Famous 1967 McLaren-based Ikenga GT that Was Designed By American-born Nigerian
The Ikenga GT is a prototype car designed by Nigerian- American man and built in the United Kingdom in1967. Only one was ever built. The Ikenga GT was one of the most advanced vehicles in the 60s.
The futuristic car was dubbed by Car and Driver magazine the “World’s Wildest Street Racer.”
Today, Innoson’s new SUV comes to mind when the name “Ikenga” is mentioned in Nigerian Automobile world.
But before it, there was a McLaren-based prototype car that was designed by a Nigerian man and built in UK in the 1960s. Named the Ikenga GT, the prototype car was designed by Brooklyn-born artist David Gittens. Gittens was a staff photographer at Car and Driver magazine from 1958 to 1964.
David Gittens named the car after a spirit that is often represented by a horned statue in his ancestral Igbo culture. The name Ikenga represents human achievement, accomplishment and success. To build the car, David Gittens turned to Williams and Pritchard. The first version of the car, the Mk1, built on a McLaren-Elva Group 7 chassis, was completed in 1967.
The blocky design of the Mk1 was quickly followed by the restyled MkII in 1968. This version received a leather interior, a set of Gucci luggage and some advanced features that were developed by Gittens and company.
Some of the advanced features includes
•rear deck lid that doubled as an air brake
•on-board television and rear-view camera
•a luminescent roof lining
•a telematics radio system to warn of road problems ahead
•a collision warning system
•ultrasonic parking sensors
•a tilt-away steering wheel
The body of the Ikenga was meant to be evocative of an African mask facing skyward. The cockpit canopy represented the “eyes” of the mask; the raised intake on the roof the “nose”; and the rear deck lid the “mouth”. Initially powered by its chassis’ original race-tuned Traco-Oldsmobile engine, this engine was later replaced by a stock version of the lightweight 3.5 litre Rover V8 engine. Ikenga GT can move from 0-60 mph in five seconds and to 100 mph in 11.5 seconds. Top speed was estimated to be 162 mph (261 km/h)
To promote the car, the Ikenga MkII was displayed during the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1968.
30,000 people saw the Ikenga MkII during the show, including one who offered $53,000 for the prototype. A Saudi prince also commissioned a unique version of the car called the “Bird of Peace” at a cost of $35,000. But the “Bird of Peace” was never built.
also promoted the MkII in the United States. The car appeared on the cover of the April 1969 issue of Car and Driver magazine. Just like any other special car, Gittens planned a limited run of 100 to 150 Ikenga GT’s. Each of the production car was expected to cost about ₤9000 or US$16,800, Eventually, Gittens’ brainchild, the Ikenga Grand Tourer, was seized by creditors. So only one Ikenga GT, the prototype MKII, was ever built.
The car was displayed at the Manx Motor Museum for some time before being sold at auction in 1998. The Ikenga GT was resold in 2008 to a new owner in the Middle East.
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