History of the GT6


The GT6 started out as a coupé version of the Triumph Spitfire. It was conceived by the fertile mind of Triumph's chief engineer Harry Webster who in 1963 sent a Spitfire to Giovanni Michelotti in Turin for modification. It sported a large rear hatch. What he drove back to Canley is shown below.

This was shelved for a while as the 4 cylinder 63bhp engine was not man enough to cope with the extra weight of the coupé body; the car was too slow. When they shoehorned the larger 6 cylinder engine into the Herald to create the Vitesse in 1962, it seemed logical to repeat the exercise with the Spitfire GT and put in the same 1596cc engine as the Vitesse. This made the GT6 a viable proposition, so it was given the go-ahead, all it needed was a 'power bulge' to accommodate the higher engine, also the radiator was moved forward. When the Vitesse engine was enlarged to 1998cc by increasing the bore from 66.75mm to 74.6mm in 1966, it was decided to also put the 1998cc engine into the new GT6, which came out in the same year.

Was the GT6 Triumph's answer to the MGB GT? This came out in October 1965, a long time after the 'Spitfire GT' was conceived, but before the GT6 came out. It depends on what the conception period of the MGB GT was, and whether anybody at MG or Triumph knew anything about their rival's plans! It is likely that when the MGB GT did come out, it concentrated the minds of those at Triumph and accelerated the addition of the GT6 to their range. The MGB GT also suffered from the extra weight of the coupé body, acceleration suffered but the top speed increased due to the better aerodynamics. The Spitfire GT was similarly affected, so the shape of the coupé fastback was used for the famous 1965 Le Mans Spitfires. 'Born in Le Mans' is not really correct (in spite of the 'stickers' and Standard-Triumph's own advertising campaign) as the shape preceded Le Mans by a couple of years.

GT6 Mk1

The original GT6 of 1966 (retrospectively known as the Mk1) was made between July 1966 – Sept 1968. This had a 1998cc 6 cylinder engine which produced 95bhp. The suspension of the Spitfire was retained although bigger front disc brakes and calipers were fitted. The interior was much better appointed than the Spitfire with more comfortable bucket seats, proper carpets, more padding and a more comprehensive wood veneer dashboard.

GT6 Mk2 (GT6+ in the USA)

The Mk2 came out in July 1968 and answered many criticisms of the original GT6 in the motoring press. The swing axle rear suspension, which could 'tuck under' with hard cornering leading to loss of control, was modified. This was done quite cleverly as a bottom wishbone was introduced, with the rear transverse spring acting as a top wishbone. The movement of the driveshaft necessitated the introduction of Dunlop's Metalastik "Rotoflex" driveshaft couplings which had already been used in the Triumph 1300 saloon. The roadholding was transformed! The engine benefited from the new better breathing TR5 cylinder head, this increased power to 105bhp. Ventilation was introduced with eyeball vents and a grill on the rear quarter; bumpers were raised to comply with American regulations; the interior was also updated with matt black instrument surrounds and a matt finish to the wood veneer. In October 1969 the model was further updated with a strengthened body, reclining seats, and a new combined reversing light/number plate light (common to the similarly modified Spitfire Mk3).

GT6 Mk3

The Mk3 was introduced in 1971 to improve flagging sales. The style was 'updated' by Mitchelotti on similar lines to the Triumph Stag (as was the Spitfire MkIV) with a similar cut-off tail. The tailgate was the same as was the floor and central section of the body, only the previously removable windscreen frame (which the GT6 shared with the earlier Spitires and TRs) was replaced with a slightly higher one which became part of the front pressing. The bonnet was also new. The mechanics were unchanged from the earlier Mk2, as was the interior. Later updates included brushed nylon seats, headrests, sundym glass and a Girling brake servo. Below are some alleged production figures (40,926 in total from 1966 to 1973, only 7 years).

Model Chassis No. No. made
Mk1 (July 1966-Sep. 1968) KC1 - KC13572 15,818
Mk2 (July 1968-Oct. 1969) KC50001 - KC58046 12,066
Mk2 (October 1969-Dec. 1970) KC75031 - KC83397
Mk3 (October 1970-Dec. 1973) KE0001 - KE24218 13,042

Please note the discrepancy between the ranges of chassis numbers and the 'production' figures! It is not known how many of the later versions of the Mk2 (from KC75031) were produced, but I suspect it may be less than 50% of the 12,066 total as these seem to be rarer. To see more details of Production dates, commission nrs. & changing points click here.