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1960 Peerless GT

1960 Peerless GT-1.jpg

James "Jimmy" Byrnes was a hotelier and restaurateur in search of building a one-off car to be used in club racing.  With the help of Bernie Rodgers, the two ended up forming a small car company.  Using Mr. Byrnes' connections with the Board of Directors of of the Standard Triumph car company, the proposed race car would use Triumph parts.

Mr. Rodgers began building a multi-tube frame from rectangular steel tubing.  The completed chassis was given a Triumph TR3 drivetrain and clothed in an all aluminum body.  The completed prototype was initially dubbed "Warwick".  The completed car was tested and then shown and demonstrated to friends and enthusiasts.. The vehicle received great reviews and interest, percolating the idea of building a batch of production cars.

One individual who provided a great suggestion was John Gordon, the owner of a used car dealership.  His idea was to widen the body, providing more interior space for the occupant, plus improving the vehicles performance and stability.  With the wider track, Bernie Rodgers was able to fit a De Dion suspension setup instead of the Triumph TR3's live axle.

A second Warwick prototype was built, incorporating the wider track plus the lessons learned from the creation of the first car.   The completed vehicle was shown at the 1957 Paris Motor Show.   Wearing its lightweight aluminum body, the car was met with great reviews.  The enthusiasm for the car further promoted the idea of putting the car into production.

The two entrepreneurs were joined by Mr. Gordon.   After acquiring a bankrupt car dealership on whose property, American-made Peerless military trucks had previously been stored and serviced, the name of the car was changed to Peerless.  The company envisioned the car to sell well in the United States, and since the Peerless Company of Cleveland, Ohio was no longer building automobiles, they hoped to capitalize on the company's reputation and popularity .

Several changes were made to the Warwick prototype to better manage its build cost and make it more affordable to a wider audience of consumers.  Perhaps the biggest change was the switch to a fiberglass body. James Whitson Ltd., a local coachbuilding company, was hired to produce the fiberglass bodies.  Fiberglass was a bit of a gamble, as few automobile companies were using the technology.  The Kaiser Darrin and Chevrolet Corvette were some of the early promoters of the product, but it still was relatively new, and there were fears that they might be unable to convince buyers that it was a suitable replacement for the aluminum skins.

The completed product was entered in teh 1958 24 Hours of LeMans and piloted by Peter Joppe and Percy Crabb.  The car was finished in British Racing Green and given the number '24'.  It finished in 16th place overall and 4th place in the two liter Sports class.  The car averaged 83.6 mph and completed 240 laps and a total distance of 2006 miles.  The was a phenomenal finish, proving the cars durability, performance, and potential.

With the enthusiasm from the vehicle's showing at the Paris Motor Show and its performance at LeMans, sales were strong.   Orders outpaced the company's potential to satisfy the requests.  After around 240 cars had been produced, the Peerless Company decided to add improvements to the car.   One of the changes was to switch suppliers.  The bodies were now being built by the Wincanton Transport and Engineering Company.   The bodies produced by the Wincanton Compandy were similar to the Whitson Company, but the process in which they were created was much different.   The cars built by the Whitson Company used 57 different molded parts which were then bonded together to create the bodyshell.   These were then bonded and pop-riveted to the tubular steel chassis.   The Wincanton Company used  a single part created in a large, multi-section mold.   The resulting product had greater structural rigidity and strength .  Upon completion, the bodyshells were bolted to the tubular steel chassis, making it possible to easily remove the bodies if needed.

In total, around 325 examples were built.  Seventy examples were left-hand drive cars which were exported to the United States.  Thought the company had been poised for greater success, things unraveled when John Gordon left.  He had been the company's principle salesman and promoter.

Though the company was short lived, much was accomplished.   They had created a competitive, lightweight, and nimble sports car that had competed at LeMans with stunning results.  Introduced in 1957 as a 2-seat coupe with Triumph running gear, it proved to have more potential as a 2=2.  The bodies features a prominent pair of finned rear fenders lflanking a deep fastback rear deck, utilizing a TR3 front suspension, engine, and gearbox.  These cost-effective limited production 2=2 GTTs are amoung the most exclusive and unusual from the U.K..

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