Curbside Classic: 1995 DARE Ginetta G12 – Who DAREs Wins

It’s a rare treat to introduce a new marque into the CCannon. We’ve had a lot of obscure oddballs on this site over the years – some home-made one-offs, even – but never a Ginetta. Of course, the wrinkle is that this is not one of the original G12s Ginetta made back in the ‘60s, but a very faithful re-creation. Still counts, though, right?

I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to British sports cars in Tokyo. They have the means, the will and the desire to import absolutely every and anything here, and they certainly don’t mind taking their pride and joy out for a stroll if the weather’s nice. But this still was a bit of a jolt to see on the street, as it is really more of a racer than something you’d use for a Sunday morning jaunt downtown.

Now might be a good time to refresh our collective memories about the Ginetta marque – though I’m sure we’re all quite familiar with the name, right? Right. Ginetta was founded in 1958 by the four Walklett brothers, who designed and engineered all Ginettas for the marque’s first three decades. These were kit cars to begin with, in the Lotus Seven / TVR fashion.

Some Ginetta models used Rootes underpinnings (e.g. the Hillman Imp-based G15), but the Ford and Cosworth connections were pretty strong, lasting beyond the 1989 selling of the firm by its four founders. The ‘90s proved to be quite rocky times for Ginetta, but this most specialized carmaker still managed to keep its head above water to the present day. Typical British pluck!

For some Ginetta aficionados, one of the firm’s best designs was their first mid-engined racer, the 1966-69 G12. But like most Ginettas made in those early days, production was minimal – some sources claim 28 units, others 50. Suffice to say, the number of well-heeled G12 fans outnumbers the number of available cars by a considerable amount. Since the ‘80s, market forces demanded that more G12s ought to be built to address this discrepancy, so a solution was found.

In fact, when the brothers Walklett sold Ginetta Cars (at a very good price, apparently), they reinvested some of this windfall into a new company, founded and run by two of the brothers, Trevor and Ivor, called Design And Research Engineering (DARE). The idea was to license the Ginetta G4 and G12 designs to re-start production of these highly regarded models. The client base, it turns out, was particularly numerous in Japan.

The G12 as produced by DARE from 1990 onward was somewhat different from its late ‘60s ancestor, of course. On the whole, the newer cars kept the all-important ‘60s curvy look, a sort of cross between 7/8th-size Ford GT40 and a Porsche 904, with a dash of Dino 208GT for good measure.

The interior was far more business-like than the original cars – gauges galore, Momo steering wheel, but no luxuries. It all looks very much like it was made in a shed, somewhere in England. Which it was.

This thing is barely domesticated. It is licensed for the road, but it really looks like it belongs on a racetrack. Not entirely clear what those ugly air ducts are for exactly – it looks like a modification made by the owner subsequently.

The spaceframe chassis changed a bit, but not dramatically so. The original G12’s front suspension used to rely on Triumph bits, but those were no longer available in the ‘90s. instead, DARE made their own cocktail of double wishbones, aluminium adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar and coil springs. The G12’s rear suspension consisted in a reversed lower wishbone and upper link with radius arms and coil springs, plus the same dampers and anti-roll bar as in the front. This, plus “added lightness” in several places on the body, tots up to a mere 650kg, making this pocket rocket a very agile little machine.

One major difference with the G12s of yore was the engine, which in the ‘60s was limited to 1 litre. The ‘90s recreation’s 2-litre Cosworth churns out 190hp – well over twice the power available on the older G12. This is mated to an Elite 5-speed transaxle with a menu of available ratios, depending on customer wishes. But whereas the original G12 was still a kit car, the DARE recreations are nearly always sold as a complete vehicle.

For those who wish for even more power, there are Duratec 2.3 and 2.5 litre engines that can be tuned up to 300hp available nowadays. I’m not sure when these were first included in the range (getting solid info about DARE is a little difficult), but 190hp is surely more than enough to be getting on with.

DARE soon overtook Ginetta proper in terms of production, even creating novel designs of their own. Both firms are still in existence, as far as I can tell. Ivor Walklett, the last surviving of the four fraternal founders, is apparently still active with DARE, though he is well into his 80s.

This DARE Ginetta is as true to its ‘60s forebear as can be. Even if it’s more recent than the genuine article, it kept the spirit pretty much intact – far more than Caterham did with the Lotus Seven.

Most crucially, that swoopy body really stands out in today’s traffic. Compared to all the wedgy, edgy and angry-looking computer-generated supercars that scrape the pavement in this city, the Ginetta looks like it was drawn by a person and made, warts and all, entirely by hand. As long as legislation allows for these little wonders to be made and sold, there will always be a small but highly motivated client-base for this type of car.