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The Unipower GT

With a bit more commitment and investment, and possibly a different name, the Unipower GT could have been a success. As it was all three were lacking so it failed dismally.

It all started off quite well. A car development engineer and onetime team manager for racing car manufacturer Elva, called Ernie Unger, had a dream of combining the qualities of Abarth racing cars, which he greatly admired, with the excellent roadholding and agility of the best British sports cars of the day. He met up with a freelance car designer called Valerian Dare-Bryan who had worked with some of the greats of the day such as Colin Chapman the boss of Lotus, and Frank Costin, the highly experienced expert in streamlining. Dare-Bryan was running a racing team for racing driver Roy Pierpoint. Together they dream of producing their own ultra sports car.

Ron Bradshaw, a member of Ford's design team, drew up plans for the car and the prototype was built in Pierpoint's facility, with an aluminium body supplied by coachbuilders Robert Peel and Company.

With so many top people working together on this project how could it go wrong? Easy. They had the ideas but not the finance. By the time the prototype was made they had run out of money.

Enter onto the scene Tim Powell, a car and powerboat racing enthusiast who ran a company called Universal Power Drives Limited, which made winches and fork lift trucks. Powell took over the project and provided the finance to actually put the car into production.

This car, up until then just called the GT, made it's debut at the 1966 London racing car show, where the name 'Unipower GT' was decided on at the last minute, almost as an afterthought!

There was a version driven by the 1 litre Mini Cooper engine and another by the 1275cc Cooper S engine. Initial interest was healthy but technical problems delayed delivery and by the end of 1968 only 60 cars had been built. Powell, who had hoped for much faster progress, lost interest in the whole project.

Rescue came just in time in the shape of racing driver and Royal Courtier Piers Weld-Forester who had modifications made and restarted production but once again difficulties arose and he, too, lost interest.

By the time the last GT had been sold in 1970, only about 75 cars had been made, and the whole project fizzled out.

By then it had become clear that the days of car enthusiasts building successful businesses on a shoestring were over; if indeed they ever had existed.

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