Gilbern Sports Cars (Components) Ltd was the only known car manufacturer in Wales – apart from AEM, who made a utility vehicle based on Mini running gear for only one year, 1987.
Gilbern was far more successful; it made sports cars from 1959 to 1973 in Llantwit Fardre, Pontypridd in Glamorgan. The company was founded by Giles Smith and Bernard Friese – hence the name. Friese was an expert in fibreglass moulding and all Gilbern bodies were made in this material.
The car on the right of our Slider is a GT, a 2+2 two-door coupé. The model was made from 1959 to 1967 and the registration confirms that this one is from 1965. The GT was initially powered by a 948 cc BMC A-Series engine with an optional Shorrock supercharger or a Coventry Climax 1098 cc engine. Later versions came with a B-series 1500 or 1600 cc MGA or 1800 cc MGB engine. 280 were made.
The Gilbern Genie succeeded the GT and was powered by a 2.5- or 3-litre Ford Essex V6 engine. Its more modern but rather boxy styling can be seen in the car on the left of our Slider – but this is not a Genie. The registration number is from 1970/1971, which identifies the car as an Invader – an improved version of the Genie made from 1969 to 1973. 197 Genies and 603 Invaders were made.
The cars were expensive for their specification and most of the cars were sold as kits, and the addition of VAT to kit cars led to the closure of the company in 1973 – but this very recent picture shows that the cars are still well-respected and cared for by enthusiasts.
Photo courtesy of Peter McFadyen. See his website: http://petermcfadyen.co.uk