Five Classic Trials
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.