Triumph GT6

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Triumph GT6

1966 - 1973
United Kingdom
In line 6
1998 cc
95 - 104 bhp
4 speed manual, o/drive
Top Speed:
106 - 117 mph
Number Built:
3 star
Released in 1966, the Triumph GT6 quickly became known as the poor-mans E-Type. Featuring a lovely sleek fastback body, the GT6 may have looked a little like the Spitfire, where its origins obviously lay, but in fact all the major body panels were new. Fitting a six-cylinder engine necessitated the use of a longer bonnet with obvious “power bulge”, while the doors were provided with opening quarter light windows.

Tuned to develop 95bhp, the underpinning Spitfire mechanicals required beefing up to better accommodate the larger engine. A new radiator was fitted further forward in the car, a stronger Vitesse sourced gearbox was fitted with optional overdrive and, to better cope with the extra weight of a six-cylinder engine, the front springs were upgraded. The interior was not forgotten either, and featured a wooden dashboard housing a full complement of instruments.

With a top speed of around 106mph, and able to reach 60mph in just under 12 seconds, the GT6 had a slight edge over it’s main rival, the MGB GT. More importantly, however, was the fact the the GT6 did it so much smoother and more effortlessly, particularly as the MG’s 4 pot engine had gained a reputation for being a little too harsh.

In fact only the GT6’s suspension was to come under fire, the swing-axle system carried over from the Spitfire, which in turn had been carried over from the Herald was not to everybody’s liking – but then even the svelte Mercedes SL Pagoda’s of the time were copping some criticism for their swing-axle set-up.

While the Triumph engineers had revised and modified nearly every major component on the GT6, the swing axle system remained identical to that of the Herald, and now being forced to cope with the extra power and weight of the six-cylinder engine the car had a tendency to break away if the driver lifted off the power mid-corner.  Most criticism emanated from the US, where it could be argued that the drivers were less inclined to appreciate the handling nuances of a British sports car.

By 1968 the Triumph engineers had significantly re-engineered the swing-axle setup, and so the Mk2 was released (this model was known as the GT6+ in the US). The fitment of rotoflex couplings tamed the suspension, and made the car a genuine MGB beater even in the hands of an average driver. US safety regulations also dictated that the Mk2 have the bumpers raised, which in turn necessitated a completely new front end. Side vents were added to the front wings and rear pillars, while under the bonnet the engine was upgraded to develop 104bhp via the fitment of a new cylinder head, camshaft, and manifolds. The interior also came in for an upgrade, the new dash affording better ventilation.

The final major facelift for the GT6 came in 1970 – the Mk3. Significantly, the entire body-shell was revised to match the changes made to the Spitfire, which included a cut-off rear end, recessed door handles and a smoother front end. The mechanicals underwent only minor modification, although in 1973, when the GT6 was nearing the end of it’s life, the rear suspension was to undergo one final modification. Triumph engineers choose to fit a cheaper, but still as effective, 'swing-spring' layout. At the same time they added a brake servo, while the upholstery changed from vinyl to cloth. The options list remained comprehensive, but the attractive 'knock-on' wire wheels were no longer available.

The Mk3’s performance remained similar to the Mk2, affording a top speed of 117mph and a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds; by comparison the MGB GT could only reach 105mph and would take around 13 seconds to reach 60mph. Despite the improvements brought about with the Mk2, along with the better drive-line and performance offered, it was never able to achieve the sales success of the MG. Perhaps it was because no convertible was available, but Triumph were busy pushing the TR6 for that section of the market. Whatever the case was then, the car can be judged today as a solid, capable and alluring vehicle that is highly prized by collectors.

The GT6 was quietly dropped from the Triumph lineup at the end of 1973, with a handful of cars being sold the year after.

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Also see:

The History of Triumph
Triumph Car Commercials
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