giving 17 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear. As the engine loosened off we began to extend it more and more, and when it had done about 1,200 miles we took our performance figures which are listed in the data panel. The car could probably have done with a few more miles before taking the figures but the presses were waiting! Even so, the figures are quite interesting and they put the Ginetta up with some of the fastest cars on the road for a 0-60 m.p.h. time of 9.4 sec. and a standing-start ¼-mile in 16.3 sec. are sufficient to make owners of Porsches, TR4s, M.G.-13s, Jaguar 3.8s and other fast cars start looking at their hand-brakes to see if they have left them on! We used 7,000 r.p.m. for testing, although this unit is fairly safe to 7,300 r.p.m. with the standard con.-rods before they want to see daylight outside the block. In the gears the G4 is capable of 35, 52, 88 and 117 m.p.h., with over 120 m.p.h. coming up under favourable circumstances. The gearbox of the test car had the standard ratios, so that the large gap between 2nd and 3rd gears was very apparent, but with a close-ratio gear cluster the performance should be even better.
Whilst the Ginetta will comfortably out-perform many so-called high-performance cars it should not be compared with them as a road car, for the Ginetta is best regarded as a dual-purpose road and competition car with the accent on competition, although we found little inconvenience when driving it on the road. The only really comparable car is the Lotus Seven, which suffers somewhat in comparison with the Ginetta as far as road use is concerned for the G4 is very well equipped and, most important, it is wind-and water-proof.
Getting in and out of the Ginetta poses something of a problem for the space-frame obstructs entry to some extent, but once the technique is learned it is not too irritating. The occupants sit on foam rubber cushions and lean against an upholstered one-piece back-rest. The prop.-shaft tunnel is high and the driver is located nicely between this and the space-frame, although some padding over the tubes would make them more comfortable. There is no method of adjusting the seating position but we heard no complaints from our staff men, who range in size from the 5 ft. 3 in. of Denis Jenkinson to the 6 ft. of Mike Twite, although the thin seat cushion can become painful after a long journey. The steering wheel is a nice Derrington alloy 3-spoke type with a leather rim, and the facia is stocked with all the necessary instruments supplied by Smiths and AC., including speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, fuel contents and water-temperature gauges. Standard equipment includes windscreen wipers, washers, winking direction indicators, horn and a full set of lights. A Smiths recirculatory heater can be fitted in the passenger compartment if required, and demisting slots are provided on the upper edge of the facia. The interior of the test car was trimmed with carpeting but this is not provided with kits as it has been found that most owners like to trim the car themselves.
The Ginetta is particularly pleasant to drive as it has a geed driving position, the excellent Ford gearbox which can be whipped from gear to gear with a minimum of effort, very light steering, and a good pedal layout, although those with large feet may tend to get tangled up on occasions as the brake and throttle are set close together. To achieve a satisfactory ride on a lightweight car is very difficult but that found on the test car was a good compromise. The ride is firm but well damped on all but the worst surfaces, when the rear suspension could bottom with only the driver on board, but with two occupants this seldom occurred and, indeed, the car seemed to ride better with two-up. One advantage with the space-frame construction is that no scuttle shake becomes evident and the car feels very solid and rigid with only one or two rattles becoming apparent. Although the doors do not have particularly refined catches they always remained shut and had an excellent fit. One minor annoyance is that the doors can only be opened by reaching through the windows, and no means of locking is provided.
The handling is very good indeed and is of a standard that very few sports-car owners will have sampled before, for there is no roll to speak of and the car can be flung through corners at incredible speeds, with just a trace of understeer showing at high speed. The car can be put off line by bumps on corners but the quick steering catches any movement almost before it has begun. Virtually no kick-back is felt through the steering, which is unusual for rack-and-pinion, and with 2½ turns lock-to-lock the Ginetta can cope with any emergency. Dunlop R6 “Green Spot” racing tyres were fitted on our car as an experiment and, although we only used 18 p.s.i. all round for road use, the traction and cornering power given by these tyres both in the dry and on wet roads was nothing less than phenomenal. Naturally these cost extra but the customer is left free to choose whichever type of tyre he requires.
