Are you looking for a hand-built British cruiser with brutal Corvette power? Then why not try the Gordon-Keeble GK1 for size – you won’t be disappointed
When John Gordon of the Peerless project joined forces with Jim Keeble in the early 1960s, their aim was to build a luxury GT the likes of which the world had never seen. A high spec combined with proven mechanicals made the Gordon-Keeble a winner. Even though only 100 cars were built, the survival rate is high. Today, the GK1 can be bought for the price of a brand new, low-spec luxury saloon. We know which we’d prefer to own.
GORDON KEEBLE GK1 (1964 – 1967)
Power (bhp@rpm) 300bhp@5200rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 360lb ft@3200rpm
Top speed 139mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Unlike many classic GTs, corrosion is rarely an issue with the Gordon-Keeble. The glassfibre bodywork is not only double-skinned, but tough. This makes it resilient to cracking as a result of body flex, as seen on other GRP-bodied cars. However, you should look out for signs of accident damage, as well as attempts to repair it.
The bodywork sits on a steel chassis, which is also remarkably sturdy due to the thickness of the metal. The diff mountings at the rear of the frame are a weakness of the design, and can crack or even shear due to the immense torque of the engine – inspect carefully. The four jacking points should be fitted with plastic covers, to avoid water ingress and prevent rot. The aluminium cover across the chassis centre section is prone to corrosion where it is riveted to the steel box section.
The Gordon-Keeble used Corvette-spec Chevrolet V8 engines. Not only does this give the car sparkling performance, the rugged unit is famous for its toughness. Provided it has been looked after, this should provide few worries. Watch out for overheating, due to clogged cooling systems or inoperative electric fans, although the cast iron block and heads mean it is unlikely to cause lasting damage.
Access to the oil filter is limited due to its proximity to the chassis frame, meaning it may have been neglected at service time – ask if it has been changed.
Worn bores and rings will be given away by oil smoke under load. The exhaust manifolds are unique to the GK1 – if lower-slung exhausts are fitted, grounding-out may have caused damage. Corvette manifolds can be made to fit with some modification.
Manual gearboxes were fitted as standard, and these sturdy units are easily up to the job of channelling the power from the V8. The gearchange should be heavy, but ensure it changes smoothly. The same can be said of the Jaguar E-type spec Salisbury rear axle. Clutches usually expire after 60,000 miles or so. Aftermarket automatic gearbox conversions are not unknown – depending upon taste, this could be seen as a positive or negative.
The braking system uses items from other manufacturer’s parts bins, with Humber Hawk discs up front and Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’ versions fitted to the rear. Rear wheel bearings can grumble if they’re worn out – replacements need to be shimmed when fitted, but this isn’t always done.
Unusually for a luxury GT, the GK1 was originally trimmed in vinyl. Although hard-wearing, many owners have upgraded to leather, so don’t be surprised if the example you’re looking at has been re-trimmed. Exterior brightwork will cause a problem if any items are missing or damaged, as you’re unlikely to find replacements. Damaged rear lights will be expensive to replace – early cars used Fiat items, while Ferrari 250 GTE items were fitted to later cars.
Sketch out a rough plan of the ultimate classic car and it may not be too far removed from the Gordon-Keeble. Elegant lines – styled by Giugiaro at the tender age of 21 – combined with a rust-free glassfibre bodywork and fiery Corvette mechanicals combine to make this a formidable GT. High-speed cruising is relaxed, but acceleration is not inconsiderable given its generous 300bhp output. Put simply, if you want a classic that is easy to live with, yet also want the feeling of exclusivity that comes with rarity, then the GK1 is your car.