twelve wild horses in silver chains
Back in the day, when Chris Rea could still sing and great cars didn’t rely on computers to make them work, Pininfarina designed the Daytona. I would contend one of the 10 best-looking cars ever made.
I’ve been to Daytona Beach, and I even know what Daytona means, but I’ve never driven a Ferrari Daytona, not anywhere. And actually, I’d rather own a Jaguar V12 E-Type, but then I am English and not Californian
a man’s man’s car
So, now we are into 2015, do you want to own the cutest little classic GT? Buy a Triumph GT6
So, now the holidays are over, do you want a reliable and practical GT? Do not buy a Triumph GT6
Some say that the Triumph GT6 is a baby E-Type Jaguar. And, that it’s practical enough to drive every day. All I know is that the Mk3 is an incredibly pretty little car. Stick a V12 up front and it could have been a Ferrari.
The Triumph GT6 was in production from 1966 to 1973. Some 25,100 were built. Like the Triumph Spitfire, the GT6 traces its heritage back to the Triumph Herald via the 6 cylinder Triumph Vitesse. All are built on a rather flexible separate chassis-frame with all-independant suspension ~ wishbones at the front and very problematical high-pivot swing-axles at the rear. This combination gives an incredibly tight turning circle and catastrophic snap oversteer at the limit of grip. A Mk1 GT6 that hasn’t its suspension properly maintained or upgraded is going to stuff you into a hedge on rainy day.
There was no plan to build the GT6 when the Spitfire was conceived, and the first iteration of the GT6 design was a coupe version of the Spitfire. Only one prototype Spitfire GT was built ~ it was too heavy and underpowered with the 63bhp 4 cylinder engine. This car was quickly redesigned to take the 1600cc six from the Vitesse.
This was still underpowered so a 95bhp 2 litre version of the six was installed, along with a close-ratio, all-synchomesh gearbox with optional Laycock overdrive. The weakness was still the chassis and swing-axle rear suspension. However, the Mk1 GT6 could be made to handle very well indeed, at the expense of ride comfort. Please do not buy a Mk1 GT6, unless you also intend to do some / a lot of work on the rear suspension. There are plenty of magazine articles and parts still available for the GT6.
In 1968 the Mk2 was introduced. This had more power, (104bhp), a revised rear suspension, a better interior and better ventilation. A GT6 can get very hot inside due to the big engine in a small body. The much prettier Mk3, (to my eyes), came in 1970. This did away with external seams on the front wings and had a much better looking tail-end.
You could drive a well-sorted GT6 across continents. The smooth straight six engine, overdrive gearbox, and high final drive make for very relaxed cruising. But in a hot country you are going to get very, very warm in a GT6. The cockpit is small, and the straight six chucks out a lot of heat. If you want to keep cool think about a GT6 with a Webasto sunroof. What the GT6 isn’t cool with is coping with roads like the Stelvio Pass at speed. Unless you are very good, and the suspension is in first-class condition, any cowardice in the corner will give you snap oversteer and see you going backwards to your doom. The handling of any GT6 can go from acceptable to lethal in an instant due to lift-off snap oversteer. It isn’t only a Porsche 911 that can send you backwards through a garden wall.
The GT6 is strictly a two-seater, but the luggage space under the rear hatch is big enough for a week’s family shopping or the luggage for a continental road trip. Unless you mess with the engine a lot, you should get in excess of 30 MPG, and the 8 gallon fuel tank will give you an acceptable range.
You can expect to pay anywhere between £2,000 and £12,000 for a GT6, depending on condition and originality. You can spend thousands of hours and thousands of £££$$$£££ keeping the thing running and improving it. There is no such thing as a GT6 soft top / convertible. That is called a Spitfire, however it is engined.
Like all Triumphs of this period the GT6 rusts. Like the Herald, Vitesse and Spitfire, the GT6 also rattles. The footwells can get very hot in summer. The six cylinder engine leaks oil and has thrust washer problems. (At least the perpetual oil leaks help protect the front chassis from rust.) The differential should not whine, if it does, it’s probably worn out. The gearbox is weak for the power it handles. The suspension requires regular and careful maintenance. In particular the transverse leaf spring at the rear will sag over time ~ this does not improve the handling. You will need an appropriate workshop manual.
Rust is the main enemy of cars from this era, with accident damage coming a close second. Rust in the rear chassis is almost to be expected, and it is terminal. A new chassis is no longer available from Rimmer Bros, although plenty of repair sections are. It’s no laughing matter taking the body off a GT6 chassis, and it’s bloody difficult to get it properly back on again. Beware of any car where the panel gaps are uneven and the doors do not hang properly. The huge bonnet is available new at something like £1,300, again from Rimmer Bros. Rust in the sills of a GT6 is very serious as there is no outboard chassis framing. The Herald / Spitfire / GT6 chassis is strictly a backbone.
There is endless tuning / upgrade potential for the GT6. Swapping the 2 litre engine for the long stroke 2.5 litre version will give anything up to 150bhp. Take this engine out to 2.7 litres and you should easily get 180bhp. Personally, I would not have the Lucas mechanical fuel injection system again for any money, (that is unless you have a wide experience of older diesel engines). Instead I would fit triple Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, (or 45’s). Putting more power into a GT6 will give you a seriously fast car, but you will also need to upgrade the brakes, suspension, gearbox, differential…. And, the already hard ride will probably get harder.
Alternatives to the Triuph GT6 include the MGBGT, Reliant Scimitar GTE, Ford Capri, Lotus Elan Plus 2, and Nissan 240Z.
