Ydych chi'n siarad Cymraeg? Today’s rare treat is a Gilbern GT - rare in its homeland, and almost entirely unknown in North America. Gilbern was a Welsh manufacturer of small sports cars, based in the village of Llantwit Fardre outside of Cardiff. Not too many cars have been made in Wales, but low-volume, fiberglass sports cars were all over the U.K. in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the #GilbernGT was one of the nicest of them.
Giles Smith was a local butcher in Church Village (part of Llantwit) and Bernard Friese, an ex-German POW who chose to stay in the U.K. after the war, an engineer and body man with fiberglass skills. Smith wanted his own special (Austin 7 and Ford Pop specials were extremely popular), and the two built a car in a workshop behind (and above) the butchery. They also designed their own spaceframe chassis - and the result looked good (a bit like a tiny Aston or Facel) and drove well. At the suggestion of local racer Peter Cottrell, they decided to put it into production - which meant a new building and a proper name - Gilbern is made from GILes Smith and BERNard Friese.
Originally powered by a supercharged BMC 948-cc A-series or a Coventry Climax 1098, the early Gilbern GT gave great performance even with these small powerplants, but eventually these gave way to MG B-series engines with even more torque and power - this MKII GT is powered by an MGB 1800. There was also a plan to build them with the Ford Corsair/Taunus V4, but that never happened. Always a low-volume car, only 280 GTs were made.
As usual for such cars, Gilbern, like Marcos, Clan, Ginetta, and other makes in this vein, it was almost totally unknown outside the U.K., but a trio of GT’s were made for export to the U.S. in LHD form. A trio - as in three, of which this dark green example, restored in 2008, is one of two that’s roadworthy. The GT was the first Gilbern but it wasn’t the last - the squared-off, Bertone-like Genie was introduced in 1966 and later evolved into the most famous Gilbern, the 1969-72 Invader. Both Genie and Invader used Ford Essex V6 power. Cars were built to order until 1968, when Smith and Friese sold the company, which sadly ceased operations in 1973.