The Gordon-Keeble story began in 1959, when John Gordon of the Peerless/Warwick Car Company met Jim Keeble, an engineer and sprint/racing car constructor who was familiar with American V-8 engines. At the time Keeble had been asked to build a Corvette-engined Peerless car for USAF pilot Rick Neilson.
Gordon and Keeble formed a partnership and decided to fit a Chevrolet small block 4.6-liter V-8 into a purpose-made, Keeble-designed chassis. Gordon traveled to Turin to request that Bertone design a new body with slightly angled twin-headlights to be called the Gordon GT. The car was aimed at Aston Martin, Jensen and Facel Vega clientele.
The chassis was comprised of a one-inch-square, tube spaceframe, with a De Dion rear axle and four-wheel disc brakes. The chassis was completed in 1960 and transported to Italy for coachbuilder Bertone to fit the Giorgetto Giugiaro styled steel body.
By the time the car was ready for production four years later, the name had appropriately been changed to Gordon-Keeble and the model’s name became the GK1. In the meantime, Gordon had taken the prototype to Detroit for Chevrolet President Ed Cole and engineer Zora Duntov to test drive, after which they agreed to supply 327-cid Corvette engines, gearboxes and U.S. GM dealer distribution support. Fiberglass was ultimately used for the body, which was much cheaper to produce than steel. Production of the bodies was handled by Williams and Pritchard in England for the first dozen bodies before local Southampton craftsmen, fresh from employment at Supermarine and Vosper Thornycroft, took over.
The project collapsed after a mere 82 cars had been completed due to the steering-box supplier, Adwest, suffering from a lengthy labor dispute resulting in unfinished cars sitting idle. Two of the dealerships who had sold the Gordon-Keeble stepped in, and with the help of Jim Keeble again at the helm, they finished off a dozen previously incompleted cars and built from scratch a further six cars before the new company went the way of its predecessor.
Despite the car’s troublesome past and low production numbers, the GK1’s survival rate is very impressive, with 90 of the 99 examples built being accounted for today. The car’s American running gear makes maintenance quite simple, though spare trim pieces are difficult to source. Club support is enthusiastic, which makes owning this rare and distinctive car all the more enjoyable.