Rochdale GT GT


The Rochdale GT


The GT was the most popular Rochdale of all, selling around 1350 units. It came about in part because Harry Smith's wife wanted a proper car, with a roof and seats for the children. With the help of a local lad, Richard Parker, Harry and Frank set about designing the GT. They took the F-type bodyshell, added a roof and modified the styling to suit it.


The GT bore a striking resemblance to the E-type Jaguar launched four years later, despite its smaller proportions. The body was more practical than the ST as it was stiff enough to be used on an unboxed chassis. It came complete with a fitted curved windscreen and opening windows and quarterlights (using the tops of Morris Minor doors); these were quality features rare in kit cars at the time. The inner wheelarches, bulkhead and part floor sections like the ST were bonded in, while the integral dashboard featured a centre panel which would take Ford instruments with glove pockets either side. The bodyshell was specifically aimed at the plentiful supply of knackered Ford 8 and Popular cars on the market in the late 1950s, and even came with tubular steel 'legs' so that it could be lowered over a Ford chassis, holes drilled and bolts inserted, then the 'legs' cut off and the car driven away.


The shell with doors, all windows and bonnet ready fitted was sold for £140. The GT hit the market at the right time: it looked good, had space for small rear seats and was easy to fit. It wasn't long before Harry and Frank had to take on extra staff to cope with the demand and to make extra moulds.

The GT merited proper features in Motor and Autosport magazines at the time: both were most impressed. Autosport reported that shells were constructed of chopped strand mat and resin incorporating a dye, with thickness varying between 1/8 and 1/4 inch depending upon the different points of stress. A body took one week to complete, with no forced drying process; in fact on sunny days the bodies were lined up in the road outside the factory to cure.

Most GT bodies found their way onto Ford chassis, though a number of more unusual cars were created. One of the most interesting was a Cooper Mark IV chassis with a supercharged Ford 100E engine, MG TD gearbox and independent suspension all round. It claimed a performance of 0-60mph in 10secs and 112mph top speed! Other cars used the purpose-designed GTI/R chassis from Buckler; of the two surviving today, one is powered by an MGA engine. A number were also sold from January 1960 with Rochdale's own tubular steel chassis, a large diameter twin-tube unit created with its own glassfibre floorpan bonded to either GT or Riviera bodies. The lightweight chassis could be supplied with swing-axle independent front suspension, Watt linkage rear axle location and telescopic spring damper units all round.


Copyright © Malcolm McKay - Early Rochdales Registrar

Rochdale GT

Copyright © Rochdale Owners Club
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