were fortunate in having a handful of small, specialist sports car manufacturers to offer them a more individual, usually higher performance alternative to the relatively mundane, massed-produced sports cars of (mainly) British Leyland origin. Like Australian buyers of the Purvis Eureka
, many referred to the "kit cars" as "Poor men's Porsches".
Since the first G1 in 1957
the four Walklett brothers, Bob, Trevor, Ivor and Doug, had continued to turn out their excellent little Ginettas from Witham, in Essex and Suddbury, Suffolk. In common with the big manufacturers the Walkletts felt the pinch of rising prices and a fall-off in trade during the early 1970's. Sensibly they rationalised, rather than struggle on to possible disaster, by dropping the pretty little Imp-engined G15, disposing of the consequently uneconomically large Sudbury factory and returning to the Witham factory, where the Ginetta story began, to concentrate on production of the new Chrysler 1,725-c.c.-engined G21.
An expected bias towards fuel economy led them to confine production of a 3-liter Ford V6-engined version of the car to special order only. During interview Bob Walklett was asked why the G15 was dropped from the Ginetta line-up, particularly as the rationalisation was prompted in no small part due to the rising fuel costs. Bob's answer was that, with the cost of materials and components, he could not sell the G15 for less than £1,600, a price which he felt would be scorned by the potential purchaser of an (albeit 100 m.p.h.) 875-c.c. car. It may have survived if the VAT had not come along earlier to stifle the "kit car".
The G21 was far removed from the "kit car" idiom. It was refined, practical, well-finished, was properly screwed together and was extremely attractive. Behind the wheel it felt very much like a Lotus Elan
, with similarly inspiring handling and tenacious road-holding, yet it had more room, was more comfortable, quieter, felt much more solidly constructed and had no "doughnuts" to wind up in the driveshafts.
Nevertheless it contrived to weigh only 15 cwt., so with the 95 b.h.p. DIN of the optional Chrysler Holbay Rapier engine installed (which added the "s" suffix to the G21), instead of the standard 79 b.h.p. Rapier engine, it was definitely in the high performance class, accelerating from 0-60 m.p.h. in about 8.5 sec. with a 3.7: 1 final drive ratio or, according to the Walkletts, in 7.8 sec. with the optional 3.9 to 1 ratio. Maximum speed was in the 120 m.p.h. region.
A substantial chassis frame constructed from square section steel had a central back-bone so that in Elan style the driver was, perhaps unsociably at times, separated from his passenger by the resultant deep centre console. The one-piece, glass-fibre body, molded by the Walkletts, was very effectively attached to this stiff chassis, making the G21 commendably rigid, exhibiting none of the scuttle/body shake to which kit car enthusiasts had become accustomed to.
The Ginetta G21S used Triumph coil spring and wishbone front suspension and Alford and Alder rack and pinion steering, in this case of Triumph GT6
type incorporating ½ in. thick front discs instead of the 3/8 in. Herald/Spitfire ones employed on the G15 and the Lotus Elan
. A live rear axle was employed, a Rapier example to which the Walkletts attached twin radius arms each side, a Pannhard rod and Armstrong coil spring/damper units. The Rapier's drum rear brakes were retained, the handbrake being self-adjusting and its lever nestling, Chrysler Arrow style, to the right of the driver's seat.
Perhaps because the Chrysler cars it normally propelled were not particularly inspiring, the 1,725-c.c., four-cylinder engine had been ignored previously by the specialist manufacturers. Yet it was a particularly rugged unit and in Holbay form, as used in the G21S, and packed a fair amount of punch. Its valves were operated by pushrods from a single camshaft, so it made no pretence at sophistication, but it had an aluminum cylinder head and breathed through two twin-choke 40 DCOE Weber carburetters. This five-bearing unit was mounted behind the front axle line to help weight distribution and drove through the Rapier's 8-inch diaphragm clutch and four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox, in the case of the G21S this being fitted as standard with an electrically operated overdrive operating on third and top gears, an optional item for the ordinary G21.
The Ginetta G21's engine accessibility was excellent, the one-piece bonnet being hinged at the front in E-type style and removable completely by undoing two bolts and the Lucar connectors in the wiring. Neither of the bonnet handles, one each side, was lockable, but ought to be. This Ginetta's beautiful glass-fibre body looked better in the flesh, and had a frontal resemblance to the G15. The facia and door trims were of extruded plastic, which would not be attractive were it any other color but black, and the vinyl-covered top of the facia had two small cowls, the right hand one of which stopped reflections in the standard laminated screen (available tinted for an extra £12.50) from the Smiths, blackfaced, 140 m.p.h. speedometer and 8,000 r.p.m. tachometer, the latter red-lined at the Holbay unit's recommended limit of 6,500 r.p.m.
