Without, we hope, giving offence to the 750 M.C. it can be fairly stated that the era of the Austin and Ford based special is near its end as far as road going ears are concerned, due partly to the advent of the Mini-Minor and partly to the introduction of relatively cheap and easily assembled car kits. Such a kit is the Ginetta G4 which is made by the Walklett brothers at their garage in Witham, Essex. We have recently been road testing this intriguing little car and were able to discover that it offers a great deal of fun for a relatively modest outlay of cash, the Ginetta having recently been reduced in price to £499 for the complete kit.
The car uses a multi-tubular chassis constructed from 1 in. 18 gauge steel tube with low side rails to enable doors to be fitted. The attractive body of glass-fibre reinforced plastics is supplied in several pieces, the centre section around the scuttle being bonded into the chassis frame at the works, the forward hinging bonnet and detachable tail section also being fitted before delivery. The floor, bulkheads and wheelarches are built into the body and the doors are given strong hinges and fitted at the works. A lockable boot is supplied although it is not fitted with a floor as standard as competition minded owners may wish to have easier access to the rear axle and battery.
The front suspension is by wishbones and coil springs with an anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers and at the rear a Ford Anglia axle unit is located by trailing arms and an “A” bracket with coil spring-damper units. The kit is supplied with all suspension parts assembled. Braking is by Girling 8 in. drums and the steering is by rack and pinion. A set of instruments is supplied, comprising speedometer, fuel gauge, water temperature gauge while switches for windscreen-wipers, lights and ignition are supplied. All other components to build a complete car are provided in the kit, including seats, windscreen, five wheels and tyres and so on.Theengine supplied as standard is the Ford 105E complete with gearbox and all other accessories but for a further £16 the customer can specify the Classic 109E unit or for £615 the Cosworth-tuned Classic engine giving 50 b.h.p. can be supplied. Naturally Ginetta Cars Ltd., can ‘supply variations on the basic theme in the way of tune and so on and this is best specified when ordering so enabling the cost to be reduced.
The car which we took over for test is the one which appeared on the Ginetta stand at the Racing Car Show, since when it has been given a hard life, demonstrating to customers and taking part in club racing. Naturally it differs from the standard specification in some respects, the 105E engine being fitted with a Cosworth camshaft, twin 40 DCOE Webers and a Ginetta-modified cylinder head. The gearbox ratios are standard Ford combined with the lower of the two available axle ratios. This lack of alternative ratios on the Anglia axle plus the fact that the B.M.C. unit is 2 in. wider may force a change to the B.M.C. axle soon. An 8,000 r.p.m. electronic rev.-counter by Contronics is fitted to the facia and an electric fan mounted low down in front of the radiator is controlled by a facia-mounted switch. In practice this fan was never called into use as the engine normally ran at around 70°C. only going up to 90°C in heavy traffic.
On the Road
Few sports cars are easy to enter and the Ginetta is no exception. The space frame is narrower than the body and offers good lateral location for the driver who sits on a thin removable foam-rubber cushion. The prop-shaft tunnel is quite high due to the low overall height of the car but provides a convenient arm rest for the driver’s left arm. As the driver is sitting virtually on the floor his legs are in the horizontal plane but the pedals are well placed for operation from this angle although slightly too close together for size 15’s — we normally wore plimsolls or shoes without welts when driving the Ginetta.
On the road the Ginetta proved to be extremely lively despite the fact that the engine was rather tired after a hectic life, and some of the noises it made would not be present in a new engine. The gearbox has standard gearbox ratios and with a “peaky” power curve the large gap between second and third was quite noticeable but with only 8¾ cwt. to pull around it is no real inconvenience on the road although competition drivers might prefer one of the proprietary close-ratio gearboxes. The standard Ford box is pleasant to use, changes being accomplished quickly with the merest depression of the clutch pedal. Despite being next to the driver’s legs the box is not unduly noisy although it does transmit some heat through the glass-fibre tunnel.
