"My Father Mr. Mercedes," by Guy Jellinek Mercedes. 319 pp., 9 in. 5 3/4 in.…
Known for ts sma , nmbe racers, Gnetta caused a snocK wnen ts muscu ar new V8 won first tme out We reunte tnat car wtn ts driver Cnrs Mee K to fee tne nose BY IVAN OSTROFF
I aunched at the 1965 Racing Car Show, Ginetta’s G10 not only looked good but, fitted with a Mustang 289cu V8, promised serious performance. The hope was
that the car would attract road-racing competitors in the United States. The G10 was well received by press and public alike, even before Chris Meek, Ginetta’s works driver, scored a debut win in the prototype at Brands Hatch. Though it had been snowing earlier, the weather was fine and sunny for the Redex Trophy for GT Cars in November 1965. Meek started from pole in the G10 and, after a racelong fight, won from Robbie Gordon in the now-famous ex-Dick Protheroe low-drag competition E-type. After Meek pulled away from Sayer’s masterpiece at the start, Gordon passed him, and the two then lapped nose to tail with Gordon keeping the door firmly shut at
each corner. Chris finally managed to out-drive the Jaguar at Paddock Hill Bend after five laps and led to the finish. The Ginetta comfortably beat what was categorically the GT racing car of that time, with a race average of 73.12mph.
However, because Ginetta was unable to get the G10 homologated for the appropriate American series, it was forced to race them against Lolas and McLarens, Group 6 prototypes of far higher performance. So cars initially ordered by Americans were cancelled, and only three GIN were made. But the G10 was a pretty car and people clearly liked it, so the Walklett Brothers, owners of Ginetta Cars, dropped an MGB 1800 lump into it, fitted modified MGB rear suspension, relabelled the car as Gil and sold it in the UK. Even then production was problematic due to poor delivery from MG and eventually G10/G11 production stopped, making these fine cars very rare today. KW
I have driven a G10 a couple times in the past, so when Jonathan Brewin of Gelscoe Motorsport told me they had completed the restoration of that ex-Chris Meek works car for Joe Bamford and fitted it with a 450bhp GT40 engine, and that I could try it at Mallory Park, I made two telephone calls. The first was to Ivor Walklett to get his memories of this iconic racer and the second was to Meek inviting him to come to Mallory and get back in ‘his’ car.
Ivor remembered the machine well. “Lord Snowdon visited our stand at the Racing Car Show accompanied by Alec Issigonis and John Cooper, and they all expressed considerable interest in the G10.”
Did they do much testing before the race at Brands Hatch?
“Obviously its race potential was important to us,” Walklett says, “but as with all Ginettas in those days early development was carried out on the then newly-built Witham bypass [near Ginetta’s Essex base] and latterly at Brands Hatch. The race car was not drastically different from the road car, but we fitted a variant of our 13x7in magnesium F3 wheels, shod with Fl race tyres. The engine was the 4.7-litre 271hp Ford Mustang imported from the USA. We uprated it to 350hp with the Ford kit from Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough, where the GT4Os were built, with four twin-choke downdraught Webers, a decent manifold, hotter camshafts and stronger conrod bolts. “Weighing around 900kg, it should have been very quick, but we were slightly disappointed with the performance during our first run. In our eagerness to finish the car, we ran it with the carburettor trumpets protruding through the bonnet and at speed the front body shape created a low pressure area, which caused the atomised fuel to be drawn from the carbs to a height of two inches or so, thus starving the engine of fuel and air. After closing the bonnet aperture, performance was restored and we easily
topped 150mph on the Witham bypass. After testing at Brands we lowered the axle ratio, which helped acceleration and braking, so come race day we were fairly confident of a good result.” Meek joined me at Mallory and clocked the rugged good looks of the red and black Ginetta, which he
last drove 40 years ago, it triggered memories of those exciting days.
