Tag Archives: Pontypridd

Butcher & POW – Gilbern GT

While Great Britain has contributed a fair share to motor manufacturing history apart from Argylle, Hillman / Singer and Scamp in Scotland, Shamrock and DeLorean in Ireland and one manufacturer in Wales all of the remaining manufacturers have been based in England.

The manufacturer in Wales came about after founder and Pontypridd family butcher Giles Smith, who dreamt of building his own GT Coupé met former German prisoner of war (POW) and engineer Bernard Friese who was experienced in working with fiberglass.

Gilbern GT, Bristol Classic Motor Show, Shepton Mallet

Together they built a one off vehicle based on Austin A35 running gear in the back of Giles butchers shop and invented the name Gilbern from the opening letters of their respective christian names.

After cutting down a tree at the back of the butchers shop to get it on the road the new Gilbern drew favourable comments including that it “looked like a bought one”.

Gilbern GT, Bristol Classic Motor Show, Shepton Mallet

Smith and Friese needed no further encouragement to go into business and found Wales’s first and so far only car manufacturing operation in Pontypridd where half a dozen staff began manufacturing Gilbern GT kits at the rate of one a month.

The Gilbern GT suitable for a variety of engines mainly from MG and Coventry Climax recieved good reviews but costing £1,000 pounds the Gilbern GT was considered expensive at around twice the price of a family 4 door saloon.

Gilbern GT, Bristol Classic Motor Show, Shepton Mallet

This particular car, seen at the Bristol Classic Motor Show a couple of years ago was first registered in August 1961.

So far as I can tell from the 1275 cc / 77.8 cui engine size it is fitted with an British Motor Corporation (BMC) A series motor, first seen in the 1964 Mini Cooper S, suggesting another motor was fitted when the car was first built.

Gilbern GT, Bristol Classic Motor Show, Shepton Mallet

Powered by an MGA 1600 motor a Gilbern GT was independently tested as capable of reaching 60 mph from rest in 13.8 seconds and a top speed of 94 mph with an average fuel consumption of 35 mpg imp / 29 mpg US.

Between 1959 and 1967 280 Gilbern 2+2 GT Coupe’s were built before the all new Gilbert Genie model was introduced.

Thanks for joining me on this “Butcher & POW” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Maserati Monday. Don’t forget to come back now !