The shimmering blue Ikenga made its public debut in London’s Harrods department store in October 1968. It was the dreamchild of Brooklyn-born, 29-year-old David Gittens, and 30,000 people flocked to admire it.
Gittens’ work as an advertising photographer brought him to London in 1964, and a casual chat one day about the tarnished image of British cars was the impetus to design his own. But he needed help to build it, a chassis, and hard cash.
The first came from race engineer Ken Sheppard and north London body-builders, Williams & Pritchard. The mid-engined chassis was from a secondhand Mclaren Mk1 racing car. And finally, Copleys merchant bank in the City provided the finance.
At 38in (97cm) high, it was extreme, with the entire front and rear sections of the car swinging open, clamshell-style, to reveal the cramped, leather-clad two-seater cockpit with square, tilt-away steering wheel, and Chevrolet Camaro Z28 engine. But when Charlie Williams, who built the body, died in 1969, plans to make the car with American backing fell apart. Gittens returned to the US, the only prototype seized by his main creditor, Copleys Bank.
“I walked into some companies and said: ‘I have a car and I think this will be an answer to the Lamborghini—and a very representative car of England’. Enough of them agreed to co-operate so we could get the whole thing going.”
Interview With David Gittens, Car And Driver Magazine, 1969
Specification: Model of the car Ikenga
YEAR REVEALED: 1968
PLACE OF ORIGIN: London, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS: prototype
ENGINE: V8-cylinder, 396ci (6,489cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 325bhp
LAYOUT: mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: single-canopy, two-seater coupé
TOP SPEED: 162mph (261kph) (claimed)
NUMBER BUILT: one