“In 1965 I was beating all the major factory marques including Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari and Cobra in the Ginetta G4. Walker Day imported two TZ Alfas, prepared for racing, with the aim of winning the Sports Car Championship in England, but our little G4 blew them into the weeds, so they withdrew the Alfas in disgust. The press gave those talented Walklett boys a hard time about the G4 being a special or a lightweight kit car. Eventually the Walkletts said ‘enough is enough’ and set about building a V8powered car. They didn’t complain about those.
“As works driver I was aware of the G10 being built but never had the chance to sit in it before I raced the car at Brands. The factory told me that they didn’t think it would be ready in time. Then the day before they called and said, ‘Can you be at Brands Hatch tomorrow?’ So I got myself down to Brands and the rest is history. “When I raced it, it was simply unbeatable,” adds Meek. “Considering it was thrown together and tested up and down the road, with little time for setting up, it was remarkable. Fine-tuned, this car would have beaten anything in its class. However, after its outright win Ginetta felt they had proved a point and reverted back to the G4 and G12. I only raced the G10 that once. Following that, the Walkletts asked me to meet them at Mallory and try their new mid-engined G12. I’d never sat in that car before either and won the sports car race outright, setting a new record; they then entered it into Formula Libre and it beat everything.
“I must have won something like 100 races for Ginetta; of course I also drove their F3 singleseater. The Walklett brothers created the G10 to prove to the press that Ginetta could build a real car as opposed to a kit car, while at the same time hoping to have success with it in America. Their problem was money; building this car used every penny they could muster.” Jonathan Brewin did a few warm-up laps, and then Chris climbed into the G10. After building up to some quick laps with the V8 symphony bellowing through its open exhausts, he guided the G10 back into the pits, smiling contentedly. Did it feel like the car he drove back then? ID
“Absolutely. But better. It’s sharper, it’s a beautiful car to drive. You can take most of this circuit flat in top, just lift for the bump. I missed a gear — I’d forgotten about the long throw of the gear lever —but it has incredible torque. Fantastic grip and handling. This is now a really refined car, and beautifully balanced. You need one change for the hairpin; driven quickly it will take that in third. Even though it’s a relatively short wheelbase, it was not the least bit twitchy. Is that a Salisbury diff in it? Thought so. Of course for British circuits a short-wheelbase car is ideal.”
After many years in light cars with low power, it must have meant a major change of approach to handle a car with so much more torque.
“The amazing thing was that because I didn’t have to use the rev limit I found it easier to use the torque of a big engine even though I had no previous experience. Quite astonishing, really.”
What about teething problems?
“Being straight out of the workshop, the brakes weren’t quite as they should have been, whereas today they’re superb. But that was OK. You get used to a car that doesn’t brake too well; you compensate by changing down and using the overrun of the engine.” is an emotive reunion for Meek, as not only was he Ginetta’s homegrown hero through the 1960s and ’70s, but in 1982 he became the
owner of the track we’re standing at. In parallel with his Leeds property company, he nursed Mallory through some tricky years before leasing it on and then selling it to the BARC. He’s fond of the place, the car and the people who built it.
“I’ve never felt enough credit was given to the Walkletts, who created their cars by hand but also from the heart. I’m full of admiration for the late Doug and Trevor Walklett, Ivor the talented designer and Bob who ‘cooked the books’. And Dorothy and Sherry who literally hand-fed those boys, even as they worked. We’ll never know what Ginetta would have achieved in the Walklett’s hands had real money been available. It’s wonderful to come back and see the car looking as nice as this. Gelscoe have done an amazing job on the rebuild.”
Had the Walkletts’ plans for its throaty new contender worked out, Ginetta might have become a by-word for muscular big-banger racers. But the company’s real expertise lay with small, light and lithe machines, and as the G12 continued the G4’s run of unlikely success, the prospects of new trans-Atlantic markets seemed not only further off but less and less important. The hunky G10 and its more practical G11 spinoff faded from view, leaving the memory of one scarlet and black rocketship taking one dramatic victory that would never be followed up.
With thanks to Mallory Park Circuit and Gelscoe Motorsport.
"My Father Mr. Mercedes," by Guy Jellinek Mercedes. 319 pp., 9 in. 5 3/4 in.…
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