Grouped in the centre were gauges for fuel, water temperature, oil and battery condition. The heated rear screen, another standard fitting, panel lights, heater fan, side and headlights, adequately fast and effective two-speed wipers and the electric screen washers were controlled by rocker switches, the last two being a trifle masked by the steering wheel, so that a column stalk would have been better - this minor issue acting as a constant reminder that you were driving a kit-car. As it was, the Ginetta made do with Chrysler's steering column shroud, containing a stalk for flashers, horn and steering flasher/dip on the right and overdrive switch on the left. The pedals were well placed and spaced, except that the left foot wais prevented from resting anywhere except under the clutch pedal by the steering column, peculiarly cranked over to the left. Elan owners' left feet were already be accustomed to finding a home in similar circumstances!
The cloth-trimmed and softly-padded bucket seats looked the part, although they were too short in the cushion and provided insufficient shoulder support. They reclined, but the back-rest came insufficiently far forward to facilitate loading shopping or luggage into the spacious, smartly carpeted (like the rest of the flooring) area behind them. The Walkletts made no pretence about the G21 being anything other than a two-seater, but in practice there was adequate space for a couple of small children, the floor including indents for their legs. This was necessary extra luggage accommodation, as the boot would accept little more than a medium-sized suitcase, the rest of the space being purloined by the underfloor 11-gallon fuel tank, filled through a big, Monza-type fuel cap, and the 5H x 13 in. alloy spare wheel, shod with its fat, 185/70 Dunlop SP Sport tire.
Returning to the interior, its focal point was a Mountney, real-leather covered, shiny alloy steering wheel with a really thick rim. Good ventilation through eyeball sockets and heating was provided by the same Smiths heater fitted in the GT6 but in this unbiased car controlled by Chrysler quadrant levers. Good ventilation or not, it was a good idea to option the fixed-head two-seater with a sun-roof to help relieve the claustrophobia, which cost an extra £55. Other options included a Philips radio and a separate Philips stereo unit, but the facia "glove box" which Bob Walklett laughingly claimed would "just about hold one lady's glove
" graced every G21. Apparently it could not be molded any deeper in the process used. Avenger glove pockets were fitted on the doors, on which also the window winders were fitted in deep circular indents designed for barking knuckles. Presumably electric winndows could be fitted at a price, as the 3-liter version had them as standard.
The Chrysler Holbay Rapier Engine
The Holbay engine was a little restricted in its ability to rev by the high overall gearing, which had the advantage of making the car very long-legged in the 23 m.p.h./1,000 r.p.m. overdrive top and gave unnecessary maximum of over 60 m.p.h. and over 90 m.p.h. in second and direct third gears. Performance was good, but came more easily with the optional lower final drive ratio, when the almost Ford-standard gear change would have come more into its own. The proper Chrysler air-filter muted the Webers, wind noise was moderate with the roof closed and high-speed cruising was a pleasure. The engine started easily from cold with a few pumps on the throtrle (though a choke was fitted), but carburation was a trifle lumpy and over-rich jets dirtied the plugs in traffic, not noticeable until the open road was reached, when a misfire over 5,000 r.p.m. took some clearing.
The handling of the G21 was superb, fairly neutral, tending towards very enjoyable oversteer on the limit, instantly controlled by the very quick steering, a real Elan feature. The ride too felt very Elan-like, the spring rates being quite soft, so that the ride was good for a sports car, yet roll was very moderate. The live rear axle could judder minutely during hard standing starts, but there was no tramp or wind-up as such. Bad bumps taken at speed occasionally caused the rear suspension to bottom, however, though stability wasn't impaired and ground clearance presented no problem.
Road testers of the time found the lightweight G21 recorded 22.2 m.p.g. in conditions which included British Grand Prix traffic jams, city commmuting and high speed enjoyment, so someething approaching 30 m.p.g. was probably posssible. Mechanical repairs presented no problem with the aid of Chrysler and Triumph dealers, and not many other car manufacturers could provide the same type of personal service the Walklett brothers were known for at West End Works, Witham. Those that purchased a G21 may have been driving the "poor mans Porsche", but there was the added advantage of owning this very professional and effective specialist sports car, which sold for £2,598 in 1974, or £2,196 as the straight G21, at the time the latter was the cheapest specialist sports car on the UK market.