Tri­umph GT6 cel­e­brates half a cen­tury

The GT6 started life as a coupe ver­sion of the al­ready pop­u­lar Tri­umph Spit­fire

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivetime - Ian John­son

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 four­cylin­der 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 six­cylin­der 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 spin hyp­ing up the val­ues of the suc­cess of Le Mans Spitfires.

But this was not a hairy, windin-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 twoseater, 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 six­cylin­der 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 drive­sha f t 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 YEL­LOW POWER The 1973 Tri­umph GT6 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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