Friday, 16 April 2021

Gitane GT - a bit more information

Tom Kenny is as eager as I am to find out more about the Gitane GT, of which just occasionally a snippet or a pictures comes up (see here). Could it survive? We shared information to see if that would bring up something new. It didn't. But Tom asked around in hillclimbing circles, which did bring a few insights that I'd want to share here, too, hoping they may get another ball rolling.

David Brown wrote to him: "I seem to remember seeing it in the early 1970s fitted with a supercharger? My initial thought is to say it was at Blackbushe, 1972-ish or possibly at Greenham Common. If it is the car I am thinking of something happened to the installation (the supercharger was mounted high up and I seem to think it came loose), it was a long time ago!" 

John Opie added: "I remember seeing it at Trengwainton hillclimb in West Cornwall around the mid '60s, and was impressed by it. I believe that it was converted from a fastback shape to this notchback."

Tom continued: "A follow up from Malcolm Mitchell led to Linda Collins. Turns out she was the daughter of the doctor who was an official at the events at Trengwainton and donated the programs on the death of her father. Only one was retained with entrants." However, nothing about the Gitane was found.

Meanwhile I was sent a link to a most interesting article on Joe Saward's F1 blog (click here). Joe wrote about Gitane instigator Gordon Fowell, who later made a career in Formula 1. This is what he wrote about the Gitane GT: 

"George Fowell Ltd was a company based in the unglamorous Birmingham suburb of Smethwick. It manufactured small plant machinery: dumper trucks, mini steam rollers and cement mixers. These were branded GF. The founder’s oldest son Gordon began working for the family business in the late 1950s, designing dumper trucks. In his spare time he competed with a Lotus Eleven sports car. The arrival of the Mini in 1959 gave Gordon Fowell an idea: why not diversify the business and have GF build a lightweight GT coupé, based on the Mini sub frame and running gear. It was in the same era in which Lamborghini was transforming itself from being a tractor manufacturer to becoming a supercar company so perhaps there was sound logic in the idea. The only difference was that Lamborghini had more money to play with. The GF coupé was given the rather exotic name of Gitane, the French word for gipsy. Creating the prototype proved to be sufficiently difficult to convince GF to give up on the idea, although the Gitane that was built was use quite successfully in hillclimb events in the late 1960s."

It goes on about Fowell's later adventures in selling audio tapes of racing engine sounds under the Goral name, designing F1 cars for Martini under the Tecno name and for Chris Amon plus the later Sana Formula Atlantic car and eventually the successful PowerJog running machine.

Although interesting it doesn't bring us much further. I'm sure there's more though, so if you happen to read this and know about the car, its checquered past or any Fowell relatives (Gordon Fowell died in 1999), do not hesitate. 

The Gitane GT seen in its later 'notchback' guise at Prescott Hill, now supercharged
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

It's engine in its original fastback styling and without the blower. That's a 997 with Weber
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Entered at the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres in May 1962 where it did not arrive. I spoke to 2nd driver Dan Margulies not long before he passed away in 2010. He said he'd never even seen the car!
Picture Jeroen Booij archive

Gordon Fowell went on to design this in the early 1970s, followed by the PowerJog
Picture Rainer Schlegelmilch / Motor Sport

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