Sunday, 27 February 2011

Shocking designer also planned a Mini derivative

Mini derivatives can get pretty unusual. But they never get too obscure, do they? Well for me they don't. So when I heard that David Gittens designed a vehicle based on the Mini Moke back in the late 1960's I decided I needed to find out more. But who is David Gittens, you may want to know in the first place? Well, in specialist sports car circles American born Gittens, who lived in London back then, made some name and fame when he launched his astounding Ikenga. A pretty incredible supercar. It came on a McLaren M6 Can-Am chassis with Chevrolet Camaro 5.3 V8, had a dramatic body that was built by Williams & Pritchard's and was unveiled at Harrods (!) in 1968. And inside it wasn't any more down to earth, with fluid-filled instruments, a distance proximity sensor and rear view television camera. When Gittens returned to the US in 1971 he left his Ikenga in the UK, and it is said to be in a museum now. 

But what about the Mini Moke based car? Nobody knew. It took me a while to track down Gittens, but he appeared to live in Sarasota, Florida where he created a new type of guitar which he's teaching himself to play. He was most surprised when I contacted him and wrote: "Hi Jeroen. Thanks so much for your letter and interest in the Mini Moke based concept vehicle of 1967 ... what memories."
"The Mini Moke was one of five concept cars under development. Four of the projects were put on hold when my partner, English coach builder Charles Williams, died in June of 1969. A major effort was made to restart the project at Radfords Works Ltd. in London with the completion and exhibition of the Ikenga MKIII GT. This vehicle was exhibited in Paris and Turin (surprise of the Italian motor show) in late 1969, and featured at the 1970 Swedish International Motor show in Stockholm the following April. Shortly thereafter all of my efforts regarding auto design/building came to a close ... this was a very rich period in my life."
"The Moke did have a name however I do not remember it. The concept drawings and plans were displayed at the Earl's Court motor show but these have long vanished."
"In gratitude for awakening a rich time in my life, David."

That was almost two years ago, and David now sends me every now and then an update on his current art projects. I have never found out more about the Moke based car, but funnily a friend of David's discovered some 1968 footage of the Ikenga on snowy Sussex roads that was sent over to me too. It's of crappy quality, but what a lovely piece of period film it is. Enjoy it, and do let me know if you know more about Gittens' stillborn Moke project as this movie clip makes me wonder again...

Ikenga was David Gittens' finest. But he planned a Mini derivative too!

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