The exhilaration of driving the Ginetta comes on fast, smooth, sweeping roads and the writer will long remember a night run down the deserted A5 (so deserted nowadays that few petrol stations remain open at night nearly causing us to run out of petrol) when the car cruised along in the upper 80’s for mile after mile, sweeping through the long bends of the well-surfaced A5 in a most satisfying manner. The rack and pinion steering is pleasantly light, the padded 14 in. steering wheel only transmitting bad road shocks to the driver’s hands, and with only 2½ turns lock-to-lock the Ginetta can be thrown round tight bends with great confidence, the handling on roundabouts and the like being quite staggeringly good, the steering characteristics being quite neutral until very high speeds are reached when the car understeers as the limit is approached. Despite having pressures of only 16 lbs. at times when driving in the wet the Michelin SDS tyres never once squealed or showed any tendency to break away. These tyres are fitted as standard mainly because Michelin were the only firm to offer their tyres at “original equipment” prices which are lower than normal motor trade discounts. That Michelin also make a good tyre may not be a coincidence. Most other manufacturers told Ginetta to make the car a success first, then they would consider selling their parts at special rates, forcing the firm to cut their profit to the bone —in fact all the proprietary parts are sold at cost price, the profit margin being made on the chassis.
As with any car of low overall height (scuttle height is 27 in.) the suspension design is a compromise, for large amounts of wheel movement cannot be allowed or the car would ground, and as the undertray of the Ginetta is not much more than four inches from the road the springing is on the stiff side. On normal main road surfaces the ride is excellent but on poor surfaces the car becomes more lively and on really had bumps the rear suspension bottoms. Under these conditions the occupants could do with a thicker seat cushion for the thin foam rubber compresses too quickly. However, the suspension is no harsher than the majority of other sports cars and will not deter the type of driver who will buy the Ginetta. Driving hard over rough surflices shows that the frame and chassis are very sturdy, having a splendid one-piece feeling. No rattles developed during our test and the doors continued to-open and shin well, a feature which can usually be faulted on glass-fibre bodied cars.
The 8 in. drum brakes cope with the (linens with ridiculous ease pulling it down from near three figure speeds quickly and safely with no fuss at all, in return for very light pedal pressures. The handbrake is mounted outside the space frame, very well positioned for the driver’s right hand. This space between frame and body, matched by a similar space on the passengers side forms the only internal stowage space apart from small door pockets. The test car was fitted with an excellent hood having a simple mounting frame and a set of sidescreens which together cost an extra £20. This is a worthwhile extra for, in torrential rain the hood remained watertight, the only water that entered seeping through under the windscreen. At high speed the hood remained taut and did not flap or drum and the car could be rendered almost airtight by buttoning the sidescreens to the hood. This excellent hood is a lesson to other sports car designers.
The plastic fuel tank is mounted behind the rear axle and holds approximately 5½ gallons, it being necessary to unlock the boot to replenish the tank. Using all the acceleration and cruising speeds in the 80s fuel consumption was around the 30 m.p.g. mark but 35 m.p.g. was easily possible with little loss of performance and Ginetta claim that when testing with an unmodified engine they frequently (attained over 50 m.p.g.! A fuel gauge which indicated “full” for about 100 miles then dropped to “empty” with terrifying suddenness caused us to fill up every 130 miles or so when there was still over a gallon in the tank. It is probable that the gauge is not calibrated correctly for the tank.
As a dual purpose car it is difficult to think of many ears at such a modest price which can compete with the Ginetta for it, can give a good account of itself in a race, then, with hood erected take the girl friend out to a dance in a torrential downpour without ruining her hair do. As with most kit cars the final product will reflect the influence of the owner for the specification is sufficiently flexible to allow it to become an out and out racing car with little modification while the addition of a few items of trim will render it a practical road car. With the Cosworth Classic engine or even the newly announced 1,500-c.c. Classic engine the owner has the opportunity of sampling performance of the type normally reserved for owners of very expensive sports cars and even with the standard engine the Ginetta will out-perform most other small capacity cars. We shall be very surprised indeed if the Ginetta works is not busy demonstrating and selling this quick and pretty little sports car to enthusiasts for a long time to come. – M.L.T.