At 160 pounds, I slipped less than gracefully into the Ginetta G4 as a group from Continental AutoSports in Hinsdale, IL stood around watching. There were some obvious side bets going on as to whether I was actually going to get into the little race car, while others questioned the sanity of driving it on the street.
Kismet, fate, I had been at Road America only a few days before this drive, and I had seen another little Ginetta. Rather rare, they have a presence few other cars can match, and walking around the cute little machine, I couldn’t help compare the beautiful lines to the Porsche 904 or to Shelby’s Cobras, both of which are a great deal bigger.
Founding in 1958, the owners, four brothers, busily turned out their little racing machines ( find the Ginetta of your choice at their website HERE.) to a niche market interested in speed and durability for motorsports events. Their diminutive racing cars terrorized tracks in Europe, regularly beating cars with larger engines through a combination of fiberglass bodies over a lightweight steel subframe.
Unlike the G1-3, the G4, or fourth series, was designed for both the track and road, retaining the original fiberglass-type body with perspex rear and side windows to keep it lite.
This particular 1963 Ginetta G4 has been set up for vintage racing, and though frightening fellow motorists on an early Sunday morning would be fun, this car longs for club events and lapping days.
Always a top three finisher in the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association, this Ginetta G4 weights somewhere around 1000 pounds, is now powered by a 1600 all steel Lotus twin cam, and has been dynoed at 209.8HP @ 7300rpm. I’ve done the math for you and that means predicted 0-60 time of about 2.7 seconds, but skinny tires mean probably closer to 4 seconds in the real-world.
So What’s It Like To Drive?
Driving this Ginetta, it feels every bit of being in a serious race car. Flip the ON switch, hit the START button, and the G4 roars to life, conveying more the feeling of a WW ll aircraft than a race car, and much more exciting than any modern day machine I’ve been in lately.
Around the parking lot a for a few minutes, I quickly learned about a dog-geared transmission. Dog engagement is normally used in racing cars where very fast shifts are necessary. Unlike double de-clutching, this type of setup means blipping the throttle to match engine revs, then quickly finding the next gear, without the necessity of pushing in the clutch. How fun! Dog gears, I found out later, have huge teeth on the transmission mechanism and due to their design, let’s you bang away at the shifter. Miss that rev matching thing, however, and the transmission makes a wonderfully grating sound that quickly warns you to be a lot more careful with someone else’s toy.
On the street, the car is unseen but heard by other motorists. and earplugs are necessary to avoid a serious headache. Actually, the most terrifying bit of the drive was people cutting you off, totally unaware of the G4’s presence, even in the scalding red color it sported. Handling is what you come to expect of a tiny race car: superb. You feel every bump in the road and I can only imagine teeth chatter on a notoriously bumpy circuit like Daytona.
But to say this car is fun is to way understate how it makes you feel, and though this car is tricked out to the max, Ginetta’s are available in almost any configuration, from full race, like this one, to a much more sedate version that you can drive around town.