Why The Gordon-Keeble Failed

Take a mixture of British common sense, Italian design and American brute engine power and a wonderful car could be made. Unfortunately financial acumen is essential too, and that seemed to be the major failing behind the failure of the Gordon-Keeble.

Perhaps a foretaste of what was to come appeared with the choice of mascot badge; it featured the image of a tortoise, which was picked when one wondered into a photo shoot to promote the car. Certainly the evolution of the car matched the tortoise's speed.

In 1959 John Gordon, boss of the failing Peerless Car Company, worked with racing car engineer Jim Keeble on a project to fit a Chevrolet Corvette V-8 engine owned by an American airman into a Peerless chassis. They were particularly impressed with the result and felt that there could be a good market for cars based on that concept. However they first had to persuade Chevrolet to provide the engines.

A prototype was got underway with a 4.6 litre Chevrolet engine fitted into a custom spaceframe chassis made from square tube steel. This rolling chassis was then sent off to Italy to have a steel bodywork fitted by Bertone, no less. After an appearance at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show the car was thoroughly roadtested and then sent off to Chevrolet in Detroit, who agreed to provide Corvette engines and gearboxes in bulk.

The tortoise then exerted it's influence and it was four years before a production model rolled out of the company's factory near Southampton. By this time the engine had been upgraded to a 5.4 litre Corvette C2 V8 engine producing 280 brake horse power giving a top speed of 125 mph. The steel body had been discarded and replaced with a top quality glassfibre one and the interior was fitted out sumptuously. This was now a very powerful and luxurious executive four seater.

The problem was that the money was running out. Delays caused by supplier issues and an unrealistically low selling price had cause a haemorrhage of money and there simply was not enough in the kitty for the company to keep going. After just 99 cars had been sold further problems with suppliers meant that another 16 cars could not be finished and the company was forced into liquidation.

The Gordon Keeble was an excellent car that could have sold in large quantities but it failed because of a lack of finance, a selling price that was too cheap, too many delays between launch and production, and failures in the supply chain.

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