Update - January 2002
Click on each thumbnail for a very large view of each image. Click your back button to return to this page.
The following photographs are in chronological order. The first picture is the GT6 in autocross form prior to being disassembled for rebuilding into a full-fledged race car. The 2nd through 7th are the restoration of the frame. The 8th is cleaning the gunk under the body. The 9th & 10th are replacing the body onto the frame. The 12th through 14th are the car with roll cage supporting from front to rear.
Andy's story as published in the January 2002 Exhaust Notes:
“Don’t race that car. It is way to pretty to ruin it racing.” I have heard that statement about ten times since I decided to make my 72 Gt-6 into a racer. Well yes it is too pretty to be a racer but heck it is supposed to be racer not a show car. I have always looked at Triumphs as the cars you drive and you drive hard. My Gt-6 had been no exception. From the day I first saw it in 1986 I was sure that Triumph had actually made a sports car with some muscle to throw around. When I finally bought it in 1990 I was right. It took me a couple of weeks to get it running but when I did I was in love. Suddenly my little Spitfire was quickly losing favor to the Gt-6.
I should step back a little and introduce myself. My name is Andrew Stark and I am a Triumph addict. I have owned Spitfires since I was sixteen and I have not had a day since, that I did not own at least one Spit, and at times several. My first was a ratty old 1974 1500. From there my addiction has infected the whole family and many friends. The addiction still grows. I have autocrossed Spits since I first started owning them. The Spit is a natural autocrosser. I never really tried hard with the Spits. I just went out for fun. And fun I had! It turned out that I became quite good with the Spits and after a couple of years started winning a lot locally. I started to think maybe I should get into track racing. It was not to be. College and real life got in the way.
Once real life started getting in the way after college the autocrossing and any hopes of track racing had to go on the back burner. Well ten years slipped by and I had become married then divorced. Changed jobs several times and basically forgotten any hopes of being a racer in my little white Spitfire. Don’t get me wrong I still autocrossed a few times a year and always had a couple of Spits in the garage. But the real commitment/money to race slipped by year after year.
Finally I found myself settled down in 1998 and I was actually down to one Triumph in the garage and wonderful new wife and job. (I won’t mention the eight Triumphs in the family barn.)
I had for the fun of it autocrossed the Gt-6 a couple of times at car shows and it was pretty fun. Nothing near as good as the old white Spit, but still a lot of fun. (The old white Spit had been sold off in pieces a few years earlier to pay off my divorce.) Anyway the Gt-6 had a draw to it that I could not shake. I kept the car over all the other Spits due to the six-cylinder engine and the way it worked out as such a nice daily driver. Plus the Gt-6 had to be in my opinion the best looking car Triumph ever made. Now it really wasn’t my daily driver any more and it was fun to autocross. Hmm should I see what it could do?? Yep!!
I bolted on some of the trick stuff I had left from the Spit and put on some nasty old Yokahamas and went Autocrossing SCCA style in 1999. Five races later I packed it in. The Gt-6 was the scariest damn car I had ever driven on the Autocross track!! I spent more time going backwards puckering up than going forwards. It was fine on the small car-show tracks that were mostly first and second gear. On the SCCA track were third gear was the norm the Gt-6 turned into an evil beast that was intent on killing me (and some course workers to boot). I have to laugh a little now. It got to the point every time I staged, the course workers would step behind light polls as extra protection. At the time it was a blow to the ego. I parked it.
I started reading and studying the car and realized that Triumph should have shot the engineers that designed the engine layout. Way to much engine in front of the axles!!! Surely they could have figured out how to put the engine four inches back. I started trying to find out what other people had done to make these cars handle. I mostly received kind giggles when I talked to old racers and many times over it was suggested to me to go buy a Honda if I wanted to go fast. I could not believe that no one had had any success with this car!!!
I was about to give up when I came across a video that someone had given me years ago about Group 44. In this video Group 44 won races with their Gt-6!!! Granted it was road racing not autocrossing but they had to have some tricks that would apply to what I wanted to do. The video gave me the hope to look even harder for info. To shorten the story of my research I came up dry on the Group 44 info. Seems the car has been in many hands over the years and no one could get it to do what Furstenau could get out of it. Most advice I got conflicted with the guy I talked to or the article I read the day before. Really most of the advice was to stay away from racing a Gt-6.
What I decided to do was use the info that I had acquired and then try to use some of my own common sense. The winter of 1999 and 2000 was the winter of experimentation. I decided the car was fatally tail-happy. To fix this I concluded I had to make the front very stiff and roll resistant and make the rear soft and roll resistant. I also had to control what the car would do when under full throttle and hard braking as well as the normal lift when entering a turn. My driving style also had to change completely. This was a tall order for this car. Oh yes there was the issue of budget. I could not spend thousands of dollars to get this done.
