Triumph GT6 Sports Car

Triumph GT6

The Triumph GT6 sports car was yet again designed by Giovanni Michelotti as a coupé version of the Triumph Spitfire. The problem was that the extra weight and cost in building it meant that Triumph needed to justify that extra cost and a slower top speed from its original 1147cc engine was hardly going to help.

Triumph tried sticking in the 1600 six-cylinder engine from the Triumph Vitesse, which was the big brother to the Triumph Herald range. But the Vitesse itself was in the process of being upgraded to the 2-litre (1998cc) version of the 'six'. So the same engine was slotted in to the GT6 albeit with a power bulge added to the bonnet to clear the longer engine and the radiator had to be pushed as far forward as it would go. A new all-sychromesh gearbox was added and the 95 bhp Triumph GT6 sports car was born.

Rotoflex GT6

Being relatively light and torquey the GT6 could often rival the much smaller engined Spitfire for economy when driven gently, especially if the overdrive option was fitted. More than 30mpg was possible with care.

Unfortunately Triumph didn't see fit to modify the Spitfire's dodgy rear suspension which quickly earned the GT6 a bad rap for handling poorly.

The car was launched at the London Motor Show in 1966 with a price of £985, the same as the TR4A. Everybody loved it - until they drove it. And then that decision by Triumph not to upgrade the rear suspension came back to bite them. With a large, relaxed torquey motor and plenty of luggage space for two the Triumph sports car, the GT6, was an ideal long-distance tourer. But the rear swing-axle suspension set-up simply wasn't up to coping with almost 100 bhp. It struggled with the Spitfire's 63 bhp. Motoring journalists criticised it time and again in tests which was unfortunate as the GT6 was probably a better car than its obvious rival the MGB GT which had gone on sale a year earlier. Top speed was just over 105 mph and 0-60 mph came up in about 10.5 seconds.

The GT6 sold for two years like this (with almost 16,000 cars built) until 1968 when the mkll was released. The Triumph engineers had been working overtime on the rear suspension and the 'Rotoflex' cars handling was transformed at an additional cost per car of around £25. The GT6 mkll got another 9 bhp with the addition of the TR5 cylinder head. Price was up by £101 but most people accepted that for the handling improvements alone. In 1968 it cost £1,125 and was seen as a bargain. The US version still got the 95 bhp to meet emission regulations. Despite being a much better car than the mkl it didn't sell as well, with only 12,066 cars built. Was it a case of give a dog a bad name? Not so much a Triumph sports car as a Triumph sports cur? Sorry.

Triumph GT6 interior via Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.
Triumph GT6 interior via Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.

Triumph GT6 Mklll

The Mklll version arrived in 1970 with styling revised to match the Mklv Triumph Spitfire with a more square-tailed style. For the US power again dropped to 90 bhp, but the rest-of-the-world still got 104 bhp. In 1972 the US cars were reduced to an asthmatic 79 bhp to meet emission legislation. Even other markets dropped to a quoted 98 bhp and then 95 bhp in 1973.

The final few Triumph sports cars were built in 1973 giving a total for the Mklll of 13,042 cars and a total production of just under 41,000 cars. A good number survive and it is still viewed by many as a 'poor man's E-type'. Especially as more than a few have being upgraded to the 2500 spec of the TR6s with 150 bhp (or more).

Triumph GT6

1973 Triumph GT6 Coupe at The Great West Road Run, Aust, Bristol, England. Taken by Adrian Pingstone in October 2003 and released to the public domain.
1973 Triumph GT6 Coupe at The Great West Road Run, Aust, Bristol, England. Taken by Adrian Pingstone in October 2003 and released to the public domain.

Triumph GT6 Video

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