- Best model: Mk3
- Worst model: Mk1
- Budget buy: Mk2
- OK for unleaded?: No
- Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 3937 x 1470
- Spares situation: Excellent
- DIY ease?: Couldn’t be easier
- Club support: Superb
- Appreciating asset?: Very gradually
- Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy
Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%Subscribe NOW
Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith
Triumph’s GT6 has much in common with the Coventry cat but not the costs! And with prices similar to the Spitfi re, it’s the bargain big brother
Pros & Cons
There’s a reason why Triumph’s GT6 has been compared with Jaguar’s seminal XKE, and it certainly isn’t because of its unattainable status. Svelte lines, a torquey straight-six engine, decent handling (at least on later models) and a practical hatchback body are shared by both, but only one can be bought for pocket money, restored cheaply and run for peanuts. And it’s not the one with a leaping cat on the nose!
A development of the racing Spitfi res earlier that decade, the GT6 debuted in October 1966, using the Vitesse’s 95bhp 1998cc straight-six and fourspeedmanual gearbox with optional overdrive.Externally the front and rear ends were pure Spitfi re (Mk1 & 2), using the same lighting and bumper arrangements; 15,818 Mk1s were made; it was judged to be a good effort at making a stylish affordable GT – but the handling sorely taxed the Herald-derived chassis to its limits. Two years later the Mk2 arrived, complete with a TR5 cylinder head to give a pokier 104bhp. The biggest change on Mk2 models – thankfully – was the adoption of rotofl ex rear suspension in place of the swing-axle layout of Mk1s to improve th odious handling. Styling changes included the higher bumper of the Mk3 Spitfi re along with louvres in the top of the bonnet and the front wings which prettied the car up considerably and gave it a real E-type like air. Rostyle wheel trims replaced the disc wheels of the Mk1 and louvreswere incorporated into the C-pillar behind the rear side windows. Interior ventilation was also greatly improved and a heated rear window wasnow standard. American versions of the Mk2 were badged GT6 Plus but detoxing the engine dropped power to barely 80bhp.. A revised Mk2 was launched just 12 months later to stave off the in house rivalry from the MGB GT. Featuring upgraded interior trim, there was also a beefed up structure to meet the new American crash test regulations. 12,066 Mk2s (of both types) rolled off the line. Reclining seatswere now standard to greatly improve the driving position. The Mk3 debuted in October 1970 and was the best of the lot, featuring styling cues shared with the Spitfi re Mk4, introduced at the same time. A sleeker bodyshell was the biggest change with a de-seamed bonnet and revised rear end styling that aped the Stag. Rather late in the day, February 1973 in fact, saw a revised Mk3 with the Spit’s swing-spring rear suspension, new instrumentation, standard brake servo and cloth seats. But a lack of publicity meant sales continued to slide, leading to the GT6’s demise in November 1973, after 13,042 Mk3s had been produced. In total some 41,000 GT6s were made – the most popular being the MK1 strangely with the Mk3 the least (13,042 sold). As good as the GT6 was when new, sales actually amounted to a fraction of what the Spitfi re achieved and only slightly bettered the four-seater Vitesse!
Did those comparisons with the Jag E-type extend to its performance? Well, sort of. The straight six (All GT6s were fi tted with a 2-litre, although thelong-stroke 2.5-litre unit from the TR5/6 can be slotted in easily enough) provides ample power and torque for some seriously relaxed cruising; with a 3.27:1 back axle and overdrive switched in, a GT6 can cross continents without breaking into a sweat. You might break into a sweat though, as the GT6’s cabin is fairly cramped and that six-pot engine throws out a lot of heat! No wonder so many also boast a fabric sunroof.Those compact dimensions mean the cute looking GT6 is easy to place on the road and it’s agile too as it doesn’t weigh very much – but it is nose heavy, as that engine features a cast-iron head and block. Because you sit right between the axles, the ride is pretty good (better than a Spitfi re) while the brakes are strong too in standard form. The only real fly in the ointment is the handling of non-rotofl ex cars – but there are all sorts of solutions to this, including a swing-spring conversion or you could simply opt for a car with rotofl ex. However, in reality you’ll only notice the GT6’s unwieldy handling defi ciencies if you drive it very hard; use it for cruising instead and you’ll never notice anything amiss while there’s quite a bit you can do to improve its road manners andmake this coupe a good handler. Comparisons with the MGB (or should that be MGC?) are inevitable. The GT6 is some four inches shorter and getting on for two inches narrower than the MG and this manifests itself in a tighter-fi t cockpit – so tight that a 2+2 facility (as on the MG) is impossible. But the Triumph is smoother and creamier on the move with a plusher cabin.
