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Triumph GT6

Triumph GT6 Published: 11th Apr 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph GT6
Triumph GT6
Triumph GT6
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The GT6 is more than just a six-cylinder Spitfire and can be likened to a beginner’s E-type

Why it’s a winner

The Triumph GT6 is an MGB GT rival that’s a sort of E-type at the same time… and at Spitfire prices, too! With its flowing lines highlighted by a long forward hinged bonnet and third door hatch, there’s shades of that Jaguar coupé here and with 2-litre six power has generous go to match the looks and yet this ‘super Spitfire’ costs much the same to buy, own and run.

History

1966 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.

1968 Mk2 surfaces for the Earls Court Motor Show. Bumper height raised to please US laws but the most important rethink concerned the adoption of the more stable, safer Vitesse Mk2 rear suspension set up. The cylinder head taken from the 2.5-litre TR5 now used raises power to 104bhp.

1969 Revamped Mk2s gain a standard heater, plus heated rear window, while late ‘69 cars receive reclining seats and a flat spoke steering wheel. Car is identified by a matt black windscreen surround and number plate/reversing light.

1970 Mk3 hits the streets in October and, apart from arguably better looks with a Stag-like rear end and smoothed out body seams, it heralded yet another suspension revamp; a simpler swing spring rear design that was employed on the MkIV Spitfire.

1973 Before the GT6 bowed out, it benefited from a standard brake servo, improved (cloth) trim and tinted glass and another rear suspension tweak. Some 41,000 GT6s were made – the most popular being the Mk1 with Mk2 the least, strangely (12,066 sold).

Driving

Anybody used to a Spitfire will be instantly at home in a plus and will appreciate its better quality of trim and comfort. For those new to these Herald-derived Triumphs you need to familiarise yourself with the offset pedals.

As the car is essentially a fast-backed Spitfire, it’s more Midget than MGB-sized and so cramped in the cockpit. This is also why the GT6 could only really be a strict two-seater although part-time rear seats was optional if rarely specified.

Comparisons with the MGB GT are inevitable. Fierce in-house rivals they may have been, then and now, but in fact the GT6 is a 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 coupé that, in its day, was a true 110mph GT which could keep up with a TR, especially around the corners.

With the added power, the handling needs care and consideration, as that Herald-derived chassis is taxed to the limit, causing the rear wheels to tuck in with resultant severe ‘lift-off’ oversteer. To be fair, this quirk applied chiefly to the original GT6, as the Mk2 and Mk3 designs are the much better behaved – particularly the latter plus there are numerous modifications you can carry out to make the rear tyres keep in line and a tuned GT6 can be transformed into a tactile and grippy, if hard riding handler.

However, this Triumph is at its best as a tourer where that lazy, lusty engine twinned with high gearing makes light of modern roads keeping the GT6 well in tune with today’s roads and fairly frugally as well.

Best models

Of the three generations, only two are worth going for. Unless you’re a purist, the Mk1 should be side-stepped as the handling was at its worst, albeit easily modified. The Mk2 was not only more predictable, but arguably the best looker; the raised front bumper height gave the car a much more sleeker, sexier appearance – those Jaguar E-type connotations again. Also, power was upped, care of a TR5 cylinder head.

The Mk3 is the best all rounder, mind, being more secure on the road when pressed and better appointed, particularly ’73 cars which also gained the latest Spitfire-scored rear suspension to cure the previous quirks. Strangely no autos, but overdrive is fitted to the majority.

Another really worthy option is a sliding fabric sunroof, which gives the GT6 Spitfirelike open air delights, yet retains the versatility of a hatchback.

Not an official model, as it would have embarrassed the TR, but worth considering, is one of the many GT6-powered Spitfire conversions. If done properly, and there’s more to this conversion than just crowbarring in the straight six, they make a really competent and quick sports car. But, so many are done half-hearted, so be warned.

Prices

Like-for-like, the MGB GT is regarded as being worth slightly more, the exception being the later rubber-bumper models. However, the gap between the duo has closed considerably of late. A good GT6 is valued at around £8000 for a Mk3, but the originals can command the most due to their rarity and £15,000 is not unknown. Spitfire 6 conversions are hard to value but shouldn’t match GT6 values.

Verdict

Given the GT6’s similarity with the MGB GT, we’re surprised that this Triumph isn’t as highly regarded or popular. Contributor Richard Dredge’s book, charts the complete history of the Spitfire and GT6. Published by Crowood at £25, it offers guides to buying and modifying them. The ISBN is 978-1-84797-703-8.

Five top faults

1. RUST Check the chassis well, crawling underneath to inspect the frame, especially the outriggers and suspension pick up points. Past patchwork welding?

2. BODY Rot in floorpan, toe-boards (lift carpets and be suspicious if they are stuck down), inner and outer sills, door bottoms, rear arches and valance panel, front bulkhead, suspension pickup points and even the roof at screen’s edge.

3. ENGINE Excessive crank end float is a well known Triumph trait. With aid working the clutch, see how much the crank pulley moves. If bad, it’s an engine rebuild job. Hot running, cracked heads or blown gaskets are fairly common.

4. TRANSMISSION Struggles to cope with extra power. No-go overdrive is usually down to a dodgy switch. Is the right ’box fitted? Proper overdrive cars used a lower axle ratio for better pull. Retrofitted boxes will mean the car is higher geared than designed; no bad thing.

5. RUNNING GEAR As a GT6 can be a handful at the best of times, see that the IRS set up (inc those Rotoflex couplings) are ok. Lack of maintenance and lubrication is the main culprit for future problems, such as leading to the front suspension’s trunnions failing.

 



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