Five Clas­sic Tri­als

…Tri­umph GT6

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Words Mur­ray Scul­lion PHotograPHY Stu­art Collins

It’s not of­ten that a car has two con­tra­dic­tory sound bites chalked up against it; two per­son­al­ity traits at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum liv­ing co­he­sively in one shell.

We’re not talk­ing about that tired Jekyll and Hyde cliché where a car can be both sporty and com­fort­able ei­ther. No, we’re talk­ing about the two be­liefs most as­so­ci­ated with the Tri­umph GT6. First, that it’s a hand­ful to drive. And sec­ond, that it’s a baby Jaguar E-type. Let’s take care of num­ber one first.

The GT6 gained no­to­ri­ety with pe­riod road­testers for its way­ward han­dling, and in 2017 the gen­eral con­sen­sus re­mains. The rea­son for this un­ruly rep­u­ta­tion stems from pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions of the car. The MkI used a ver­sion of the Spit­fire’s swing-axle sys­tem. MkIIs had a new lay­out which kept the trans­verse leaf spring, but with a re­versed lower wish­bone. But the MkIII we’re driv­ing to­day has a swingspring type of rear sus­pen­sion.

Early cars were ba­sic, but these MkIIIs are hugely sat­is­fy­ing to blast down a Bri­tish B-road. Like many GT6s, our test car has a cou­ple of degrees of neg­a­tive cam­ber di­alled in to rid it of any un­to­ward un­der­steer. Steer­ing is heav­ily weighted and feed­back through the thin wooden rimmed Moto Lita wheel is plen­ti­ful, al­low­ing you to make tiny ad­just­ments as you tear through se­ries of switch­back cor­ners.

Take your left hand off the steer­ing wheel to change gear and you’ll be greeted with a gear leaver on a raised plat­form that’s easy to grasp, mak­ing it light­ning quick when chang­ing from first to sec­ond, and third to fourth.

How­ever, there ap­pears to be some­thing of a gearshift chasm in the mid­dle of the gate. Go­ing from sec­ond to third in par­tic­u­lar de­mands prac­tice if you’re to pre­vent the en­gine from go­ing off the boil.

You’ll prob­a­bly for­give it just about any­thing, though, be­cause the en­gine’s abun­dant grunt more than makes up any time lost hunt­ing for higher gears.

The GT6’s straight-six is sourced from the 2000 and Vitesse – it’s as smooth as they come and the power de­liv­ery is as lin­ear as a graph of Ferrari 250 GTO price trends.

It’s tractable too – bury the throt­tle and you won’t need arms of op­po­site lock to con­trol it, and there are no nasty gaps in the torque band. All you’ll find is a power sweet spot that keeps de­liv­er­ing all the way to 6000rpm. At this point, you’re obliged to wind down the win­dow and listen to the glo­ri­ous blare from the trade­mark twin ex­hausts.

Play­time over, it’s time to heave on the heavy brakes, step out­side and ad­mire the long, long bon­net that’s strongly rem­i­nis­cent of the Jaguar E-type.

Closer ex­am­i­na­tion soon con­firms its Spit­fire DNA, though. Our MkIII – ar­guably the best all-rounder of the lot – has the same visual changes as the Spit­fire MkIV, and the se­duc­tive curves over the rear wheels are un­changed from its soft-top si­b­ling. It’s re­cently been painted in Inca yel­low, too – a stun­ning colour that ac­cen­tu­ates its curves, es­pe­cially around the tight rear haunches.

These del­i­cate lines are ac­cen­tu­ated with brush strokes that draw the eye to the lights and sur­round­ing chrome, which in turn lead nat­u­rally down to the twin ex­hausts, adding a mean and pur­pose­ful feel­ing to the car. Its long bon­net and cur­va­ceous rear end fur­ther re­in­force its claim of be­ing a baby E-type.

There are worse things to be called, af­ter all.

1 dailY driv­ing

It’s a shame that so few peo­ple drive a GT6 ev­ery day. The Kamm tail rear pro­vides a pretty big load­ing area, enough for a few bags of shop­ping or a (small) golf bag. Rear vis­i­bil­ity isn’t bril­liant, a prob­lem ex­ac­er­bated by the small bul­let-shaped wing mir­rors, but it’s small and eas­ily parked, and more than pow­er­ful enough to keep up with mod­ern traf­fic. It sounds the busi­ness too. In fact, the sheer amount of at­ten­tion a GT6 at­tracts is prob­a­bly the main rea­son why so few are daily driv­ers.

2 in tHE sEr­viCE BaY

A com­plete tilt front gives un­par­al­leled ac­cess to the six-cylin­der en­gine. And since it’s shared with the 2000 and Vitesse, parts avail­abil­ity is ex­cel­lent. Com­mon mod­i­fi­ca­tions in­clude de-bumper­ing and adding cam­ber to the rear wheels to im­prove han­dling. Once again, there’s plenty of spe­cial­ist help from clubs and spe­cial­ist parts sup­pli­ers.

3 on tHE sHoW Cir­CUit

No need to ex­plain your­self with this one – the GT6 has been a bona fide clas­sic for years. Its com­par­a­tive rar­ity is guar­an­teed to at­tract ad­mir­ing glances and know­ing nods, es­pe­cially in eye-sear­ing colours like Inca yel­low and Dam­son pur­ple. There are sev­eral Tri­umph Clubs to choose from too, in­clud­ing the Tri­umph Sports Six Club. Le Mans is a reg­u­lar haunt for the club, as are more ac­ces­si­ble des­ti­na­tions such as the Isle of White. Meets closer to home (Coven­try, Cam­bridge, Dux­ford) are also cal­en­dar reg­u­lars.

4 tHE long WEEK­End

This is noth­ing short of a fantastic week­end clas­sic. There’s enough poke to make longdis­tance drives vi­able, and enough room for a few bags too. Best of all, most GT6s were specced with no rear seats, which im­proves lug­gage space still fur­ther. Ride qual­ity isn’t quite in Mercedes S-class ter­ri­tory, but it’s no worse than any of its pe­riod sport­ing ri­vals. Poorly met­alled roads can through a GT6 off course, how­ever – es­pe­cially if there’s more neg­a­tive cam­ber than orig­i­nal. Over­drive makes cruis­ing much eas­ier too – it’s op­er­ated via a switch on top of the gear lever.

5 tHE B-road Blast

A straight six mar­ried up to a rear-wheel drive set up makes it a su­perbly bal­anced car, and one that re­wards a mas­cu­line driv­ing style. 104bhp in a car this small trans­lates into vivid per­for­mance and the ex­haust note is meaty. Han­dling gives your arms a good work­out, steer­ing feed­back is in­stant and re­ward­ing when string­ing to­gether a tight set of bends.

inca yel­low paint ac­cen­tu­ates the GT6’s lithe styling, but does lit­tle to mask its un­der­ly­ing spit­fire DNa.

stylish cabin is do­mated by the prom­i­nent gear lever an­gled to­wards the driver. wood rim wheel is non-orig­i­nal.

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