Triumph GT6

celebrates half a


Triumph GT6

IT is hard to believe that half a century has passed since the launch of the Triumph GT6.

The wraps were thrown off this car in 1966 and it was a masterstroke by Triumph which had come up with a competitor for the sales rapidly being gained by the MGB GT.

The GT6 started life as a coupe version of the already popular Spitfire sports car which encompassed a lot of the technology employed in the futuristic little Herald saloon.

It all started in 1963 when stylist Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to design a GT version of the Spitfire. The styling was a great success but the extra weight of the GT bodyshell soon had the Spitfire's 1,147cc four-cylinder engine gasping for breath.

It was nearly reversed into the long grass as just a bad idea, but Triumph bosses had a brainwave and slotted in the 2.0-litre six-cylinder engine used in the also Herald-related Vitesse saloon. This changed everything and the GT6 was born.

The GT6 was helped along by some powerful marketing spinhyping upthe values of the success of Le Mans Spitfires.

But this was not a hairy, wind-in-the hair sports car. It was a powerful, relatively luxurious GT which just swallowed the miles.

With its fastback design and opening rear hatch it soon became known as ‘the poor man's E-Type'.

It was essentially a two-seater, but there were two small seats in the rear which, in truth were only large enough for children. They were usually used for dogs and bags of shopping.

The longer six-cylinder engine necessitated a new bonnet top with a power bulge and 95bhp was on tap. Not much by today's standards but then such an output made this car the wheels to have.

Let it have its head on the open road and it surged up to 106mph and possessed a 0-62mph zoom factor of 12 seconds.

But it was all done in six-cylinder smoothness in an atmosphere of carpeted, wood trimmed luxury.

It was a little quicker than the MGB GT and many liked its smoothness as opposed to the MG's rather harsh four-cylinder engine.

But was it perfect? Absolutely not. The problem was that the GT6 inherited the swing-axle system from the Spitfire, which in turn was copied from the Herald and Vitesse.

I owned a Vitesse and remember well some of the handling-related circus tricks this car could come up with.

Triumph had done nothing to improve the system for the GT6 and the tendency to break away if the driver lifted off the power mid-corner was not helped at all by the increased weight at the front of the car.

Triumph were forced into a rethink and in 1969 introduced the GT6 Mk II The rear suspension was re-engineered using reversed lower wishbones with revised driveshaft couplings, taming the handling and turning the Triumph into a real MGB beater.

This was a significantly improved car which was quicker and a little more economical at 25mpg. But another problem which never went away was the scuttle shake and wiggling associated with the GT6's one piece bonnet. Another snag associated with the whole of the Herald line.

These cars were fine when new but with 60,000 miles behind them the whole bonnet seemed to be moving in different directions as though it had a mind of its own.

The final incarnation of the GT6 was the MkIII of 1970 which drove the model proudly into the history books in the early 1970s.


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