Any GT6 with an MoT is worth at least £1500 – even a restoration project is worth no less than half that. There’s little difference in values between the different versions, although the Mk3 is slightly more desirable. The best showwinning cars will fetch £9000 while a really superb example is worth closer to £7000. A decent car that needs no work but won’t win any prizes either costs around £3000. Compared to an MG, let an E-type, then the GT6 looks a bargain… Pricing Spitfi res converted to GT6 is harder as it depends upon the quality of the conversion, but it’s as well to remember that Spitfi re values largely shadow those of its bigger brother.
If the original canister type of oil fi lter is still fi tted it’s worth investing around £40 for a spin-on conversion. That will allow you to fi t a modern type of fi lter with a non-return valve on it, meaning the bearings won’t be starved of lubricant when you start it up, eliminating that start up rattle. No GT6 had overdrive fi tted as standard, but it was available as a highly desirable factory-fi tted option. Few Mk1 owners ticked the box but it became increasingly popular during the car’s life and most Mk3s owners specifi ed it because a non overdrive car feels too fussy on modern roads. A lot of GT6s have it fi tted nowadays because it’s easy enough to retro-fi t – and overdrive is worthwhile because it’s more relaxed driving a car equipped with it. And more so if you raise the fi nal drive ratio at the same time. Unusually, when new a GT6 with overdrive was not a great deal more serene to drive at speed than one without. That’s because the fi nal drive ratio on cars not equipped with the extra ratios was lowered to 3.27:1 from the previous 3.89:1, to improve acceleration rather than make highspeed cruising more long-legged. The engine can easily be taken out to 2.5-litres, of course plus there’s further scope for 2.7-litres- but then it gets expensive. Around 180bhp is easily attainable for fast yet relaxed road use while there’s enough suspension and brake upgrades on the market to contain that new-found power. Fitting the swing spring set up as found on the last cars is a wise move and costs around £150, taking a day to fi t. Add quality dampers such as adjustable Koni or Spax units along with quality suspension bushes with a four-wheel geometry check and the GT6 can be made to handle really well and devour a TR6. Wider and grippier quality tyres top the job off, although don’t go overboard say the experts – 185 section is tops.
What To Look For
- Decent used chassis can be found, but not new ones – but bear in mind that everything is based around the chassis, so if it needs replacing you’re going to have to remove the brakes, steering, suspension and bodywork – and you can bet you’ll end up fi nding problems with some of those along the way.
- Even if the chassis doesn’t need work, the bodywork probably will, especially the sills, fl oors and wheelarches. The GT6’s sills are structural and if they along with the fl oorpans haven’t been replaced yet, the chances are they’ll need renewing before long.
- Nearly all panels are available new and are fairly easy to fit, but if somebody else has already done this, make sure the panels lineup – putting else somebody else’s bodge is far harder than starting from scratch.
- Check under the false boot floor where the metal fl oor meets the arch – the passenger side is hidden under the petrol tank but the off-side will give a good idea of condition. All versions have a habit of corroding between the rear lights, and as new panels aren’t available you’ll have to be handy with the MiG.
- Some of the most rot-prone parts are the doors, which can rust very badly once moisture has got trapped in the seam between the shell and the skin, but thankfully shells usually remain sound, needing only a new skin.
- Other rot spots include the bottom of the hatch aperture which fi lls with water then rots out and the double-skinned leading edge of the roof where it meets the windscreen surround – condensation collects in the seam and rots from the inside out.
- As if all this wasn’t enough, it’s common for the master cylinders on the bulkhead to leak brakefl uid onto the metal panels below. Once this has stripped the paint, corrosion will follow.
- Even if there’s no discernible rust anywhere, the car may have been in an impact at some point. Poor shutlines are common on otherwise wellrestored GT6s because aligning the panels can be very tricky. The easiest way of telling if the car has been shunted is to look at the chassis rails in front of the engine – although if you do need to replace the bonnet, you’d better have at least £600 handy.
