1963 Triumph Spitfire with Le Mans coachwork
Triumph ran three racing Spitfires during the 1964 and 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours race with 1147cc, four cylinder engines, alloy coachwork and a glass fibre coupé style roof. Having won their class in 1965, Triumph wanted to enter a six-cylinder Spitfire for the 1966 event under the F.I.A. Appendix J category to compete with Porsche. The six-cylinder Spitfire was to be called the GT6R (the production GT6 not being launched until July 1966) and was to run with either fuel injection or with triple carburettors. It was to be built on one of the existing Le Mans four-cylinder cars. 175 bhp was confidently expected that would give an estimated top speed of 160 mph. However, the 1966 proposed regulations would lead to too many differences, resulting with the car having to run in the prototype category where it would certainly have been un-competitive. With this and financial strains upon Triumph, the competitions programme at Triumph was run down and the project was abandoned.
Fast forward to 1989 and a project began to reproduce a lightweight car in the spirit of the racing Spitfires and the GT6R of the 1960s. A Yorkshire engineer, Graham Pearce, conceived the concept of a replica of that abandoned prototype. The design would have a strong, semi monocoque moulded body tub with an integral steel frame for strength and bonnet that would easily replace the existing body and bonnets of the Triumph Spitfire and GT6. In doing so, T6 Panel Craft was born. Graham produced only 20 bodies, before he retired.
This extraordinary motor car was built by Graham and was constructed on a 1963 Triumph Spitfire. The project aim was to keep as close as possible to the 1965 prototype. Its registration number echoes the period competition Spitfires who wore the ADU number plates. ADU 5A has a fabulous specification; these include; a 2.0 litre straight six Triumph engine with a Peter Burgess head, a Type 9 close ratio five speed gearbox and a Quaife limited slip differential. The suspension is uprated with aluminium hubs at the front whilst at the rear, CV drive shafts and an aluminium lower wishbone conversion that stops the infamous Spitfire rear wheel tuck under. The powerful six-cylinder engine delivering power low down but it is not until the revs reach 4,000 rpm that this fabulous car takes on another life. With the CV jointed driveshafts and lower wishbones, handling is exceptional with corners taken with the utmost confidence.
This Triumph attended the 2018 Le Mans Classic and was described as being the best demonstration at Arnage on the Friday evening. The car was also seen by Derek Bell, five times winner of Le mans who, kindly, signed the roof.
This car is also regularly seen at many other events including the Brooklands Double Twelve, Kop Hill and Goodwood Member’s Meetings. ADU 5A also attended the 2014 and 2016 Le Mans Classic; whilst visiting the 2016 event, the car was test driven by Claude Dubois, then, aged in his eighties. Claude drove the car in a very spirited way belying his age. He commented how lively the car was and how much it reminded him of his drive in the ‘Works’ Triumph Spitfire at Le Mans in 1965; Claude has signed the driver’s side roof.
Recently valued at £70,000, ADU 5A reflects the spirit of the 1960’s Triumph racing cars and represents a fabulous tribute to a bygone age of Le Mans motor racing.
Valued at £70,000, ADU 5A reflects the spirit of the 1960’s Triumph racing cars and represents a fabulous tribute to a bygone age of Le Mans motor racing.
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