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Triumph GT6

Published: 4th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph GT6
Triumph GT6
Triumph GT6

Buyer Beware

  • Rust is the biggest worry. Check the chassis first and foremost, crawling underneath to inspect the frame, especially the outriggers and the suspension pick up points. Look also for patchwork welding.
  • Look for shell rot in the floorpan, toe-boards (lift carpets for inspection and be suspicious if they are stuck down), inner and outer sills (can be serious here), door bottoms, rear arches and valance panel, front bulkhead, suspension pickup points and even the roof at screen’s edge.
  • Bonnet and door fit was never of BMW quality and it’s easy to ‘over-restore’ the car and do it better than when new! However, proud-fitting doors or a wonky bonnet may also shout a bent chassis due to rust or a past accident. So check.
  • Excessive crank end float is a well known Triumph trait. With an aid working the clutch, watch to see how much the crank pulley moves. If it’s bad then it’s a full on engine rebuild job.
  • The GT6 suffers from a marginal transmission, that struggles hard to cope under all that extra power. Undue noise isn’t uncommon, nor is gear lever ‘zizz’, caused by worn bushes. A no-go overdrive is usually down to a dodgy switch.
  • Is the right gearbox fitted? A GT6 should have synchro on first , while overdrive cars had a lower axle ratio for better pull as standard. Retro-fitted boxes will mean the car is higher geared than designed; no bad thing to be fair.
  • Listen and feel for roughness and clonking from the drivetrain, due to wear in the numerous universal joints and (Rotoflex) drive-shaft couplings employed.
  • The Triumph’s suspension needs a watch. It depends upon the type which is fitted to the car, but essentially check the transverse rear spring settling, due to age.
  • Look also for wear in its leaves and bushes, plus the usual deterioration of dampers. As a GT6 can be a handful at the best of times, it pays to see that the IRS set up (and those Rotoflex couplings) is kept in tip-top condition.
  • Front suspension design is simple and easy to access. Lack of maintenance is the main culprit for future problems, leading to the front suspension’s trunnions failing, along with the ball joints, drop links and front wishbones.
  • The trim suffers from the usual age-related problems although all parts are available, almost off the shelf. That said, new trim is pricey so factor this in when weighing up the car’s value.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Drives like a speedier, smoother Spitfire. Ride is not a strongpoint.

  • Usability: 3/5

    Acts like a hot hatch and as practical. Sunroof makes semi-roadster!

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Typically Triumph and DIY work is simplicity itself at the front.

  • Owning: 4/5

    No dearer to own than a Spitfire and that includes fuel economy.

  • Value: 4/5

    Compared to what equivalent MGBs go for, GT6 looks a bargain.

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It’s an MGB GT rival that’s a sort of Jaguar E-type… at Spitfire prices, too!

Did Triumph attempt to manufacture copy-cat cars? Last month we revealed that celeb and petrol-head Chris Evans owned a Spitfire many years ago because he felt it ‘Looked a bit like a classic Ferrari California’ – which he now also owns! Further up the range, everybody now reckons that the sorted Stag is like a ‘cut price Mercedes SL’ while since its launch in 1966, the GT6 has always been regarded as a miniature E-type! And out of all the Canley copy-cats, it’s arguably the most credible of the lot. With its long forward-hinged bonnet and a shapely sculptured fastback style, this ‘Spitfire on steroids’ makes more than a passable take on Browns Lane’s best. In fact, in the original 1966 Autocar launch report on the GT6, a caption stated, “There is a bulge in the bonnet and louvres, just like a Jaguar E-type.”’ Today, GT6s make inoffensive GTs that are more refined, smoother, swifter and yet cheaper than an equivalent MGB GT. So, while your saving up for the Jag, why not prepare yourself with this ‘beginner’s E-type?’

Which model to buy?

There were three generations of GT6, but only two are worth going for. In practical terms, the Mk1 was the best seller, with sales notably tailing off over the Triumph’s seven-year life. Ironically, unless you’re a purist, the Mk1 is seen as the model to side-step because the handling was at its worst. The Mk2 was not only more secure to drive, thanks to the much tamed two-litre Vitesse rear suspension mods being employed, but arguably the best looker; the raised front bumper height gave the car a much more sleeker, sexier appearance - those E-type connotations again. Also, power was upped, care of a TR5 cylinder head, to make the GT6 a much snappier performer. Last of the line Mk3s are probably the most sensible because there are more survivors. Also, the Spitfire Mk4 rear suspension was undoubtedly the most successful in execution when fitted to the speedier GT6. The Mk3 is also usefully more refined and plusher, especially 1973 cars. It depends whether you like the Stag rear end styling treatment grafted on or not; it looks far more at home on the Spitfire, it must be said. Unlike its fiercest rival, the MGB GT, there was never an automatic model made, which would have suited the Triumph well. Overdrive was an option for most of the GT6’s life and such are the benefits that, like the MG, it’s hard to live without. Many cars have had the overdrive retro-fitted, though probably without the specified axle change – more on this later. Another really worthy option is a sliding fabric sunroof, which gives GT6 Spitfire-like open air delights, but retains the versatility of a hatchback. It’s no wonder that so many cars came so equipped; 70s glass ‘porthole’ sunroofs are not so desirable however! Not an official model, because it would have embarrassed the TR range, but worth considering, is one of the many GT6-powered Spitfire conversions. If done properly, and there’s more to this conversion than just crow-barring in the straight six, they make a really competent and quick sports car. But, so many conversions are half-hearted, so be warned. These ‘converts’ are hard to value because it’s a matter of taste as well as workmanship, but the rest of the range is easy enough to price. The GT6 isn’t as regarded as highly in classic circles as the MGB GT, so prices are generally lower and it’s perfectly feasible to get a decent runner with a ticket for a couple of grand. Basket cases can be had for less than four figures, while it’s extremely rare to see a GT6 break the £10,000 barrier – the dearest we’ve ever seen a couple of years back was a Mk2 advertised for less than half its reputed £28,000 restoration! In the real world, expect to pay between £3-5000 for a good car; Mk3s are best all-rounders we reckon, but the Mk2s most desired and so usually dearer.

