Dubbed “the poor man’s E-Type”, the Triumph GT6 was an amazingly popular, affordable sports car that debuted in 1966 and was produced until 1973. It’s sleek lines and prominent curves made it evocative of Porsche models, while the fastback design evoked the car’s nickname, the Jaguar E-Type of the day.
In the Beginning
The Triumph GT6 actually started life as the Spitfire, which was a convertible. Standard-Triumph, looking to transfer the Spitfire’s popularity into a different body style, tapped Giovanni Michelotti to redesign it as a hardtop. The result was the now-iconic GT6 body style, which was immediately adopted by the Triumph racing programme for the upcoming 1964 racing season.
The resulting race cars were highly successful, and quite popular with racing fans. These facts led the automaker to reconsider manufacturing the GT version of the Spitfire, which had been shelved.
The Mark I
The first GT6 to roll off the assembly line was powered by a larger engine – an inline six was needed to combat the additional weight of the GT chassis in comparison to the Spitfire chassis. The engine was capable of producing 95 bhp at 5,000 rpm, which was significant for the time. The new engine also prompted additional changes, such as upgraded front springs. Ultimately, the Mark I was able to reach a top speed of 106 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of around 12 seconds, which might be slow for today’s world, but was an achievement for the 1960s. However, it was marred by less than optimum handling.
The Mark II
The Mark II, or GT6+, was released in 1969 and embodied Triumph’s answer to the handling problems of the Mark I. The automaker reengineered the rear suspension and the result was a fast, powerful car that offered the handling that consumers demanded and expected. Other changes for the Mark II model included a raised front bumper, a new front end, side vents, and a slightly stronger engine capable of producing 104 bhp and a top speed of 107 mph, with a 0-60 mph time of 10 seconds.
The Mark III
The final GT6 model began its manufacturing run in 1970. The Mark III was revised so that it was virtually identical to the Mark IV Spitfire. This included a massive list of changes and alterations, including a cut-off rear end, a smoother front end, recessed door handles and, just before production ceased, yet more changes to the rear suspension. Better aerodynamics allowed the Mark III to achieve a top speed of 112 mph, with a 0 to 60 mph time almost identical to the Mark II. Unfortunately, the Mark III was less popular than the other Triumph GT6 models, and the MGB ultimately won out over it.
Today, all three versions of the GT6 are highly collectible, although early Mark I and late Mark III models tend to be the most popular (not necessarily the most valuable, though). Many models in good condition can still be found for reasonable prices, as well.