- The Triumph straight-six engine is famed for its oil leaks (which protects the front chassis area), and rattles at start up. But thankfully these ‘characteristics’ can be engineered out without too much diffi culty or expense. All GT6s were fi tted with a 1998cc straight-six and if looked after with oil changes every 6000 miles, it’ll last 100,000 miles between rebuilds without any real problem.
- The universal joints and diff can struggle with the engine’s torque. If an owner has been overenthusiastic, there may be play in the system; the diff will whine loudly if it’s tired.
- Clonking from the transmission as you take up the drive is worn universal joints. Replacements are only £10 apiece, and replacing them isn’t tricky, but you might have to do all four if things are really bad. If there’s lots of vibration once cruising, all four joints might need replacing.
- The plastic bushes in the remote gearchangemechanism wear out eventually, but fi tting a new set is cheap and easy; £20 for a pack.
- If overdrive is fi tted but not working, it’s probably only an electrical connection playing up or a lack of oil pressure because the unit’s internal fi lter needs a clean. But if the unit has called it a day you can buy a rebuilt overdrive for £300 on an exchange basis.
- If the car has rotofl ex suspension, make sure the couplings are okay. Even genuine Metalastik ones typically last no more than 35,000 miles. If the car doesn’t use rotofl ex things are a lot simpler as you’ve then only got to be concerned with the rear bearings, which last well.
- The main thing to check with the rear suspension is the condition of the transverse leaf spring, which sags. Replacing it isn’t especially pricey at around £100, but it’s a devil of a job without the correct spring lifter.
- Swing spring (late Mk3) cars will probably only need new rubber pads between the leaves. There’s also a rubber bush at each end of the leaf spring along with bushes in the radius arms.
- Anti-roll bar drop links can break off; new ones are £19 a pair. The wishbones are fi tted with rubber bushes, as are the anti-roll bar mounts and the steering rack mountings.
- Although the Herald family of cars has a reputation for suffering from irritable trunnion syndrome, it’s only if the car has been neglected that you’re likely to have problems. If they’ve been lubricated as specifi ed in the owner’s manual, they’ll be fi ne. But few owners know that every 6000 miles EP90 is supposed to be pumped in (not grease).
- The trunnions themselves are brass and don’t give problems – it’s the cast iron vertical link which threads into the trunnion which breaks. Replacement links cost £56 a piece.
- Pressed-steel wheels were standard, but many have been swapped for alloys or wires. Because the GT6 has an unusual offset check that they’re not rubbing if aftermarket wheels are fi tted. If wire wheels have been put on, make sure that the spokes haven’t broken and that the splines haven’t worn. The widest tyres that will comfortably fi t are 175 or 185s.
Three Of A Kind
Datsun 240ZThe fi rst in a long line of driverfocused six-pot coupes, the 240Z is appreciated now more than ever, which is why values have climbed sharply in recent years. That’s seen an increasing number of cars restored properly, so you won’t have to look quite so hard to fi nd a good one – but you still need check very carefully for rot.
Ford CapriIt arrived in the same year as the 240Z, it’s been a cult classic for years and like the Datsun, values have been steadily. Early V6s are hugely sought after and theydon’t have hatchback practicality; that arrived with the MkII of ‘74. Best of the lot though is the MkIII from 1978, especially in 2.8i form; it’s a mini Aston Martin.
MGC GTThe MGB is easier to fi nd and if you’re prepared to settle for a rubber-bumpered edition you won’t need to pay much – but an interesting alternative is the six-cylinder MGC. Quirky, smooth and practical, the grossly misunderstood C isn’t so adept dynamically, but they can be upgraded and are fi ne tourers.
Why the GT6 is still in the shadows of many lesser accomplished rivals remains a mystery. With its sleek looks, civilised cockpit, strong performance, long distance leg and superb parts and specialist back up this Triumph offers a lot for surprisingly little. The ‘beginner’s E-type’ label is as valid as it is complimentarywhile turning a Spitfi re into a GT6 roadster makes the car Triumph never did – simply because it would have shamed the TR range!
This review has 0 comments - Be the first!
Leave a comment
Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.