For the full history of the GT6 we have to look back to the car on which it is based, the Triumph Spitfire. Designed in 1957 by Giovanni Michelotti to rebody Triumph’s Herald saloon car as an open top sports car, the Spitfire’s production was delayed by the state of the company’s finances. Only when they were acquired by Leyland in 1960 were they able to move to production, starting in 1962. The next year they returned to Michelotti for a coupe version but the additional weight of the attractive GT fastback design proved too much for the Spitfire’s 1147 cc engine and the idea was shelved.
However the design lived on for the Triumph racing programme who adopted the body style and applied a fibreglass copy to the Spitfire chassis as it was aerodynamically superior to the soft top. This led to success at Le Mans with a 1st in class finish in 1965 and a subsequent reappraisal of the merits of a GT road car. In order to overcome the performance problems associated with the original prototype, Triumph looked to the 2 litre inline 6 from the Triumph Vitesse which was essentially a six cylinder Herald. This was more successful and the Mark 1 GT6 was launched in 1966. Later revisions of the GT6 followed with the mark 2 of 1969 and the mark 3 of 1970 which featured better aerodynamics. The peak performing version Mark 3 had a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph, with production continuing until 1973.
The current owner of this purple example took possession 3 years ago from the previous keeper who had the car for 23 years, in the early part of which he carried out a full restoration and many upgrades, a detailed log of which accompanies the car.
The main upgrade is the switch to a 2.5litre TR6 engine with Mark 3 GT6 camshafts, unleaded head, polished ports and 1 ¾ inch SU carbs which a rolling road output rates at 134hp up from a standard GT6’s 104hp as standard. The ignition is electronic, with the Megajolt v.3 ECU from autosportlabs.com concealed above the glovebox and the alternator has been uprated from 27 to 45 amps. A sports exhaust makes all the right noises.
The extra power reaches the wheels through a 1500 Spitfire diff, rumoured to be the strongest of the Triumph options and the gearbox features the J Type overdrive using a TR7 4 speed clutch plate. The front brakes are cross drilled disks while the rears have Dolomite 1300 back plates and shoes due to better parts availability. The suspension has also received attention, with uprated front springs and Spax adjustable shock absorbers all round.
On the dashboard, the dials have been upgraded to modern Smiths equivalents and a voltmeter and oil pressure gauge added. A Webasto roof has been added and, during the current owner’s tenure, the interior has been fully re-trimmed.
The sale is forced by an issue many of us can relate to which is a lack of space, particularly with another project on the go.
The box file containing the paperwork is very extensive and includes all of the receipts from the previous owner’s tenure, as well as reference materials for the upgrades. The mid-nineties restoration work is fully documented with a detailed explanation of the work carried out, suppliers used and useful notes for servicing. The seller also has milage history since 1994. Following dial replacements (odometer) in 2009, the car has done 16,600 miles in 11 years.
There is a full set of copies of the vehicle’s registration documents sourced from the DVLA for the entirety of the car’s life, a workshop manual, parts catalogue and original owner’s manual. It’s a treasure trove of historical documentation, a full review of which would provide a fascinating journey in itself.
After its recent re-trimming, the interior is in fabulous condition and the fit and finish of the updated and additional dials looks very smart. The wood trim on the dashboard barely has a mark on it. The original speedo included 3 warning lights which are not available on the updated dial and so these are neatly integrated with the voltmeter and oil temperature gauges on the centre console. The seats are comfortable and adjust as they should and the aftermarket steering wheel falls nicely to hand. The only issues to report are that the boot struggles to stay open without support, which can be addressed by adjusting the torsion bars, and a slightly stiff driver’s window mechanism.
There’s plenty of space behind the seats for a weekend’s luggage without having to pack particularly light and, driving along with the roof open on a sunny day, it’s a great place to be.
During the 26 year period of the last 2 owners, the car has reportedly never been taken out in the wet and it really shows in the condition of the car; it’s a real head-turner. The only issue is that the oh-so-70’s purple paintwork has a few dark patches which show evidence of earlier repairs, and a few small areas where there is some surface rust bubbling under the paint. Were the vendor able to keep the car, he would consider addressing these with a respray but they are by no means in need of urgent attention.
The TR7 wheels are all in perfect condition and the tyres have good tread, aside from the wear on the outside edge of the front nearside wheel which is noted as an MOT advisory. The eagle-eyed will notice the non-standard panel gap between the bonnet and the rest of the car. This is not due to the engine upgrade but to provide clearance for the TR7 wheels which are wider than the standard GT6’s. If standard wheels are fitted, the bonnet can be moved back to its usual position by a simple adjustment to the hinges.
The brightwork is all in good condition with just a couple of pieces missing from the windscreen surround which are on order and will be replaced prior to completion of the sale. The Webasto roof is as-new and operates smoothly and the lights have been upgraded to Halogen units.
As the under bonnet pictures show, the engine installation has been carried out to a very high standard and plumbing and wiring is all very neat.
On the road, the car is a testament to the quality of the restoration work. The engine starts occasionally with a click, but always starts hot or cold and although the unassisted steering is a little heavy for manoeuvring, once on the move it is easy to drive. There are no squeaks, rattles or other untoward noises, just the sound of a very smooth-running straight six. The overdrive to 3rd and 4th gears works flawlessly and the car pulls as well as you would hope with the level of power increase that it has received. Only the brakes really date the experience but that’s just a demonstration of how far brakes have developed rather than any problem and, provided that you drive with that in mind, it’s not a problem.
Overall, the car wants for nothing mechanically and is ready to be taken out and enjoyed.
The Triumph GT6 in its standard form is an attractive and appealing classic. This example, by cherry-picking the best period Triumph mechanicals, shows the potential for what the GT6 could have been and in doing so makes a very usable car.
Values are on the rise and the current owner readily admits that a respray would increase the value by more than it would cost. This car therefore represents an opportunity to potentially make a fast buck. But why would you do that when you can both enjoy a well-developed example of Triumph’s greatest mechanical hits and, over time, further improve it cosmetically if so desired. Whichever route the next owner takes, it looks sure to be an enjoyable one.
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