Restrained, refined and very quick; such were the qualities to which the Gordon Keeble team aspired when creating its idea of – to steal another maker’s phrase – a ‘gentlemen’s express’ that could rival the best from France and Italy. Top-end materials, sophisticated mechanicals and an unfussy but powerful American engine formed a good mix but, unlike Bristol, gunning very much for the same customer, John Gordon and Jim Keeble chose to lash out on styling from a premium name: Bertone.
The result was a striking two-door device amply displaying Giorgetto Giugiaro’s talent for slipping four seats within a coupé profile. Unusually the firm chose glassfibre for production cars – cheaper than panel-beating, though it remained an expensive machine.
“Such a pity it wasn’t more of a success,” says Graeme Hunt, whose firm is selling this two-owner example. “It’s technically very accomplished – fast and luxurious, great to drive and with very high performance for the time.”
Expensive for the time, too, but not expensive enough. Yet again the costs versus profit battle plus supply problems defeated a small manufacturer with big dreams and, despite the firm being bought by another pair of optimists, in 1967 the 99th and last Gordon Keeble was assembled. The dream lasted three years.
“They had the orders, but not the funding to sustain production,” says Graeme. “Such a shame. It compared well with the Bristol, which still had a six-cylinder then, while the Facel-Vega was not so technically sophisticated
and looked more wacky.”
There should have been a steady market for such a handsome, roomy mile-eater, with its independent front suspension and de Dion rear. “The handling’s good and the ride is lovely,” says Graeme. “Power steering makes it delightful to handle at low speeds, the back seat is really quite comfortable, and this one has a lovely exhaust burble from the Corvette V8. It’s the 98th built, had a no-expense-spared restoration at the GK Centre, including an upgrade to a five-speed gearbox, and comes with two sets of wheels – Wolfrace centre-locks plus the GK originals.”
A remarkable 90 per cent of these cars survive, and are always in demand, according to Graeme. “Few come up for sale, and there are always buyers looking for one. I particularly like the interior, which with all its dials and switches looks more like an aeroplane cockpit than a car.”
There’s one other feature that makes this unique: a tortoise badge. Trust a British firm to apply an ironic mascot.