While Ernie Knott would undoubtedly have been aware of the Gordon-Keeble from early on, it was 1969 before the distinctive burble of the car’s V8 attracted his attention. Owned by an acquaintance, this white example gave Ernie his first opportunity to examine one in detail and to drive it. He was instantly hooked! Some sleepless nights followed as he wrestled with how to finance the purchase of a suitable car.
Spotting an advertisement in ‘Autocar’, he obtained chassis no.32 as a non-running, but otherwise reasonable, example and set about finding the necessary parts to repair the engine. And not convinced with its handling, Ernie sought a preliminary ‘fix’ by swapping the crossply tyres for radials.
The personal satisfaction of owning and driving his car led Ernie to think about tracing other owners of the marque, to ascertain what they thought and how they came to own theirs. He wrote letters to ‘Autocar’ and ‘Motor’ magazines, announcing the intention to hold a meeting to form a register.
Within a short space of time, he began getting responses from enthusiastic owners, each receiving a personal reply. Arranging a get-together at Silverstone on 25th July 1970, a total of 17 Gordon-Keebles assembled on the Grand Prix circuit near Woodcote Corner. The cars at this inaugural meeting were:
Chassis numbers 2, 3, 4, 32, 36, 41A, 42, 48, 50, 58, 60, 63, 64, 67, 75, 79, 93.
Attendees voted unanimously for Ernie to be the Chairman of what would henceforth be the Gordon-Keeble Owners’ Club.
In the meantime, the motor magazines in which the letters had appeared were spreading further afield, reaching Australia, New Zealand and North America. As each ‘new’ car surfaced, the owner was asked to ‘keep an eagle eye’ for other Gordon-Keebles. It was surprising how the numbers began to swell.
At this point, Ernie decided to inaugurate the Owners’ Index, listing each car’s chassis number, registration plate, owners’ details, interior and exterior colours. As time went on, and modifications to the cars were developed, this information was also recorded. To this day, this index is faithfully maintained.
The second meeting of the Club was also held at Silverstone, to the rear of the Woodcote grandstand, as the track was in use at the time. Ernie recalled that there several more cars present this time, including nos.1 and 99.
The 1972 meeting was a bumper one, organised by the then owner of no.99, Eric Almond. Held in the grounds of Basingstoke Council’s Social Club in Hampshire, no less than 29 cars took part – an attendance figure that was not exceeded until the marque’s 40th anniversary event in 2004.
A quarterly newsletter was produced for members by Ernie and his secretary Agnes Malone, keeping owners up to date with news of club get-togethers, modifications (mostly to his own no.32) and any ‘new’ cars discovered. With the retirement of Agnes in 1975, a fellow-fan of the Gordon-Keeble – Ann Lakas – came on board to take over officially as the Club Secretary and would later become Ernie’s wife.
By the mid-1970s, the classic car culture we know today had begun, and the opportunity arose for Ernie and Ann to further the impact and awareness of the Gordon-Keeble marque, by displaying Gordon-Keebles at important Shows at venues such as London’s Alexandra Palace and Earls Court.
The 1980s saw Ernie elected President of the Club, with the Chairmanship served by a selected club member for initially one-year stints, later extended to two. In 1993, the roles of General Secretary, Membership Secretary and Treasurer were allocated to appointed members, as was Magazine Editor. Ann was later appointed Vice-President and is currently the Club Treasurer.
Ernie passed away in 2002, the role of President then remaining unfilled until it was resolved at the Club’s AGM in 2022 that Roy Dowding, an owner and club member for some 33 years, currently Club Secretary and long-serving Magazine Editor, should henceforth be Honorary President.
Over the years, the Club has continued to mature, but not changed its fundamental principles – to preserve and perpetuate the Gordon-Keeble car, to keep the marque in the public consciousness and to provide a core fellowship of owners and associates.
Served by a committee of dedicated officers looking after event attendance, advice, communications and marque history, the Club has an enthusiastic membership, its newsletter is now a high-quality magazine and its forays reach abroad occasionally while regularly attending and supporting local, charity, club and high-profile national Shows at home.