IS IT POSSIBLE to take an existing model roadster, graft on a coupe top, insert the engine from a sedan and have the result add up to an entirely new combination in the medium-priced sports/GT car genre? Yes, it is possible and we're happy to report that Triumph has accomplished it with the new GT6, the only car in its class with a "six."
The GT6 derives from the popular Spitfire 4 and shares the same backbone frame and separate lower body with that model. The new hardtop roof is grafted on in the same way as several other current cars and is no more /less successful/unsuccessful than most. Under the skin there's little change from tile Spitfire chassis except for the addition of the undersquare 2-liter 6-cyl engine from the Triumph 2000 sedan. The unequal-arm front, and swing-axle rear, suspension layouts are intact except for such details as spring rates.
We liked the 2-liter six in the 2000 and we like it even better in the GT. Though not a new design, this straightforward push rod overhead valve unit is one of the quietest and smoothest sixes to be. found anywhere and idles at an even 500 rpm with just a trace. of clicking from its mechanical tappets. Besides refinement, torque is its stock in trade. It's one of those engines that doesn't seem to care what gear is engaged behind it. At the other end of the scale, it revs freely to 6000 rpm, the top of the orange sector on the tachometer face, and is said to be safe for a sustained 5500.
It's nice to have an engine with enough torque /that you don't have to operate the gearbox constantly. When gear changes are called for, though, the shifting is pleasant, the 8.5-in. diaphragm-spring clutch takes up smoothly, the indirect gears are. almost dead silent and the linkage is crisp with fairly short but awkward throws.
Our test car was equipped with the optional ($175 extra) Laycock-de Normanville overdrive which is controlled by a stalk on the right side of the steering column: Engagement takes place about 1.5 sec after the lever is moved and is quite abrupt. There is no inhibitor switch to prevent a downshift to direct drive on the overrun but it is easier on the gears if the driver keeps. his foot down at least a little when ma~ing a change.
This overdrive isn't essential to satisfactory operation of the GT6, happily. The normal axle ratio is 3.27:1, giving 20.1 mph / I 000 rpm, quite acceptable gearing for overall use: In the overdrive-equipped car, a 3.89:1 final drive ratio is fitted and this, combined with the 0.802:1 ratio of the overdrive gear, results in a 3.12:1 overall ratio or 21..3 mph /1000 rpm. Because the gearbox ratios aren't altered, each of the four ratios becomes "tighter" with the overdrive. Our test car could be started easily in 2nd gear, as a matter of fact. ,
For the U.S., the handsome wire wheels are standard as are the 155-13 Dunlop SP-41 radial ply tires.
We approa'ch any car with conventional swing axles with a little apprehension but we found that the GT6 could not be faulted on its handling. The 6-cyl engine brings front-end weight distribution to 56%, which is probably a good thing with swing axles. For ordinary-to-brisk driving, the car steers neutrally and simply goes where it's steered with great apparent stability. The tail can be brought out at will either by poking the throttle (in the right' gear, naturally) or by just tweaking the wheel a little too much. Breakaway is smooth and one gets the feeling that the car has a degree of oversteer that can be enjoyed and utilized by a moderately skilled driver while never crossing up an unskilled one. The GT6 corners flat, too, and doesn't seem to want to lift its inside rear wheel in violent low-speed maneuvers. Over rough surfaces, the coupe performs creditably too. Its body is tight and the wheels stay on the ground. There is some chatter from the rear suspension but harshness isn't excessive on any surface.
Steady high speed driving is another forte of the GT6.- . Its overall noise level is low enough to be untiring and the engine isn't working itself to death to maintain a decent cruising speed. The interior finish also gets high marks. The seats aren't adjustable for rake but are reasonably well formed and pleasing to the eye. The dashboard (fascia, if you insist) is polished walnut, the vinyl upholstery is tastefully patterned and the floor areas are covered with carpeting.
The layout of the instruments isn't as good as it might be. The speedometer and tachometer are placed on the flat panel with little regard for ease of reading and would benefit from a little angling upward and ~toward each other. Switches are all clearly labeled in sign language and grouped in the center dash section. Water temperature and fuel gauges are also in the center section and are legible enough. Oil pressure and generator warning lights are in the lower part of the speedometer face. With overdrive the steering column is full of branches and twigs. Even after several days of driving we still found our
selves shifting into overdrive when all we wanted to do - was dim the headlights. A headlight flasher is incorporated into the light stick, a device we like though it is not strictly legal in all states.
The GT6 isn't a tall man's car, as the Comfort Rating Index shows. Our tallest driver, who is 6 ft 3, found himself too cramped to drive it with any degree of pleasure and our two 6-footers complained of their heads touching the roof. No one liked the location of the accelerator pedal; it was simply too high, and required the leg to be held in an awkward and tiring position. Seems a pity to build. such a nice car and then have it be comfortable for only a limited range of drivers. There is no nonsense about rear seats in the GT6. The large carpeted area behind the seats will take plenty of luggage and there is in addition a cubbyhole that would be handy for storing such things as cameras out of sight.
In keeping with the generally high level of mechanical refinement of the GT6 is, the brake system which turned in a creditable 28 ft/sec/sec (87% g) maximum deceleration. In our simulated panic stop from 80 mph, directional control was undisturbed- down to about 40, when the rear wheels began to lock. Pedal efforts aren't particularly low (no vacuum booster), but not bothersome either, and the brakes faded only 20% during our 6-stops-from-60 test.
As the whole front end sheet metal hinges forward, service access is of the highest order for the engine and front suspension. A nice touch of elegance under the hood comes from the chromed valve cover. The engine has a sealed (no loss) cooling system and chassis lubrication/oil change intervals are in keeping with the contemporary trends toward ever less fuss over routine maintenance.
The detail styling of the GT6 hasn't been carried out with quite the finesse evident in its power-train and running gear. The Michelotti-styled lower section is generally pleasant but
what detracts from the overall effect is the clumsy details such as multiple light units, chrome-trimmed seams and extraneous lines in curious places.
In summary, the GT6 is a smaller package that incorporates many of the same qualities that make the Jaguar E-type such an exhilarating car. It is smooth; it has good torque, low noise level and agility as well as stability in its handling. It's a great improvement over the Spitfire 4 from which it descended. Not that the Spitfire 4 was bad, it's just that the GT6 is so much better.' It has no parallel and it's worth the money.