The Ginetta G15
A Series II, Hillman Imp-engined coupé
A car for the enthusiast
Whether you could ever be a happy Ginetta G15 owner depends very much on the kind of person you are. You will be an out-and-out racing enthusiast to start with—"down to Brands Hatch even in the depth of winter" type. You will spend happy hours with the Ginetta G15 in pieces across your garage floor making the odd improvement. It's a coupé so you do not need to be a fresh air fan, but you will certainly be a Lotus 7 sort of person. Quite possibly you will have a beard and a big woolly jumper and almost certainly you will not have a wife. No woman in her right mind would put up with such a car. But you will have the most tremendous fun hurling the machine into bends at phenomenal speed, using finger tip control on the steering wheel and sitting back in the near Grand Prix driving position. The lads at the pub will envy you and you will have to tell numerous excited schoolboys all the technical details. There have been cars for the enthusiast before and they are a dying breed but Ginetta, the little firm run by the Walklett Brothers in the heart of Essex, will sell enough of these little coupés to keep them and the customers happy for quite some time.
The impetuous sort who thinks it would be just the job for the Kings Road would enjoy it for a week or two. But then interest would wane and a friendly sports car dealer would be called upon to exchange it for a nice safe M.G.-B.
The car we tried was brand spanking new, which explains quite a few faults, for the lads at Ginettas had only finished bolting it together a couple of days before. This was the very first Series II Ginetta G15 and though there was a well run-in Series I available I thought that it would be better to try the new car as there are quite a few modifications which make it more pleasant.
Basically the Ginetta G15 owes a lot to the successful little Special GT G12 racing cars—and it has a somewhat similar shape. The tubular steel chassis is square section like that used on the racer and to this is bonded the very pretty body. Ginetta do all their own fibreglass work; thus they can control quality very carefully. At the front there is wishbone suspension and 9 in. Girling disc brakes. Steering is by a Triumph Herald rack and pinion. At the rear snuggles an Imp Sport engine of the usual 875 c.c. although the special 998 c.c. version can be fitted on special request. There are also, of course plenty of tuning specialists who do work on Imp engines (see "Round the Tuning Shops" in December and in this issue). The Imp engine comes complete with the Rootes transaxle and suspension arms. In all, this makes up for a well proportioned, nippy and very light little rear-engined sports coupé.
So much for the basic car, now for the improvements over the Series I of which in fact about 15 were built. Mechanically the most important alteration is that the radiator has been moved up into the front nose to assist the rather dubious cooling it gave when in the back. We still found the car overheated in bad London traffic jams so a Kenlowe fan might be worth adding.
The facia has been re-designed and though it is in black fibreglass it looks very smart. Heading the list of Smith instruments are matching 0-8,000 r.p.m. tachometer, red lined at 6,500 r.p.m. and speedometer (0-120 m.p.h.) and to the left of these an oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge and furthest away the fuel gauge. Underneath them are toggle switches for the lights, the panel light and the windscreen washer. Also in line is the ignition switch. This particular car also had a heater and windscreen washer, both really essential items on any cars these days although, on the G15, they are not standard equipment. The heater was only a small recirculatory type and given time it did its job quite well. So did the washer which is more essential than ever on a little low car which catches all the spray.
At the end of the Imp steering column is a very smart leatherbound steering wheel, in keeping with the Ginetta badge in the centre and underneath the wheel is just one, stalk, replacing several controls on the earlier car. The stalk is actually the same as that used on the Cortina. It operates indicators and flashers, dips the lights and a push on the end works the horn. Continuing their policy of making as much of the car as they can, Ginetta make their own seat frames and have them covered locally. The Series II Ginetta has a new design and they really are very good. The driving position is very "Grand Prix", with arms and legs out-stretched, and once you get used to it, very relaxing—Farina was right. Both front and rear windows are made from laminated glass but I cannot imagine why they have gone over to Perspex for the side windows. Although the side window surrounds are an improvement over the older type (and more rigid), those Perspex windows are criminal. They rattle and shake, they won't lock (despite Mini-type catches) they almost fall out of the frames if you touch them, they let water in, and no doubt in time they will become scratched. Manufacturing them from glass would make all the difference and it would render the car thief-proof, whereas at the moment despite the Locks on the door anyone can slide back the glass and open up.
Inside the car is very well furnished for this kind of machine. There is some nice carpeting and the interior is not all fibreglass, most of it is covered with p.v.c. The interior is a very pleasant surprise in fact. The final improvement on the latest car is the altering of the pedals, which apparently were a little difficult to operate from the "Grand Prix" driving position.
The gear lever and linkage is Imp, including the pull-up choke lever which is positioned on the floor as in the Hillman. The change feels exactly the same as it does on the Imp. One soon becomes used to the very short travel and the Imp box is certainly up to the job.
