I want a car, chicks dig the car
Le Mans with Steve Mcqueen
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.