Behind the wheel?

Anybody used to a Spitfire will be instantly at home in a GT6

Anybody used to a Spitfire will be instantly at home in a GT6 and will appreciate its better quality of trim and comfort, if not the impaired visibility, especially when looking over your shoulder. For those new to the Triumph you need to familiarise yourself with the offset pedals but this won’t take too long. As the car is essentially a fast-backed Spitfire, it’s more Midget than MGB-sized and so a lot more cramped in the cockpit. This is also why the GT6 could only be a two-seater. Comparisons with the MGB GT are inevitable. Fierce in-house rivals they may have been, then and now, but in fact the GT6 is an entirely different animal to the MGB GT and so appeals to a different type of enthusiast. Devoid of the raffish charm of an MG, the Triumph is the smaller, smoother, sweeter and considerably swifter coupe that, in its day, posted an extremely impressive pace (0-60 9.5-12 seconds, depending on model), and was a true 110mph GT that could keep up with a TR, especially around the corners. The 1966 Autocar report noted, “The GT6 is much quieter and faster than the Spitfire, yet much more refined and somehow ‘tamer’ than the TR4A”’ Even back then, the handling needed care, as that Herald-derived chassis caused the rear wheels to tuck in and cause severe lift-off oversteer if you didn’t watch it. To be fair, this quirk applied mainly to the original GT6, as the, Mk2 and Mk3 designs are the much better behaved – particularly the latter. That said, the GT6 always needs respect, especially if you’re more used to secure front-wheel-drive moderns! ‘From awful to acceptable’, is how Car put it when pitching the Triumph against the MGB GT, liking the way the abrupt change from understeer to oversteer could be controlled by the driver. That said, there are numerous modifications you can carry out to make the rear tyres keep in line and a GT6 can be transformed into a tactile and grippy handler, although the ride suffers. And, if the GT6 does have a downside, it’s the rather knobbly ride. A shame because this Triumph is at its best as a tourer where that lazy, lusty engine twinned with lofty gearing keep the GT6 well in tune with today’s roads and fairly frugal with it. Quite a bit smaller than the MGB GT, the Triumph is a lot more refined and luxurious, although, unlike the B, there’s no rear perch for kids to enjoy the drive. You do get a similar, albeit smaller, just as useful hatch facility however.

The Daily Option?

The GT6 copes better as a daily driver than a Spitfire

In many ways, the GT6 will cope better as a daily driver than a Spitfire, thanks to its better performance and refinement. That straight six, when topped with an overdrive transmission, can see the right side of 30 mpg and more if driven considerately, which is on par with a hard used Spitfire! In good tune, the 2000cc unit has more than enough urge to cut it in modern traffic too and the GT6 is certainly lazier than a Spitfire. The Triumph’s excellent turning circle makes it a breeze to zip in and out of the back streets and park. Like the rest of the controls, the steering isn’t too heavy, so long as you don’t go over-wide on the tyres. With its rear hatch, there’s fair boot space for the usual supermarket shop. Many later cars came with a factory fit heated rear window – all it needs is an aftermarket rear wash wipe to finish it off for the winter. A fabric sunroof tops it off in more ways than one, as it aids the only-average ventilation system and is surprisingly useful all the year round.

Ease of Ownership?

The GT6 is typically Triumph to own, thanks to superb club and specialist support, providing all you need from a simple service to a full on restoration. The forward tipping bonnet allows unmatched access to the engine and front suspension assemblies and very few special tools are required on this car. Clutch changes are like the Spitfire and accomplished by removing the gearbox inside the car. As on most oldies, fitting electronic ignition is a wise policy and we’d suggest investing in having the twin carbs overhauled by a professional so they are in tip-top shape, as it makes a vast difference to the car’s running, performance and economy. It’s popular to go large if the engine requires an overhaul and take the 2.5 route although the smaller engine is sweeter. So long as you keep the chassis well protected, the GT6 rots no worse than any other 1960s classic and at least body panels are in good supply – and this includes



MK1 GT6 launched, based upon the Spitfire but enclosed in a fastback body taken from Le Mans Spitfire racers. Power comes from a stock Triumph 2000 95bhp straight six engine with beefed up running gear.


Mk2 surfaces for the Earls Court Motor Show. Bumper height raised to please US laws but the most important rethink was adopting the more stable, safer Vitesse Mk2 set up. TR5- cylinder head for 104bhp.


Revamped Mk2s gain a standard heater, plus heated rear window, while late '69 cars receive reclining seats and a flat spoke steering wheel. Identified by matt black windscreen surround and number plate/reversing light.


Mk3 hit the streets in October and, apart from better looks with a Stag-like rear end, it heralded yet another suspension revamp; a simpler swing spring rear design that was also employed on the MkIV Spitfire.


Before the GT6 bowed out, it benefited from a standard brake servo, improved (cloth) trim and tinted glass. Some 41,000 GT6s were made – the most popular being the MK1 strangely with Mk2 the least (12,066 sold).

We Reckon...

A miniature E-type? Given the GT6’s style, speed and smoothness it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. These GTs, which are far more than just a big-engined Spitfire, are still vastly underrated for what they offer. And, while they’ll hardly have Jag owners wanting to swap their E-type for one, a good Triumph GT6 is hard to better for the price.

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