Classic Triumph Spitfire a 'twin carb feast'
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Ian Greaves’ first car was a Triumph Herald. “Then a Mini, MkII and MkIV [Triumph] Spitfires, then the TR6 — the last sports car before I got married, when she had to go.”
The car, that is, to make way for a more family-oriented set of wheels: “I exchanged it for a Triumph 2.5 PI.”
So, perhaps it was inevitable that he’d buy another TR6, acquiring this one in 2013, from Auckland. It was warranted and registered but needed a bit of work, to the brakes and brake lines for starters.
Greaves aimed to keep it as original as possible. He added electronic ignition, replaced the dash, refurbished the gauges and did up the seats. Fortunately, it’s easy to get parts: “Rimmer Bros in the UK does TR6 . . . they reckon you can build a whole car from Rimmer’s warehouse.”
That meant he could buy an entire seat kit — springs, foam, vinyl, even fasteners — and fit the lot himself. “It’s not hard.”
Those 16in wheels were standard; back then that was huge. The Triumph Spitfire he owned for a whilealongside this car had 12in wheels.
His TR6 was originally fuel injected, but someone swapped that setup for SU carbs, which he reckons is better now the car is getting on a bit. “They made both versions back then but only the twin-carbs went to the States. Fuel injection gave more power, but it doesn’t last as well.”
Greaves uses his car a fair bit. He joined the TR6 register in Auckland and drove to The Chateau at Tongariro for an event. “It was pouring with rain, and some folk came up from Wellington with the top down, in raincoats!”
Less hardy folk could fit a hard roof. Greaves has one, but it stays in the garage. “I’ve only had it on once.”
He’s driven his car around the North Island, and taken a jaunt around the rough roads of the East Cape. There’s a boot — roomier than expected — and the boot lid rack, plus a bit of space in the rear seats if the roof is up, so luggage isn’t a problem. And it’ll cruise at 100km/h with ease.
With the TR6 register events a few hours’ drive away from his Kerikeri home, Greaves joined the Bay of Islands Classic and Sports Car club. This is open to sports cars of any age.
“When I moved up here I couldn’t find a club. I got talking to the owner of an Austin Healey I saw in Waimate North, the driver put me in touch with the club and that was it.”
He’s now the president and uses the car a least every fortnight.
When the TR6 is started in the garage, it sounds fantastic. The original twin pipes out the back have been replaced, as the exhaust gas used to get into the cabin via the boot, so the pipes now feed out to the side.
The twin-carb set-up delivers 93kW from the straight six, overhead valve, water-cooled engine matched to a four-speed manual transmission with overdrive on third and fourth, and disc front with drum rear brakes, power assisted, although there’s no power steering.
“She can be a little heavy to steer when reversing, say, but not once you’re moving.”
And having taken photos, we had a chance to try it. The key slots awkwardly under the dash — you reach through the steering wheel or around it — before she fires.
Despite no power steer, getting out of the parking spot was almost as easy as in a modern car. The short-travel shift lever moved sweetly through the gears, a little stiffer for second, though that’s likely user error, and once we’d got used to the long travel before the accelerator picks up, it proved a cinch to drive.
We noted scuttle shake — apparently the model is famous for it — though it didn’t seem to affect the handling, something original owners appreciated as much as Ian does. And it sounds great, not just in the garage at idle, but once the revs rise.
No wonder this owner is so happy with his car. Next he plans to give the TR6 a birthday. “I’ll strip it down, deal to a bit of rust, paint, send away the engine and the gearbox. Neither is in urgent need of anything but you may as well give it all a tidy-up while the car is apart.”
Greaves reckons there are about 250 still going in New Zealand. So it isn’t a rarity but a useable classic, and worth looking after.
“It looks mean, it looks fast, it sounds nice and it performs as well as anything on the road today.”