To inspect the engine compartment you undo a couple of locks and the whole rear bodywork section lifts upwards to reveal the Imp power package. But there is no space in the tail to put that overnight case and keep the pyjamas warm. So as there is no room at the back you lift up the front compartment by first releasing the underfacia lever lock (which came away in our hand). What do you find? Well, there is a nice petrol tank of Imp origin and the new radiator but no provision for luggage. Fortunately there is room and plenty of it behind the two seats, even though the rather irregular space would better suit a squashy type case than the rigid kind.
But once you are on the twisty lanes then the real joys of motoring suddenly start to happen. Without doubt, the Ginetta grips better than a Formula Vee racing car; its road-holding was quite superior to anything I have ever experienced. The test car was fitted with the standard 4-in. rims with ordinary Dunlop cross ply tyres, so SPs would probably bring an improvement again. It is an easy car to drive on the limit and when it starts to break away it does so progressively. The steering with its tremendous lock also seems wonderfully responsive. In this respect alone the G15 goes down as something rather different. The brakes are good too, although if you stamp a little too hard they can be locked up.
The road-holding must be attributable to the very hard setting up of the suspension for on a bumpy road it certainly leaps about. D. S. J. went out for a quick half-hour run in the car but on his return he complained bitterly that his teeth had almost been shaken out. The car unquestionably prefers a nice smooth tarmac surface but one gets used to a bit of bone shaking in the course of ultimate road-holding.
This Ginetta is a car which attracts those of us with a bit of "racer", for that seating position and the likeness to the racing Ginettas just cannot help but make your heart pump a little faster, encouraging you to take that corner "flat" next time.
One of the rather annoying things about testing the car was the fact that it was so new, forcing us to take it easy while running-in the Imp engine. By the time we had got the milometer round to the 800 mile mark we were starting to give it more like full revs, sticking more or less to 5,500 r.p.m. in top and "five" in the gears. Still we were never outdragged from traffic lights, for despite the small c.c., with so little weight to pull along it really nips along. With petrol up in price again, the trend must be back to more economical engines and the G15 is ideal. The makers claim 40 m.p.g., and the test car returned these figures with a little to spare.
When we picked up the car, the Walklett brothers were none too happy about the carburation of the twin Strombergs which come as part of the Imp Sport deal. It appears that as the engines come from Rootes the carburetters are set any old how and it takes quite a while to get them sorted out. The Walkletts advised us to try the car with the carburetters just quickly tickled, but to come back the next day to let them sort things out properly. Unfortunately time just didn't allow this and the carburetters were not spot on. This caused jerky running at slow speeds, an erratic idle and poor starting. But the Imp Sport engine with its Climax ancestry should give no trouble once it has been run-in and the Strombergs set up properly. It is obviously a good idea to use an engine of this kind, for if it does give trouble there are plenty of Rootes dealers around and of course it is very light, which helps. Make no mistake, Ginetta have picked the right power unit for their car.
For motorway work the little car is remarkably stable and buzzes along very happily at 85 m.p.h. or so. If you really get your foot down and have the engine turning over at 6,300 r.p.m. you should reach 100 m.p.h. Our car was too new for these sort of tricks, however. It did get a little noisy at times but this is another fault the enthusiastic owner would enjoy curing.
Ginetta reckon they can produce about five cars a week. Most of the cars will leave the factory in component form and in this condition the G15 costs the enthusiast £850. If the car is bought ready-assembled it works out more in the £1,100 region.
Ginetta have produced basically a very good car which scores heavily over the Unipower and the Mini-based "specials". The enthusiast owner will certainly enjoy both driving the Ginetta and improving it to suit his own requirements.—A. R. M.
The Ginetta G15 Coupé
Engine : Four cylinders in line, 68 x 60.4 mm. (875.c.c.). Single overhead camshaft, 10-to-1 compression ratio, 55 (gross) b.h.p. at 6,100 r.p.m.
Gear ratios : 1st, 16.5 to 1; 2nd, 8.7 to 1; 3rd, 5.8 to 1; top, 3.9 to 1.
Tyres : 5.20 x 13 Dunlop C41, on bolt-on pressed steel wheels.
Weight : 10½ cwt. (kerb-weight, unladen).
Steering ratio : 3¼ turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity : 6 gallons. (Range approximately 240 miles.)
Wheelbase : 6 ft. 10 in.
Track : Front, 4 ft. 1 in.; rear 4 ft.
Dimensions : 12 ft. 0½ in. x 4 ft. 9 in. x 3 ft. 10 in. (height).
Price : £849 (basic or in kit form); £1, 100 16s. 0d. (including purchase tax).
Makers : Ginetta Cars Ltd., West End Works, Witham, Essex.