The Triumph GT6 has a lot going for it, and for now it’s temptingly affordable
Picture in your mind a sloping fastback roofline, ’60s curves, a purring straight-six engine, wood-laden interior, and competition pedigree. Ingredients that usually make for an expensive vintage sports car—something like an Aston Martin, Jaguar, or Bentley. Now think smaller. The truth is you’ve never really had to be a blue-blood to afford such a car, because there’s a certain little Triumph that checks all the boxes.
Indeed, the Triumph GT6 has long been called “the poor man’s E-type,” and from the beginning it was competitively priced as such to compete with the likes of the MGB GT. But even though the GT6 is rarer, quicker, prettier, has two more cylinders, and makes a better sound than the MG, the two have commanded similar prices on the classic car market. For awhile the Triumph was actually cheaper. The secret is starting to get out, though, as solid GT6s have been selling for higher prices and more buyers are drawn to that tempting combo of gorgeous looks, solid performance, and exclusivity, at a surprisingly low price.
Triumph’s pint-sized Spitfire roadster first arrived in 1962. Styled by Giovanni Michelotti, who was practically Triumph’s in-house stylist in the 1960s, the Spitfire featured some handling quirks but was generally a lovely little car and prettier than the Austin-Healey Sprite/MG Midget that it competed against. A coupe version was considered not long after, but the added weight of the fixed roof with the Spitfire’s tiny 1147-cc four-banger made for a woefully underpowered prototype. Enter the 2.0-liter overhead-valve six-cylinder from the Vitesse, a power bulge in the hood, and a few other details like better seats, and the GT6 was born.
Triumph touted it as “The new one. The hot one… It’s not just a fastback. It’s the fastback.” That said, early cars had their problems, mostly with the swing axle rear suspension borrowed from the Herald. The swing axle was fine in the economical little Herald, but proved unable to handle the performance expectations Triumph owners had for the GT6. Under hard cornering the car could break away suddenly, scaring drivers out of their wits.
Triumph fixed the issue with the GT6 Mk II (marketed as the GT6+ in the U.S.) for 1969 with double wishbones and a little more power with a new cam and head. The GT6+ also features a raised front bumper (for safety reasons) that largely covers up the grille. An even bigger change came in 1970 with the Mk III, which had a flatter and more angular tail end treatment to mirror the Spitfire Mk IV and another revision to the rear suspension to cut costs and simplify. A brake servo was added for 1973r, and by that time emissions laws had caught up, resulting in lower compression and more meager performance. After ’73, Triumph quietly dropped the GT6 from the lineup. Meanwhile, the similarly laid out Datsun 240Z took the world by storm.
GT6s look fantastic, somehow packing a lot of curves and a lot of panache onto a pleasantly diminutive platform. The cars did well on track, too, with an E-Production National Championship in 1969 and a host of other wins to their credit. And yet a lot of people just forgot about the GT6, and they stayed cheap for decades. Good ones traded for less than 10 grand well into the 2000s.
In the past five years or so, that’s changed. As classic cars of all shapes and sizes started getting more expensive, some of the more obscure classics started to get attention. Since 2014, average GT6 values are up over 47 percent for both Condition #1 (Concours) and #3 (Good) examples, and they’re up a whopping 55 percent for Condition #2 (Excellent) cars. And much of that movement has been in the past year and a half. Prices for their open-top Spitfire siblings, meanwhile, have moved in the opposite direction with a 3–10 percent drop in value over the same period, depending on condition. Early MGB GT prices have risen, too, but not by nearly as much.
Very nice GT6s started to come out of hiding in the past couple of years and found huge results, at least for the model, including a $25,200 fully restored Mk III in Quail Lodge last year, an $18,000 right-hand drive car on Bring a Trailer a few months before that, and a $23,500 fully restored Mk I on BaT in June 2017. Those were all top-dollar results that moved the value needle, but the most expensive of the the three was about as much as a new Camry.
More people are expressing interest in GT6s via our insurance quoting activity as well. Surprisingly, a lot of those people are younger. From 2017 to 2018, 67 percent more Millenials quoted a GT6, which is notably greater than the quote growth for Millenials across the rest of the cars we track. It also bucks the general trend in younger buyers not being very interested in British cars. Younger buyers may mainly be drawn to GT6s for their low price, but it’s still a good sign for long term collectibility.
Because all three iterations of the GT6 have their own pluses and minuses, they’re all worth roughly the same amount; running projects are a little under $5000 and the best of the best are roughly 25 grand. The first cars are the best-looking, but they have the rudimentary suspension and the snap oversteer issue. That said, you’ll only run into that if driving your GT6 on the limit, and some Mk Is have been retrofitted with a later setup anyway.
The GT6+ (aka the Mk II) is arguably the best of the bunch with the prettier tail from the Mk I, along with suspension and engine improvements, but it was only around for about a year and is the hardest to find. The Mk III isn’t quite as pretty as the other two and later ones were down on power, but they also came with more creature comforts. With only about 41,000 built compared to more than 300,000 Spitfires, though, you can’t really be too picky when GT6 shopping. Condition should be more important than anything.
Even with some of the added attention and value growth, GT6s are still suspiciously cheap. Yes, they leak oil. Yes, they rust in the usual spots (sills, door bottoms, wheelarches, chassis outriggers, and the area around the rear hatch). But these are things you expect with a classic British sports car, and despite how rare the GT6 is most parts are easy to find. In coolness per dollar, it’s a hard car to beat.