Like all classic cars a GT6 will need lots of care and attention. I would suggest that, if you are going to spend money on a GT6, then cure the rust, get the suspension and brakes into first class working order, and improve the cooling. Don’t bother with wheels any wider than 6 inches.
EVERYONE WHO STILL LIKES THE STONES OR THE BEATLES ON VINYL HAS PROBABLY OWNED A MINI
In a poll of 10,000 readers of Autocar magazine the original Sir Alec Issigonis designed 1959 Mini has been voted the best car ever to be manufactured in Britain. In a bizarre headline the results of the poll are said to show that; Original Mini voted best British-built car of all time. For those of us who have lived with a Mini, (including one of its various siblings, Wolsey Hornet, Riley Elf, Cooper, Moke, Van, Traveller, Pick-up, K, Innocenti, & etc…), that headline is a bit of a joke. The original mini was an incredibly well thought out little car, but owning one could be a nightmare. Everything on a Mini went wrong, all the time. When the little coolant pipe between the head and the block failed you were in for some fun. The electrics went wrong if you drove through a puddle. Then it all fell to pieces. Meantime, any Mini was simple fun.
The original Mini famously starred alongside Michael Caine, Benny Hill, and Noel Coward in the 1969 caper movie, The Italian Job. The film shows three Mini Cooper S’s running rings around Italian police cars among the streets of Turin, (and a tunnel, river ford, & etc…). Which is how it would have been. On tight roads and city streets the Cooper S was one of the fastest point to point road cars of the time, (of all time?). Introduced in 1961 the Mini Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965, and 1967. (The Cooper S also placed 1st 2nd and 3rd in 1966 but the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys got their judges to disqualify them because of a dimmer switch in the headlamp circuit. The eventual ‘winning’ Citroen DS also had non-regulation headlights, but they were French headlights.)
If anyone is thinking about buying an original Mini Cooper S, then don’t. It will cost you a fortune, especially if it has any competition history. The investment value of classic cars all depends upon fashion. The Mini Cooper S would have been a very good buy 20 years ago, these days I’m not certain that I wouldn’t be buying at the top of a trend.
The Cooper S was very little different to the standard Mini of the time, other than a tuned 1275cc four pot A-series engine and twin fuel tanks. And, by all the Gods, they are noisy little beasts inside. Your Lady will not like wearing her best Little Black Dress in the thing because they leak rainwater through various holes in the floor. The smell of hot coolant and oil can pervade the interior, the seats are middling uncomfortable, and getting in and out of a Mini in a short frock is a lost art. (Unless the young lady in question is trying to show a lot of leg.)
For those with any mechanical engineering expertise, (and if you don’t know what 1/2 inch AF means you shouldn’t even think about owning an original Mini), then you can build yourself a perfectly good Cooper S replica using a new body shell from British Motor Heritage. That will set you back about £6,500. The rest of the bits are very available and about as basic as they come, including a tuned A-series engine and gearbox. The A-series was first used in a car in 1951. It’s a three main bearing, five port, cast iron unit and in 1275cc form with twin SU carburettors can be made to reliably produce 78 bhp and 78 ft pounds of torque, still with decent fuel economy. For road use I would not recommend fitting a close ratio gearbox, but wide wheels and some decent brakes are a good idea.
While even a fast Mini will struggle to top 100 mph, the original brakes were tiny drums. Front discs are available as are special cast alloy rear drums. The best wheels are still the original Minilite, although you’d be looking at aluminium rather than magnesium alloy. First port of call Minspeed http://www.minispeed.co.uk
The BIG thing about Mini’s is that they are small and light. The whole car was only 120 inches long, 55 inches wide and 53 inches tall. It ran on ten inch wheels. (The spec called for a complete car that could fit in a 10 x 5 x 5 feet box, allegedly.) At the kerb, even a hot Mini would only weigh in at 1,400 lbs. A new Mini could be had for £679. In comparison a brand new BMW-Type Mini Cooper S hatchback has an high-technology 2 litre engine, weighs in at over 2,500 lbs and will cost upwards of £20,000. The New Mini is not a good comparison against an original Mini. A Citroen C1 is far similar to an original 1961 Mini than is a new (BMW) Mini Hatchback.
For those classic car enthusiasts the rest of the Best of British top 10 from Autocar are;
- McLaren F1
- E-Type Jaguar
- Range Rover
- Yamaha Motiv.E
- McLaren P1
- Jaguar XJ220
- Aston Martin DB5
- TVR Griffith
- Ford Escort Mexico
The full Top 100 Autocar list of the Best of British is at http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/motoring/top-100-best-ever-british-cars
Of the above, anyone with any ounce of sense would only consider owning the; Mini, E-Type, Earlier Range Rover, Ford Escort Mexico. Of these I would consider building myself a Mk 1 Escort. I am informed that original manufacturers Gartrac ( http://www.gartrac.com ) can make you a new bodyshell, I have no idea what that would cost. Crossflow engines and 5 speed gearboxes are readily available, in states of tune up to 150 bhp. A more modern Ford Twin-Cam engine could also be made to fit. However, the more work that’s done on any classic car, the quicker enormous bills are run up, and the less original the car becomes. Some collectors prize originality, but for real road use I’d want as many new, (and more modern), parts as I could afford.
The Yamaha Motiv shouldn’t be on this list as the Gordon Murray designed car hasn’t even gone into production. I would replace it with no. 14 from the Autocar list, the even more brilliant Lotus Elise.
The bottom line is; The original Mini is a brilliant little car, if you want to experience anything like it, then buy a Citroen C1, (Peugeot 107)