The brakes had a pretty easy time coping with this lightweight (10 cwt.) car and although we wouldn’t claim that it can stop in its own length, it certainly feels like it, and they gave us tremendous confidence. The lack of servo assistance for the front discs was not noticed at all. The hand-brake is mounted to the driver’s right on the space-frame and held the car on all gradients.
The test car was not particularly quiet, due entirely to the engine and exhaust system, which combined to give a very “rorty” exhaust note which at some periods in the rev. range tended to make a booming noise which reverberated off the hard-top. The exhaust pipe and silencer run along the near-side of the body, exhausting just behind the passenger’s door, which no doubt helps to aggravate the noise level. At speed, however, there was very little wind or road noise and the car is probably less fatiguing at 100 m.p.h. than at 30 m.p.h. in town. With less highly-tuned engines the car should be reasonably quiet as sports cars go.
The fuel tank holds about 5 gallons and with the Series 2 tail section the filler is outside the body. We averaged 27 m.p.g. overall, which is remarkably good bearing in mind the performance but it is planned to increase the fuel tank capacity soon, as the range is not really enough for touring or long-distance racing. The spare wheel lives in the boot along with the fuel tank and battery, which leaves room for one large or two small suitcases and numerous other squashy items. The doors have small pockets and there are several other spots where small things can be stowed.
The G4 1500 is undeniably an attractive proposition for anyone just taking up competition motoring who cannot yet afford to run a road car as well as a competition car, for the Ginetta can acquit itself well in Club racing and still be driveable on the road, and it is priced low enough to compete with most of the factory-built sports cars. As the Walklett brothers, who run Ginetta, say, “For a small manufacturer to keep alive he must have a product which doesn’t compete with the big boys, is attractive to look at and drive, and, above all, is competitively priced.” The Ginetta certainly meets these conditions and in our opinion far exceeds them.—M. L. T.
Ginetta G4 1500
Engine : Four cylinders, 80.96 x 72.65 mm. (1,498 .c.c.) Push-rod-operated overhead valves. 95 b.h.p. (approx.).
Gear ratios : 1st, 53.82; 2nd, 9.34; 3rd, 5.51; top, 3.73; reverse, 15.46.
Tyres : 5.20 x 13 in. Make to choice.
Weight : 10 cwt.
Steering ratio : 2½ turns lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity : 5 gallons. (Range approximately 130 miles.)
Wheelbase : 6.ft. 8 in.
Track : Front, 3 ft. 11½ in.; rear, 3 ft. 11½ in.
Dimensions : 11 ft. 8 in. x 4ft. 8 in. x 3 ft. .8 in.
Price : In kit form, from £499. As tested, £748 14s. 6d.
Makers : Ginetta Cars Ltd., West End Works, Witham. Essex.
0-30 m.p.h. .. 2.8 sec. (2.7 sec.)
0-40 m.p.h. .. 4.9 sec. (4.9 sec.)
0-50 m.p.h. .. 6.8 sec. (6.7 sec.)
0-60 m.p.h. .. 9.4 sec. (9.4 sec.)
0-70 m.p.h. .. 12.1 sec. (12.0 sec.)
0-80 m.p.h. .. 15.4 sec. (15.2 sec.)
0-90 m.p.h. .. 20.6 sec. (20.4 sec.)
0-100 m.p.h. .. 16.3 sec. (16.2 sec.)
Standing-start ¼-mile .. 16.3 sec. (16.2 sec.)
(Figures in parentheses are best times)
Speed in gears : 1st, 35 m.p.h.; 2nd, 52 m.p.h.; 3rd, 88 m.p.h.; top, 117 m.p.h.