Triumph Spitfire ( GT6 / Herald / Vitesse )
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This guide celebrates the Triumph Spitfire, GT6, Herald and Vitesse models.
Triumph Spitfire Mk1 and Mk2
The Spitfire made its debut at the London Motor Show in October 1962. With chassis and mechanics derived largely from the Triumph Herald and body styling by Michelotti, it was an immediate success. Longer, leaner and better looking than its main competitors, the Austin Healey Sprite and MG Midget, the Spitfire had some definite advantages, although it was slightly higher priced at £641 when new in 1963. From March 1965 the Mk 2 became available. It featured a slightly more powerful engine and a higher level of trim, but was identical externally to the Mk 1, differing only in the style of the grille mesh.
Triumph Spitfire Mk3
The Spitfire Mk 3 became available from 1967 and represented a number of substantial improvements. The most important of these was the increase in engine capacity to 1296cc, which raised the power output to 75bhp and improved the overall performance of the car. 0-60mph now took 14.5 seconds and coupled with a top speed of 95mph the model was comfortably ahead of the competition. From a styling point of view the MkIII featured a raised bumper blade, several inches higher than before and partly obscuring the radiator entry duct. In addition, the soft top became permanently fitted and the inside of the car more tastefully equipped.
Triumph Spitfire Mk4 / 1500
Featuring better handling and a smoother style, the Spitfire Mk 4 arrived in 1970. Completely re-skinned and re-trimmed, it was a much more refined car than its predecessors. Slower than the Mk III it replaced, due to modifications for the new tighter American regulations, the MkIV inspired the final modification of the model, the 1500. Launched in late 1974, this car with its 1493cc power plant would reach the magic ton and ran successfully until 1980 when production finally closed. All Triumph 1500 s were fitted with an under-bumper, chin spoiler.
The Herald was conceived at Standard-Triumph in 1956 and launched three years later with a design from Giovanni Michelotti. Facing tough competition from other small cars like the Mini and Ford Anglia, it achieved considerable success with over half-a-million cars being built in just over a decade. Built in various guises: saloon, coupe, convertible, estate and van (very rare), the Herald saloon was the best seller from all other Herald / Vitesse / Spitfire / GT6 models drew many components.
The Herald sired a complete family of cars to include the Spitfire and GT6 but closely based on its layout was its big-engined brother the Vitesse. Marketed in the USA as the Sports 6, the Vitesse started life as a six-cylinder 1596cc in 1962, and progressed in 1966 to a 2 litre. Compared to the 1600, the 2 litre had a 1998cc / 95bhp six-cylinder engine to which a new all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox and more robust rear axle were mounted. The 2 litre Mk2 Vitesse arrived in late 1968, sharing all its improvements with the GT6 Mk2, which was launched on the same day.
The idea of building a six-cylinder version of the Spitfire came along in 1964. Christened GT 6 and developed with the North American market in mind, the model was launched in 1966. The Mk2 emerged in 1968 and the Mk3 (new body style with cut-off tail) was introduced in late 1970. By this time the GT6 had an all-synchromesh gearbox and a new back axle design with lower-wishbone suspension but these arrived too late as the market had already made up its mind unfavourably about the GT6. Little further effort was devoted to development and production ceased towards the end of 1973.