・Factory-built Gilbern in fabulous order
・Fully body restoration carried out
・Original buff logbook and stacks of bills
Established in 1959, the Gilbern Motor Company was – and remains – the only Welsh car manufacturer.
It began life supplying kit cars using BMC A-Series running gear from the tiny Church Village, near Pontypridd, and took its name from the Christina names of its founders – Giles Smith and Bernard Friese. Smith was the village butcher and Friese a German engineer with an expertise in composite plastics.
The first Gilbern was the GT – a cute two-door coupé that was offered initially with a 948 cc BMC A-Series engine with an optional Shorrock supercharger, or later with a Coventry Climax 1,098cc engine. The chassis was fabricated from square steel tubing and the front suspension was from the Austin A35. The body was a one-piece moulding. Although usually supplied in kit form, the body was provided fully trimmed and painted, leaving the purchaser to only complete the mechanical items. Later versions came with a B-series 1500 or 1600 cc MGA or 1800 cc MGB engine and coil-sprung BMC rear axle.
In 1966 a larger, more up-market model, the Genie, appeared at the London Motor Show. It could be had with either a 2.5- or 3-litre Ford Essex V6 engine and gearbox with optional overdrive, but the steering and back axle were still BMC units from the MGB. The engine was fitted with a twin-choke Weber carburettor. By this point, Gilbern had moved to bigger premises in Lllantwit Fardre, Mid Glamorgan, and was supplying cars fully finished.
The Genie continued until 1969, when it was succeeded by the beefier Invader, which was based on the same chassis.
This example is a 1968 example of the Genie, which was restored a few years ago by its previous owner and has been further improved by the vendor since. It’s a very well-presented car.
HTK 964F was supplied new in March 1968 to a Mr TB Mills in Dorset, and was originally recorded as Silver-Grey.
It came back to its native Wales fairly soon afterwards, purchased by a gentleman called Cyril Clarke in Borth, near Aberystwyth. Mr Clarke kept the car until 1970 before selling it to a Mr Morris in Glamorgan, who kept the car for a year and sold it to a Mr Blake, also in Glamorgan, in 1971. By the time the old-style registration document was cancelled in 1972, the Gilbern had changed colour to red and it still is almost five decades later.
Since the paper logbook was cancelled, DVLA records show only three further keepers – the vendor and the owner before him, who bought the car as a restoration project in 2009 and put it back on the road. It is believed to have been garaged from 1983 until it was purchased and recommissioned in 2009.
It has been in the custody of its current keeper since 2016 and he has gradually improved it, having it resprayed and a new headlining fitted. Now he has the car up the standard he was wanting, he is looking for another project and has decided to let the finished Gilbern go.
There’s a bulging folder of bill and receipts with the Gilbern documenting its revival from 2009 to the present day, including the receipt for the paintwork, the new headlining, interior trim repairs and a full stainless steel exhaust system, as well as an extensive engine rebuild over a decade ago, since when the car has only covered a couple of thousand miles.
It also has a full UK V5 in the name of the current owner and over a decade’s worth of MOT certificates.
There’s also a reprinted Gilbern owner’s handbook (complete with hand-drafted wiring diagram) and an exploded diagram of a Weber carburettor, just in case you’re feeling brave.
But it’s the green logbook and the snapshot of history that it paints which is its most charming feature.
The Genie is an astonishingly pretty car, not to be confused with some of the fibreglass-bodied kit car abominations of its era.
It’s also beautifully engineered. Where other cars of similar construction often suffer from gaping panel gaps and ill-fitting doors and trim, the Gilbern was clearly extremely well-engineered to start with and has been put back together with care by the past two owners.
The quality of the paint finish is excellent, probably better than when it left the factory, while all of the trim is present and correct, including the patriotic Gilbern badge. The painted steel wire wheels look lovely without being overdone, while nearly new tyres are fitted all round.
The most recent expenditure on the car has been inside, with a new headlining that has really given the cabin a lift.
Otherwise it’s all excellent, with original tan-coloured vinyl seats and new carpets throughout.
The dash is trimmed in black vinyl, with generic toggle switches and Smith’s instruments, along with a retro map reading lamp on the passenger side of the dash.
Under the fibreglass bonnet lives a 3.0-litre Ford ‘Essex’ V6 engine, as found in the Capri and multiple other sports cars of the era, albeit having started life in the Zephyr and Zodiac saloons.
It sits back a long way in the engine bay as Gilbern’s engineers wanted to optimise the car’s weight distribution, leaving plenty of access should you need to work on the car’s colling system, but making changing the rear bank of spark plugs a bit of a chore!
It has had a full and thorough recent service despite having covered a minimal mileage in the past two years, with the vast majority of mechanical parts being supplied by renowned Ford performance specialist Burton Power.
The engine starts first time and settles to a steady idle once warm, the glorious V6 soundtrack amplified by a full stainless steel exhaust system.
If you know what a Gilbern is, then you’ll know instantly that this is a good one – it looks positively radiant in its bright red colour scheme, the interior is equally excellent and it’s ready to enjoy, use and show. It’s refreshingly different from the norm where 1960s GTs and sports cars are concerned, and is a truly lovely example that deserves to be cherished in its new home.
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