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Triumph GT6

Triumph GT6 Published: 19th Oct 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph GT6

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Mk3 (with overdrive)
  • Worst model: Neglected ones
  • Budget buy: Mk2
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3680 x W 1450mm (Mk2)
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: Quite exceptional
  • Club support: Typical Triumph
  • Appreciating asset?: Interest in good ones gaining
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Passable starter E-type and a smoother car than an MGB GT and for less cash
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Triumph’s up gunned Spitfire featuring sleek fastback and smooth six-pot engine. Vastly underrated and great value it’s likened to a beginners’ E-type rather than mere MGB GT rival. The time to buy is now before values rise

OK – we admit that it’s stretching it a bit but there’s reasons why Triumph’s GT6 has been compared with Jaguar’s seminal E-type, but you’ll be glad to know it isn’t out-ofreach prices. Sleek svelte lines, a torquey swift straight-six engine, decent handling (at least on later models) and a practical hatchback body are shared by both, but only one can still be bought for pocket money, restored cheaply and run for peanuts. Yeah you’re right – it’s not the one with a leaping cat on the nose!


1966 A development of the earlier racing Spitfires GT6 débuted in October, using the Vitesse’s 95bhp 1998cc straight-six and four-speed manual gearbox with optional overdrive. Externally, the front and rear ends were pure Spitfire (Mk1 & 2), using the same lighting and bumper arrangements; in total 15,818 Mk1s were made and was judged to be a good effort at making a stylish affordable serious GT – but the six pot power sorely taxed the Heraldderived chassis to its handling limits.

1968 October sees the Mk2, complete with the better TR5 cylinder head to give a pokier 104bhp. However, the biggest change of all – thankfully – was the adoption of ‘rotoflex’ rear suspension in place of the original swing-axle layout to improve the odious handling. Styling changes included the higher bumper of the Mk3 Spitfire 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. Pseudo Rostyle wheel trims replaced the disc wheels. Interior ventilation was also greatly improved and a heated rear window was now standard. American versions of the Mk2 were badged GT6 Plus, but detoxing the engine dropped power to barely 80bhp.

1969 A revise to stave off the in-house rivalry from the MGB GT spelt upgraded interior trim with reclining seats, but of more importance was also a beefed up structure to meet the new tougher American crash test regulations. A claimed 12,066 Mk2s (of both versions) rolled off the line.

1970 The Mk3 débuted in October and was the best of the lot, featuring styling cues shared with the Spitfire Mk4, introduced at the same time. A sleeker bodyshell was the biggest change featuring a de-seamed bonnet and revised rear end styling that aped the Stag.

1973 Rather late in the day, February ushered in a revised Mk3 sporting the Spit’s simpler but still very effective swing-spring rear suspension to improve handling no end. There’s new instrumentation, standard brake servo and cloth seats, but sales continued to slide, leading to the GT6’s demise in November, after 13,042 Mk3s had been produced. In total some 41,000 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 Spitfire achieved and only slightly bettered the four-seater Vitesse!

Driving and press comments

Did those visual comparisons with the Jag E-type extend to its performance? Well, sort of. The straight six taken from the Vitesse still provides ample power and torque plus some seriously no sweat cruising if you have overdrive with a 3.27:1 fitted. 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 – small wonder so many boast sunroofs!

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 as that engine features a cast-iron head and block, it’s nose heavy which hardly helps the handling (more anon). Because you sit right between the axles, the ride is pretty fair but firm (better than a Spitfire) while the brakes are strong too in standard form.

The only real fly in the ointment is the handling, especially non-rotoflex cars which can be a real handful but like early 911 it’s a bit of a thrill, too. The quirky IRS caused the rear wheels to tuck in when load was reduced and results in severe lift-off oversteer that’s easy to catch out drivers, especially those more used to a grippy, secure front-wheel drive modern. To be fair, this undesirable trait applied mainly to the original GT6, as the Mk2 and Mk3 cars are the much better behaved – particularly the latter (larger tyres help a lot, too) while there’s quite a bit you can do to improve a GT6’s road manners and to make this coupé a good enough handler that’s also predictable.

An MGB looks huge compared to the more petite GT6 which is why it’s only a two-seater and a snug one at that.

On the other hand the Triumph is a lot more refined and luxurious. Anybody used to a Spitfire will be instantly at home in a GT6. As the car is essentially a fastbacked Spitfire, it’s more Midget than MGB sized and so a lot more cramped yet amazingly an optional rear seat was made optional.