The front was pretty straightforward. I purchased 480ftlb and 660ftlb springs from Triumph Tune, 1inch sway bar from Addco, Poly bushings from British Parts NW and Spax shocks from Vicky Brit. I also fabbed aluminum blocks as lower chamber plates to give front wheels three degrees negative chamber.
The rear was more involved. I knew it had problems. I realized early on it was way to stiff. It also sat way to high. I also knew that one cure Triumph suggested and used in the late Mk3 was the Spitfires sliding spring arrangement. Lucky me I had a dozen or more of these springs I had picked up over the years. It took damn near the whole dozen to get the correct mix and match of partially cut leafs to get the car to sit the way I liked it. Finally the car sat level. Then I went about installing Poly Bushings and Koni shocks. I picked Konis over Spax because I could limit the down travel of the axel much better than with the Spax shocks. I added an Addco rear sway bar and thought I was done. It was then suggested to me that I get a Quaife differential for the car. Since I was going to have to rely on more power coming out of turns it was more important than ever to put that power to the pavement. Well Quaifes are expensive and hard to find for the small frame Triumphs. The home office of Quaife was very helpful in locating one for me and I installed it in time for the 2000 Autocross season.
I also purchased new tires. If you want any car to handle you have to choose the right tire for the application. I chose Hoosier. I went with 225/45R13’s. These are really wide tires for an unflared Gt-6. The guy on the phone swore they would fit with the set back on my wheels with out much bodywork to the car. He was correct I only had to roll the front fenders a little to allow for clearance.
In all by the first part of the 2000 Autocross season the Gt-6 suspension was done. It took the better part of four months tinkering in the garage to get it the way I wanted it. I also blew my budget by a huge margin. If I added it up I guess it was in the neighborhood of $3,000.00 when all was said and done. I am afraid to really add it up. I am sure add in bearings and U-joints etc… into it and it starts pushing $3,500.00. That is not going with the really trick stuff I could have bought. Pretty scary kiddies!!
Once all this was done I started to see results. It took awhile and I am still getting over the uneasy feeling that I am going to spin into a light pole at any second but I got faster and faster as the year went on. I did not have that much competition in my class so I had to base my results against cars that had beat me really bad the year before. I used a GS Integra type R as my benchmark. This guy had been several seconds faster than me the year before. I am ashamed to say as much as seven seconds faster. Granted he was Region champ and a ProSolo national champ but still very sad in my book. The first race he was at that I attended I closed the gap to three seconds. At years end I could beat him by half a second and the Gt-6 and myself where getting faster each race. I decided to try out the SCCA Solo II nationals just for the experience. I still felt like I was under driving the car and I was sure the engine was getting tired. (28years old without a major rebuild. Can you say blow by.) The tranny also was a bit on the picky side in second gear. All that put aside I wanted to see what the big leagues of Solo II looked like anyway.
If you have not seen a SoloII nationals before you have missed the biggest Grass Roots Motorsports event in the world. Twelve hundred cars entered!!!!! To put it politely the Gt-6 and I did not have snowballs chance in hell of doing anything at this race. I realized that right off the bat and had a great time the whole week. The Gt-6 did do pretty well and I did place mid field in my class. Better than the hope that I would not finish last. I honestly think that a better driver could have made a much better showing in the car. I still had the uneasy feeling of not wanting to spin the car, especially at the nationals. I under drove the car badly the first day and did not do much better the second day. I had a blast nonetheless. Again if you ever have the chance even to just go and watch the nationals, do it. It is a complete blast.
Once back at home I decided to run one more club race and put the car up for the winter. It was time to work on the engine and tranny for the next season. Once the Gt-6 was put up I started the task of deciding how competitive did I want to get. I spent a lot of money just to be top-dog locally and be mid-pack nationally. Here is a real scary figure for you. I spent $5,800.00 and some change to race the 2000 season. It worked out to be a $128.00 per minute of seat time. Not counting that each race day was at least eight hours out in the sun or rain. I took into consideration that I still had a lot to learn just in driving the car, new engine, modify the tranny, new wider wheels, new tires, triple Webers, new ignition, aluminum flywheel, oil cooler and Accu Sump. Add in four more national events in 2001 and I was looking to at least double my expenditure over the 2000 season.
Even if I did decide to leave all common sense behind and do all this to the car for the 2001 season, I and the car still did not have a snowballs chance in hell of doing anything at the nationals for at least four or five years until the car is worked out. A light went on in my head and I thought gees I could build a track car for that kind of money! In one weekend of road racing you can get two years of autocross seat time!!!! What the heck have I been doing??? If I am going to spend ten thousand or more dollars I am want more seat time!!!!! If I run one super school and six races in a year I would get sixteen years of Autocross seat time. The choice had been made. I was going E-production racing in 2002.
That is my very long answer to why I want to take my pretty little Gt-6 road racing.
The decision to go road racing was pretty easy but actually following through is the hard part. I had several questions I had to ask myself.
· Do I just drop a roll cage and fuel cell in a go racing?
· Do I buy an existing car?
· What is the cost going to be one vs the other.
