The Gordon-Keeble was the fastest four-seat car in Britain when it was released in 1964, with a top speed of 160 mph and a 0 – 60 mph time of just 6 seconds.
The car wasn’t just a straight-line performer either, thanks to its tubular steel space frame chassis, race-bred suspension, and lightweight fiberglass body it cornered as well or better than many of the high-end sports cars of its day.
Fast Facts – The Gordon-Keeble
- The Gordon-Keeble was developed when John Gordon and Jim Keeble got together to develop a car. They had designed the one-off Gordon GT in 1959 for a USAF pilot named Rick Nielsen, and this led to the beginnings of their own marque.
- The Gordon GT had been based on a Peerless chassis and running gear, the Gordon Keeble was a unique design powered by a Corvette V8 engine with a body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro who was then working at Bertone.
- Much like the Peerless that had come before it, the Gordon-Keeble could comfortably seat four adults, it had ample trunk space, and it had excellent performance by the standards of the day.
- Just 100 examples of the Gordon-Keeble are believed to have been made, astonishingly 90 of them are known to still exist. Some say 99 were made, however one was built from parts after production technically ended.
The Peerless GT And An American Pilot
There has been more than one automaker named Peerless, however the British Peerless was founded in 1957 by John Gordon and James Byrnes.
The British Peerless would be short-lived, they released a single car named the Peerless GT which had been designed by Bernie Rodger, the company ceased trading in 1960 after 325 examples had been built.
The Peerless GT had shown much promise, it was a handsome four-seat coupe with solid sporting credentials – it even took a class win at the 1958 24 Hours of Le Mans. Peerless co-founder John Gordon partnered with engineer and racing driver Jim Keeble in 1959 at the behest of USAF pilot Rick Nielsen, who wanted a Chevrolet Corvette V8 swapped into a Peerless GT.
Once this car was built it was a revelation, vastly more powerful than the original car which had used the 2.0 liter inline-four cylinder engine from the Triumph TR3.
It was this Corvette-powered Peerless GT that set the wheels in motion for a new, small-scale automaker named after its two founders – Gordon and Keeble.
Gordon-Keeble – The Fastest Four-Seat Car In Britain
Though some structural design elements and concepts from the earlier Peerless GT made it into the Gordon-Keeble production car, it was a mostly new design with a stronger spaceframe chassis, uprated suspension and brakes, and of course, that much more powerful Corvette V8 under the hood.
Company founders John Gordon and Jim Keeble didn’t cut any corners with the development of the car, they paid a not-insignificant sum to have it designed in Italy by an up and coming automobile stylist named Giorgetto Giugiaro. A man now widely regarded as the greatest automobile designer of the 20th century.
Giugiaro was working at Bertone at this time, so Gordon and Keeble shipped their chassis off to Italy to have the newly designed steel body fitted ready for its debut at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show on the official Bertone display stand.
With its sleek lines, unusual slanted quad headlights, spacious interior, and prodigious power output, the Gordon-Keeble attracted plenty of attention in Geneva. This steel-bodied prototype was then shipped off to the United States to be shown to executives at Chevrolet, who gave it the green light to receive Corvette V8s.
Once the prototype had been built and given approval by Chevrolet to receive engines the company still hadn’t created a logo. This was a problem that solved itself when a pet tortoise from a neighboring industrial unit escaped and paid an impromptu visit to the Gordon-Keeble facility one day.
This tortoise was picked up and placed on the hood of the car at which point it understandably wet itself. The British sense of humor being what it is, the company logo immediately became a tortoise standing in a puddle of yellow urine.
Production was delayed due to a shortage of critical parts from suppliers. When it did enter production in 1964 some modifications had been made, the body was now made from fiberglass as it was both much less expensive to build and significantly lighter.
The original 4.6 liter Corvette V8 had been upgraded to the 5.4 liter version with 300 bhp, giving the car a top speed of 160 mph and a 0 – 60 mph time of just 6.0 seconds – stats that are fast even by today’s standards.
As with many small-scale automakers, Gordon-Keeble would survive just a few short years from 1964 until 1967. There were attempts made to resurrect the car later in the 1960s, but just a handful of additional cars were made.
Today the surviving examples of the Gordon-Keeble are prized by their owners and sought after by collectors. The cars have never become well-known in the mainstream classic car world, but their owners tend to like the obscurity of the cars, and the fact that they’re still affordable compared with their peers from the era.
The Gordon-Keeble you see here is a 1964 model from the first year of production, it’s chassis number 28 of the 100 that were made.
This car is currently being auctioned live online by Car and Classic in the UK, if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.
Images courtesy of Car and Classic
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