Gilbern cars History
|Key people||Giles Smith,Bernard Friese,|
Gilbern cars were made in Llantwit Fardre, Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales between 1959 and 1973.
The Gilbern has one unique distinction in motoring history, in that it is the first car to be designed and built in Wales. It was the inspiration of two Bernard Frieze and Giles Smith enthusiasts and the marque name was a contraction of their christian names GIL and BERN. Frieze was born in Germany, and studied engineering in his young days. After working for a manufacturer of glass-fibre special bodies during the 1950s, he decided to branch out on his own. Having built a special shell for Giles Smith of South Wales, the two set up the Gilbern business, and designed their first complete car. They had to be content with designing their own chassis and bodywork, and turned to the mass- production motor industry for their engines, transmissions, and suspension assemblies. The result, which came on to the market in 1960, was the Gilbern GT.
Frieze, the designer, provided this car with a multi-tube chassis frame, which was strong but by no means meant to be a 'spaceframe', and he also conceived the neat if not sensational fastback four-seater coupe body style, which was built from glass-fibre.
Almost every mechanical fitting to this chassis front suspension, rear axle, and other details — was from current MG or Austin-Healey models, and right from the start there was a choice of engines. Customers, who could take their Gilberns either as complete cars, or (to avoid paying purchase tax) as kits, could specify either Austin-Healey Sprite type 948cc units, MGA 1600 engines of 1588cc, or even the costly but powerful Coventry-Climax F WA unit of 1098cc which was found in many sports or sports racing cars of the period. The 948cc engine, incidentally, could be supplied in normally-aspirated, or in Shorrock-supercharged form (the same tune, incidentally, as that offered by the Healey company for the original Austin-Healey Sprite).
Production was only just getting under way in 1960, when a total of 11 cars were delivered, but 33 would follow in 1961, and 52 in 1962, by which time the MGA engine had been standardised. Production continued to increase to a peak of 157 cars in 1965, but the last of all Gilbern GTS was built and sold early in 1967. A total of nearly 600 GTS were built in all that time.
Timeline For Gilbern Cars
Gilbern GT (1959-1967)
Gilbern Genie (1966-1969)
Gilbern Invader (1969-1973)
T11 Concept (1970)