Comparisons with the MGB GT are inevitable. Fierce in-house rivals they may have been during their lives, but in fact the GT6 is an entirely different animal to the Abingdon car and it usually appeals to a different type of enthusiast. Lacking the raffish charm of an MG, the Triumph is a smoother, sweeter and considerably swifter coupé that, in its day, was deemed a quick car plus could keep station with any TR, especially around the corners. Autocar back in 1966 noted that, “The GT6 is much quieter and faster than the Spitfire, yet much more refined and somehow ‘tamer’ than the TR4A.” It compared the driving to Jaguar’s E-type, the car was praised for its engine’s flexibility, overall refinement and the performance, too. The magazine concluded: “With so much performance at such reasonable cost, we can foresee long waiting lists long before home allocations begin in six months’ time”.

When Car (October 1966) got its hands on GWK 884D, it was impressed. The mag’s testers said they “were startled to find how entirely different the GT6 feels from the Spitfire on which it is based – a much greater difference, for example, than between a Herald and Vitesse… Thanks to fatter tyres and much greater front-end weight, and in general the whole car feels solider (sic) and more substantial.”

“No one need to black-ball the GT6 in its Mk2 form” declared a crucial Motor who thought the Mk1’s traits ‘unroadworthy”. The weekly said the changes made the GT6 “a much safer more predictable car… nevertheless we were a little disappointed with the roadholding”. With a 0-60 time in just 9.4 seconds and 111mph top speed, it was the quickest GT6 tested albeit a noisy one so overdrive was considered essential.

The Mk3 tested by the same weekly in 1971. The sands of time saw the heavier car a tad slower and the weekly now carped that further changes to the suspension, if anything, turned the twitchy but fun sportster into an understeerer “in a rather unsporting way” and went on to hint that inevitable advancing age had made this GT corner no faster than many younger saloons although reckoned that at £1224 (£109 cheaper than the MG) it was still good value and praised the car’s excellent accessibility for DIY maintenance.

A final point – do you fit the car? GT6’s are fastbacked Spitfires and that low roof may pose headroom problems for those of more than average height. Similarly, most cars sport a smaller tiller to gain extra cockpit room and the foot well is tight and notably offset.

Values and marketplace

You couldn’t split Spitfire and GT6 values until recently when big brother started to distance itself to a notable amount at the ’top end’ where ‘six with the best’ can command up to £20,000 but these are extreme exceptions. Not the cheapie they once were but compared to an MGB, let alone an E-type, then the GT6 remains a fair old bargain as average-to-good cars are worth £6-£7000 with projects and scruffs around £2000 upwards – cars without overdrive are typically valued at 10 per cent less but don’t let it put you off an otherwise good buy.

Pricing Spitfires converted to GT6 spec is harder as it depends upon the quality of the conversion. There’s little difference in values between versions, with the Mk1 it is slightly more desirable although this Spitfire on steroids will probably never shoot up in value like TRs have.

Club Triumph’s model consultant Robert Pearce (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). says the GT6s have been overlooked and undervalued for too long, adding Mk3s are most obtainable although he is a particular fan of the Mk1 and says stories of them being wicked handlers is a bit of an exaggeration and they have the best ride where in contrast the ’73 versions, fitted with the cheapened rear suspension the most harsh.


If the original canister type of oil filter is still fitted it’s worth investing around £40 for a spin-on conversion that allows a modern type of filter, meaning the bearings won’t be starved of lubricant upon start up. GT6s lacked overdrive fitted as standard, and few Mk1 owners ticked the options box but it became increasingly popular during the car’s life and most Mk3s’ owners specified it. A lot of GT6s now have it retrofitted but the final drive ratio on cars not equipped was lowered to 3.27:1 from the previous 3.89:1, to improve acceleration.

The engine can be taken out to 2.5-litres, of course, and you can see why Triumph never made a ‘Spitfire 6’ as it would surely have hurt TR sales but hold your brake horses, warns Club Triumph’s GT6 expert Robert Pearce who says it isn’t the simple straight drop in most folks assume due to sump issues.

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 fit. 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 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 enough even for highly tuned cars.

What To Look For



  • If there is a weak spot, it’s the drivetrain as it’s mainly herald-derived. Check for general wear and noise from the gearbox. An exchange one from T.D. Fitchet costs £350, overdrives a little less and clutch kits at £80. The plastic bushes in the remote gearchange mechanism wear out eventually, but fitting a new set is cheap and easy; £25 or so for a pack.

  • The universal joints and diff can struggle with the big six’s torque. If an owner has been over enthusiastic, there may be play and shunt in the system; the diff will whine loudly if it’s tired in sympathy. 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 overdrive is fitted – and it makes the car – but not working, it’s probably only an electrical connection playing up or a lack of oil pressure because the unit’s internal filter needs a clean. But if the unit has called it a day you can buy a rebuilt overdrive for around £300 on an exchange basis. The overdrive is almost as good as a five-speed conversion (Ford and Toyota kits are available) and they can be uprated to match any performance tuning.




