The ingenuity of the Black man and his contributions to the advancement of humanity has remained one of our major focus here at ‘Liberty Writers Africa’. We take great pride in researching and teaching our family here of the great and noble achievements of their ancestors. Black people worldwide should always raise their heads high, knowing fully well that they have contributed more to the advancement of humanity more than any other people.
The story of David Gittens, a Brooklyn born Igbo man, is one that speaks volumes of the contributions of the Black man in the automobile industry.
He was an artist and designer, and was an employee of Car and Driver magazine, as a staff photographer, from 1958 to 1964. After he got married in 1964, he and his wife moved to London. There he continued his career in photography and focused mainly on weddings and advertising. He would later advance his career and started to do transportation designing.
When he started, he ventured into some of the most complex designs at the time. He had a number of proposed projects, of which were a ‘gas-powered single-seat city car, an electric city car, a Reliant-Based three-wheeled car, a small car based on Mini Moke Chassis, an expandable six-wheeled vehicle, and finally his high-performance mid-engined grand touring car which he later named the “Ikenga GT“.
To achieve his goals, he bought a used chassis of the McLaren car model from Ken Sheppard. The limited production of his Ikenga GT was also to be run by Sheppard. When he got into the development phase, he contracted it to Charles Williams of the William & Pritchard, which was a coachbuilding company. To finance the project, he got money through Copley’s merchant Bank.
The name, Ikenga, which he chose for the car model is of Igbo origin. The Ikenga, to Ndi Igbo, represents accomplishment, success, achievement, strength, power, and justice. It is an embodiment of noble spirits, represented by a horned statue.
David Gittens completed the first version of the Ikenga GT in 1967, which he modeled MK1. He restyled the MK1 into the MKII the following year, with a classic leather interior, together with a complementary set of Gucci luggage. He also added some advanced lightning features to the new model.
Gittens’s Ikenga GT started to draw the attention of the larger American community, and also the international community. It was first put on display at the Banking Hall at Harrods, during the Earls Court Motor Show, in 1968. The car was seen by 30,000 people at the Banking Hall. One of the spectators offered $53,000 for Gittens to sell the prototype. Also, a Saudi Prince commissioned a unique version of the Ikenga GT – it was to be called “Bird of Peace”, at the cost of $35,000.
Gittens did not have the intention of producing his cars in enormous quantities. He planned for the Ikenga GT to be a limited model, with a maximum of 100 or 150 cars, which were to be priced at ₤9000 or US$16,800 each.
The promotion of the car kicked off in the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, and reached other parts of the world in no time. In April 1969, Car and Driver Magazine featured the Ikenga GT on the cover of their magazine. In the summer of that same year, an American group offered Gittens to distribute the car in the US. A day after the company made the offer, the developer, Charles William died suddenly.
The death of Charles Williams was a big blow to the restyling of the Ikenga, which was then ongoing. The Ikenga MKII was been restyled to a newer MKIII. Gittens transferred the job to the Radford coachworks for the completion of the restyling, with the assistance of Roger Nathan among others. The new team were outstanding with the restyling and the MKIII was ready by October of 1969.
In the same 1969, the car was sent to France, where it was put on display at the Paris Auto Show; although before this, the car was featured in an episode of the BBC series ‘Tomorrow’s World’. From France, the Ikenga GT was taken to Italy, where it won an innovation award at the Turin Auto Show. The following year, 1970, the car made an appearance at the Swedish International Motor Show in Stockholm.
It is however very unfortunate that the car was recalled and seized by creditors, prompting Gittens to return to the United States. The car was then put on display at the Manx Motor Museum for a while, and then later sold at an auction in 1998, and later in another auction in 2008. Sources believe that the Ikenga GT is currently somewhere in the Middle East.
It would seem that the people with the “Big money” had frustrated the works and ingenuity of Gittens. We hope that we can expand on this article and get more information as to why the “Ikenga GT” was pulled off the world stage and in turn halted. Although the Ikenga GT was stopped, Gittens went ahead to produce a line of Gyroplanes – which he named ‘Ikenga 530Z. Reports say that one of his Gyroplanes are part of the history and innovation collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.