The Group C years of endurance racing through the 1980s were packed with interest for anyone who likes proper racing – rather than mere 90-minute sprints. The designs of car competing under that formula were many and varied, and the participants ranged from the great factories of Porsche, Lancia, Toyota and Jaguar to in some cases the most shoestring of lock-up-based special builders.
There were many variations and degrees in between. The Spice and Tiga operations became quite sizeable, building cars in some quantity, but simply dozens of smaller specialist marques emerged, flared and evaporated. ADA, Alba, Bardon, Ceekar, Cheetah, Denali, Ecosse, EMKA, Fabcar – all small marques – brings us to one I must confess I quite admired for its finish and apparent preparation: Gebhardt – particularly in the gleaming Kumsan Ginseng sponsorship livery once worn. With its handsome nose line and florid tail fins and aerodynamic sills I thought it looked great – like one of the ‘Eagle’ comic drawings of childhood.
The German high-speed conveyor-manufacturing brothers, Günther and Fritz Gebhardt, had a German SuperVee Championship behind them when they embarked upon their Group C2 endurance coupé project. Günther Gebhardt and Bill Harris ran an aluminium-monocoque-chassised car known as the JC83 in the 1983 season, powered by a 2-litre Toyota engine. They set up shop at Silverstone and for ’84 built a JC842 car with 2-litre BMW engine, and the JC843 with a 3-litre Cosworth DFV installed. Frank Jelinski made something of a name for himself behind the Gebhardt wheel – and one of the cars went on to be run by ADA Engineering to finish second in the C2 category at Le Mans in 1985, with drivers Ian Harrower, John Sheldon and Steve Earle. After ’87 the Gebhardt name vacated the field – becoming yet another in the bewilderingly vast index of every motor car marque ever raced.