  • While you get all the benefits of being a Triumph owner, spares and specialist support, although pretty good, is nothing like as comprehensive as an equivalent TR – or MGB for that matter but all you need is probably available.

  • Drive a few examples if possible as standards vary, mainly due to their lowly values dictating how well cared for they’ve been. A great Mk3 is better than an only good Mk1, for instance and watch build quality of converted Spitfires.

  • Certain trim is peculiar to the GT6 so expect to find Spitfire substitutes, Rimmer Bros have seat retrims for around £300 and a headlining kit for less than a third of this while T.D. Fitchet sells carpet sets from £27.50 and Mks veneered dashboards at £160.

  • 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 the arches or worse still the flexible brake pipes. 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 fit are 175 or 185s.




  • The Triumph straight-six engine is famed for its oil leaks (which at least protects the front chassis area), and rattles at start up. But thankfully these ‘characteristics’ can be engineered out without too much difficulty or expense. All GT6s were fitted with a 1998cc straight-six although many sport a 2.5 unit and if looked after with oil changes every 6000 miles, it’ll last 100,000 miles between rebuilds without any real problem.

  • Head gaskets are known to pop (modern or durable replacements cost £129) and the cooling system is at best marginal so needs to be in top notch. A new rad costs under £200 from specialists and well worth investing in. Costing the sea (from SC Parts Group) is an alloy sump which aids cooling and is also said to improve block rigidity.


Body and chassis


  • 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 finding problems with some of those along the way.

  • Even if the chassis doesn’t need work, the bodywork may, especially the sills, floors and wheelarches. The GT6’s sills are structural and if they along with the floorpans haven’t been replaced yet, the chances are they’ll need renewing before long. Areas to inspect with due care include the transmission tunnel, battery box (remove to check if allowed) and all suspension pick-up points.

  • Nearly all panels are available new and are fairly easy to fit, but if somebody else has already done this, make sure the panels line-up – putting right somebody else’s bodge is far harder than starting from scratch. Comparisons with the E-type sadly extend to the cost of replacing the big bonnet – £1100-£1300 depending upon model from T.D. Fitchet with wings from £105.

  • Check under the false boot floor where the metal floor 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.

  • Other rot spots include the bottom of the hatch aperture which fills 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 – repair is much more difficult on Mk3s.


Running gear


  • If the car has rotoflex suspension, make sure the couplings are okay – replacements are around £35 a go with bush kits half that price. Even genuine Metalastik ones typically last no more than 35,000 miles. Later models don’t use rotoflex ‘doughnuts’ and are a lot simpler to maintain 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 and determines how wicked the handling can be. Replacing it isn’t especially pricey at around £100-£200 depending on what spec you want, but it’s a devil of a job without the correct spring lifter.

  • Many cars will feature modded suspensions – see it’s to your taste as the ride can become over-firm. If wider wheels have also been fitted, ensure that they don’t chafe on the flexible brake pipes – a common oversight.

  • 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 which all deteriorate and sully handling; cheap to replace however.

  • Anti-roll bar drop links can break off; new ones are £19 a pair. The wishbones are fitted with rubber bushes, as are the anti-roll bar mounts and the steering rack mountings.

  • Although the Herald’s front suspension 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 specified in the owners’ manual, they’ll be fine.

  • However, 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 vertical links cost £135. and standard dampers £20 (T.D. Fitchet).

Three Of A Kind

Chief (in-house) rival to the Triumph the GT6 fell between both the MGB GT and the six-cylinder MGC, the latter which lives in another price band due to their new found respect. The 1.8 MGB isn’t as swift or as smooth as this ‘Super Spitfire’ but the handling is more faithful and trusting. From a user standpoint, the MG is fair bit roomier and from an owner standpoint, the MG is much easier to repair and restore.
With its coupé styling, a meek and mild Dolomite engine but a bit of a ‘sissy’ image, it’s no wonder that many regarded the TR7 as a replacement for the GT6 not the beefcake TR. But after decades of derisory, the TR7 has finally earned the respect it deserves as an inexpensive but serious sports classic which is also the best handling Triumph of them all. Most sought after models are now early four-speeders sans any sunroof.
Jensen GT
Jensen GT
A fine left-field alternative is this Jensen that’s based upon the ill-starred, under-developed Healey roadster. The GT is much better sorted and has the sophistication and prestige of an Alfa or BMW but all for less than the price of a good GT6. Lotus engine means strong performance if not durability and all came with fivespeed gearboxes and a great suspension. A luxurious GT hatchback that’s well served by dedicated specialists.


We can’t say “Cheer up if you can’t afford an E-type, a GT6 is the next best thing” in all honesty, but this Spit(fire) with polish is a delightful sporty yet practical GT that’s as easy to run as a Spitfire but with better performance and dare we say a much better image. This particular joy of six might be just right up your street – or hedge in the case of Mk1? Only joking…

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