· Is the car I have solid enough to race?
· Do I have the time and money to do this?
· Can I get the parts to build my own car if I wanted to?
Most of these questions I could answer except do I buy or build. Just plain stubborn pride made that decision. I wanted to build my own car so I could really call it mine. I always kind of wince when guys say “Yeah I bought this car from so-and-so and it is really fast.” Only to see that same guy frustrated as the car breaks or doesn’t do what the owner said it would. Straight facts are that a racecar for sale is a car that is old and tired. Not always but I venture to say 90% of the time.
About the time I was making this decision it was winter 2000 and a guy named Frank Axelrod gave me a call. He had just purchased a G-prod Spitfire and was going to move to St. Louis in the spring. He had gotten my name from the local club and needed a crew for the 2001 season. I gladly said yes. This would give me the experience of what it takes to run my first season. Free experience is always a good thing. To make it short the 2001 season with Franks car was a success. It was a pretty good car and Frank proved out to be a good driver that kept his head straight and used the season as a learning session and not as if he was going to win every race. The biggest thing I learned was that yes, I was definitely going to build my own car. While Franks car was pretty good it still needed a ton of work to be what he wanted. Decision made by his experience.
After my first meeting with Franks car in March of 2001 my car began it’s final voyage into a true racer. I did run it one more time after I had gutted it just to see how much 200lbs of junk had slowed the car down. It was not to be because the engine spun a rod bearing halfway through my first run at a local autocross and I had to shut it down.
Within a few weeks the car was completely torn apart and waiting for its next step.
I took stock of what I had. I had a rusty bent frame, tired old engine, loose tranny, great suspension and a good mostly rust free body. I decided to junk the frame and use one I had in storage that came from a good straight Gt-6 that had fatal body rust. I decided to build a completely new engine and transmission as well.
This is were the real work began. I stripped the car down to every last bolt. I then sent the donor frame off to the sand blaster and I went to work on freshening the suspension just to make sure everything was in perfect working order. Once the frame was back I welded any problems it had and strengthened a few other places like the differential mounts and transmission mounts with some doubled up metal and brackets. Once the welding was done I purchased some good quality Urethane paint and painted it the same color as the body. This is the expensive way to go but I wanted the car to have a factory look to it when it was all done. The small frame Triumphs for the most part always painted the frame and underbody the same as the topcoat color. In my case it is red and very expensive. Over all the paint for the car was around $600.00 and I did all the work myself. If on a budget like I originally intended I suggest Macco. Once the frame was painted I reinstalled all of the suspension and plumbing then moved onto the body. The body was suffering from more rot than I would like to admit and had to be fixed. I cut out some sections of the floor and replaced them and had to rebuild the driver’s side inner sill. Not really all that bad. Once the repairs were done I wire brushed and stripped every inch of the firewall and the bottom of the car. I swear I will never do that again. This is the messiest nastiest job I have done on a Triumph to date. Almost thirty years of grime on top of rust proofing and rust makes for a really nasty task to remove. It took me the better part of a week to do it and some very sore arms and back. Even with a mask I was blowing some nasty black stuff out of my nose for days. My ears were not to pretty either. Once it was all clean I wiped it down with solvent and put a nice sealer coat and primer on it. I then followed up with a thin coat of body color. I took a lot of weight off by getting rid of all the rust proofing and did not want to add much back. The beauty of Urethane paints is that you don’t have to put it on thick to get a nice finish and chemical protection. Plus this car was never going to see road salt or normal grime again. Once this was all done I had some friends come over and help me put the body back on the frame. This really went a lot better than I thought it would. It bolted right up and we were done in less than an hour. I had the steering in and brake plumbing in within two hours and I had a complete rolling body and chassis by the end of the day.
Now it was time for the roll cage. This is where I was nervous. I had no experience in this sort of thing and was totally at the mercy of whom I brought it to. I shopped many different frame and body shops and even some individuals that worked out of there home. I finally went with a shop that mostly built drag cars and had done a few SCCA cars. I was really impressed with the quality of his work and also he was the first guy that said right off the bat that he would really like to try working on a Triumph. Also every thing I asked for he said he could do it without hesitation. He had a tone of confidence and that was what I was looking for. He also said he could do it in a week. The roll cage was not cheap. I spent $1,800.00 on it. But I got what I wanted. I put in a 14-point cage that goes all the way from the rear frame mounts up to the engine mounts. It is very comprehensive. I am very happy with the work on the cage and it turned out just like I wanted it to.
Now it is time for the engine and transmission to be built. I also have to install the fuel system and fire safety equipment. I will write about that next time. I have to go work on the new transmission and finish up my connecting rods so they can go to the machine shop this week.
Happy motoring , Andy (Check out: http://www.sltoa.org/Members/Stark/default.htm for more pictures & stories.)
Hi, This is an article about my Gt-6 EP project. It has been a huge undertaking, but very fun, and I am still looking good to get it done by the end of March for driver’s school.