Two forgotten classics will be in the spotlight at our Concours d’Elegance throughout the Hill Climb weekend – the sleek Gordon-Keeble I.T, which was manufactured in Britain, and the bold Studebaker Champion, which hails from America.
Gordon-Keeble was formed in 1959 by John Gordon, who founded the short-lived Peerless car company, and Jim Keeble. They aspired to create grand tourers that could easily rival their European cousins while being much more affordable. Following positive feedback from their initial concept, which featured a Chevrolet Corvette V8 engine in a Peerless chassis, they went on to create their grand tourer and showcased the prototype at the Geneva Motor Show.
Despite receiving some orders, the company ran into problems with suppliers and soon went into liquidation. Just 90 cars had been sold at an unrealistic price of £2,798 each, so the company couldn’t afford to keep going. The company was bought in 1965 and production resumed for another year – the example that will be at the Chateau Impney Hill Climb is a four-door GT model from that final production run. Nevertheless, Gordon-Keebles have struck up a keen following in recent years, and the Gordon-Keeble Owners’ Club claims that over 90 cars still exist today.
Studebaker had a more successful run than Gordon-Keeble, but still ran into similar financial difficulties and also finished production in 1966. Originally producers of wagons for farmers, miners and the military, Studebaker was founded in 1852 and began producing cars fifty years later. Although Studebaker’s cars were renowned for their quality and reliability, the company began to suffer throughout the 1950s and had to merge with luxury carmaker Packard to stay afloat. However, it simply wasn’t enough and the final car rolled off the assembly line on 16 March 1966.
The Studebaker Champion was one of the firm’s best-selling cars and is often credited with saving the Studebaker company from financial ruin long before it ceased production. Designed by Robert Bourke, the Studebaker Champion that will be on display at the Footman James Concours d’Elegance has had just one UK owner and only 68,000 miles on the clock from new. It won the Taylor Trophy at the Bugatti Owners Club Garden Party in 2015.
Although the Studebaker Champion and the Gordon-Keeble I.T have very different origins, they’re both excellent examples of their marque and have each been invited to many prestigious showings. It will be up to you to decide if either of them are worthy of the Best in Show award – be sure to pay the Footman James Concours d’Elegance a visit and cast your vote!