The Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune
Handwritten – PHOTO TAKEN OUTSIDE HAVELOCK NORTH MOTORS
SHOWROOM left. Bay with hoist Right.
“MOTOR SHOWS” WERE held occasionally
CAR BORROWED FROM VARIOUS FRIENDS
Two packages of power and luxury
Last week I was able to sample motoring on a plane denied to most people in this country – power and luxury in the form of an E-type Jaguar and a Gordon-Keeble.
The E-type has been in existence as a model for five years. The engine design is 17 years old. But it is still a mighty car, and probably far and away the best value in its class.
Right from the time you get behind the small, wood-rimmed wheel you know this is a very personal car. The seats look rather small, but are really just a very snug fit, and hold the rider firmly and comfortably. The steering wheel, almost vertical, has an adjustable telescopic column. The interior of the car is well lit, luxuriously upholstered, well ventilated and well insulated from road and wind noise.
Yet with all these creature comforts this is still definitely a sports car, and its racetrack breeding is apparent. This brings a few disadvantages. There is, for example a knack to getting in and out through the small doors with their high, wide sills. In my short time with the car I did not discover it.
ON THE ROAD
Start up. Lovely noise from the twin exhaust system. Easy on the accelerator – in neutral a tiny blip on the pedal sends revs rocketing. The pivoted brake and clutch pedals seem a little strange, but are certainly easy to use.
Power available in first gear is electrifying. Even a steady pressure on the accelerator gives neck-snapping acceleration. Steadily through the gears, and the powerful urge remains right up to speeds which make legal limits ludicrous. A car in which to exercise considerable restraint.
Through an easy bend rack and pinion steering is very direct, and transmits quite a lot of road shock back to the wheel, but gives a very secure feeling of firm control. Here’s a truck, no room to pass. Steady pressure on the big, power-boosted disc brakes and speed is washed away with little fuss. Potter along at low speed in top gear.
Still smooth, and even at 2000 revs and less no need [need] to change down to get acceleration that makes passing quick, safe and very easy.
Here’s a compulsory stop. All clear. A bit too much loud pedal when moving off, and the wheels spin all the way through first gear. But the back stays firm, the long bonnet points straight ahead, and there’s not a trace of snaking, even when one rear wheel passes through patches of small shingle on the asphalt – the benefit of the Salisbury limited-slip differential.
Along some rather rough seal at cruising speed, and the ride is remarkably smooth for a car of its type.
Into the traffic, and at town speeds you can use any gear you like. Top will comfortably potter away from as low as 10mph. This thoroughbred is remarkably tractable.
Two days later Mr Lionel Archer, Wellington, showed me the paces of the result of a three-nation collaboration. An American 327CU in V8 Corvette engine, a fibreglass body styled by Bertone of Turin, and a British space-frame chassis and suspension spell Gordon-Keeble.
G-K were in financial difficulties a little while ago, but these have been resolved, and this luxury performance car now has an assured future.
With its long, low bonnet, slanted twin headlamps and big raked windscreen this car spells luxury from the first glance. Inside, the impression is heightened, huge individual front seats are separated by a massive console housing minor instruments, switches, radio and gear lever.
The seats give armchair comfort and loads of leg room. In the back is a bench seat with hip space and leg room for two big men in similar comfort.
This true four-seat capacity makes the Gordon-Keeble almost unique in the ranks of high-performance machinery and a very practical car.
Despite its fibreglass body the car is quite heavy – more than 28cwt at the kerb. The massive 5.3-litre Detroit engine makes light work of this and will quickly pull the car up to speeds of 130mph and better. The very noise of a big rumbling V-8 engine gives an impression of power. The Corvette engine is in a fairly high state of tune but gives very smooth acceleration right through the rev range. Transmission is through a four-speed Borg-Warner manual gearbox with well-chosen ratios and an excellent synchromesh on all gears.
The ride is very, very smooth, giving the feeling of a much larger car. Even so the car corners flat and very precisely, with little body roll.
Even at high speed road and wind noise is almost completely cut out, and there is no drumming from the body.
Price of the Gordon-Keeble is £4440.
Both cars were supplied by Havelock North Motors Ltd, the Gordon-Keeble by courtesy of Jag. Sales Ltd, Tinakori Rd, Wellington, who are the lower North Island agents.
Photo caption – A line-up of speed and luxury. From left are a Gordon-Keeble, a 4.2-litre E-type Jaguar roadster and a 3.8-litre E-type coupe.
Photo caption – A possible disadvantage?