See the American-born Igbo man that designed the iconic 1967 McLaren-based Ikenga GT


Posted by: Oluwaseun Adeniji

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The popular Innoson Ikenga SUV was built on the platform of an Ikenga GT prototype, originally built by a Brooklyn-born Igbo man.

Many might associate the SUV dubbed Ikenga with Innoson but what many might not know is that the prototype – Ikenga GT used for this SUV is a 1960s McLaren-based vehicle, designed and built by an Igbo man in the United Kingdom.


Prototype popular Innoson Ikenga SUV was built and named after, was originally created by an American-born Igbo man

The Ikenga GT prototype was designed by David Gittens, a Brooklyn-born artist and staff photographer from the periods of 1958 to 1964, at the Car and Driver magazine.

The model got its name from a spirit, well represented by the horned statue derived from a culture in Eastern Nigeria. The name “Ikenga” means accomplishment, success or achievement.


Just one unit was ever manufactured till date, dubbed as World's Wildest Street Racer by Car and Driver magazine

In order to create this prototype model, the designer had to ask for assistance from Williams and Pritchard. The MKI, which was the first version was created on the Group 7 chassis known with McLaren Elva and was finished in 1967. In 1968, the MKI blocky design was succeeded by the MKII, which was a restyled model. The newer version offered a set of Gucci luggage, leather, on-board television and a rear-view camera, rear deck lid, fluorescent-tube headlamps, telematics radio system, collision warning system, ultrasonic parking sensors, tilt-away steering wheel and other advanced features by Gitten and company.


The Ikenga GT prototype was named by David Gittens after the spirit represented by a horned statue in Igbo culture

>>> Still on Innoson IVM Ikenga SUV. See when Innoson introduced all-new 7-seaters & bus named African commute King

The exterior designs, evocative of an African mask looking upward, is one of the most fascinating features on the car. Its interior is a clear representation of the “eyes” from the mask, the roof’s raised-intake is for the “nose” while the “mouth” is the decklid at the back of the car.


The first version - MK1, was built and completed using the Group 7 chassis found on the McLaren-Elva in 1967

The earlier engine comes fitted with original race-tuned Traco-Oldsmobile car engine, which was its chassis before it was replaced by V8 3.5-liter Rover lightweight engine. The Prototype Ikenga GT can accelerate from a standstill of zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds and a peak speed of 162 mph.

The model- Ikenga MKII was marketed in 1968 at the Earls Court Motor Show, an event attended by 30,000 people. The prototype was reportedly bought for a sum of $53,000. Another prototype dubbed “Bird of Peace” was commissioned by a Saudi prince at $35,000, but was never produced.


The restyled MKII came fitted with some advanced and fascinating features, developed by the Gittens and company

The Igbo designer also promoted the newer model – MKII in the U.S, where the model made a special cover appearance on the Car and Driver Magazine for the April 1969 issue. Gittens also planned to manufacture 100 to 150 units of the Ikenga GT at the retail cost of $16,000, but the first model MKI later confiscated by creditors. Afterward, he was only able to build the MKII prototype.

In 2008, the Ikenga GT was resold to the new owner from the `Middle East in 2008 after it was earlier sold in 1998 at an auction.

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Oluwaseun Adeniji

Oluwaseun Adeniji

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Oluwaseun Adeniji is a passionate writer and a poet with special interest in writing about cars. He is a master degree holder in international conflict and management. He enjoys feeding the public with the latest auto gist and well researched car reviews. He is also a strong football lover. So, if Oluwaseun is not writing, expect him to be reading about sports.


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