When I was growing up the older kids on the estate all used to aspire to Mk 2 Escorts. It was the seventies. It was Dagenham. Everyone’s dad and their older brother seemed to work at Ford’s. Their daughters and sisters were pushing prams and the music on the radio was played by Dave Lee Travis. I, on the other hand – always wanted a GT6.
To me these things were banal. To me, aspiring to a car pieced together just down the road from me, on the other side of the estate, seemed the height of acquiescence – to what? Giving in to the expectations of others around you, that’s what. Giving in to the strictures of conformity, that’s what. Because cars mean something real to people. And the sort of car you choose reflects your aspirations, and therefore your identities. Why then, would you choose to aspire to that thing just down the road?
So, rather than aspire to the job at Ford’s and rather than listening to Dave Lee Travis and worrying about the attentions of those girls (who would soon to be pushing prams because of my mates, who by now were driving their dad’s Mk2 Escorts), I took it into my tiny mind that my first car would be a Triumph GT6. And I was into heavy metal. I can’t remember why this particular car came to mean everything that my surroundings were not. I probably saw some ad campaigns or something. Funny, because the GT6’s little, less powerful brother the Spitfire was something of an object of derision in our neck of the woods. Perhaps that’s why I wanted to be seen with one of its derivatives. Maybe I was looking for the derision of my contemporaries in their Dagenham dustbins.
The GT6 was, ultimately of course, a British car just like the Ford – but the Leyland boys were aiming squarely at the American market when they fitted it – the MK 3 that is, with the chopped off rear end (just like in the Stag) and the straight six, two litre lump. It howled and wheezed nicely – rather than burbled like a Hemi or scratched and rattled like a Pinto.
Beneath this skin the GT6 was a pure product of mass industrialisation of the era; it shared running gear, and other components with other Triumph models – but this assemblage was somehow more exotic, more aspirational than anything else to bear the Triumph badge. They had, after all been styled by he great Michelotti after Spitfires’ successful Le Mans campaign – especially to reflect the Gran Turismo kudos they had achieved there.
When I finally passed my test in the long, hot summer of 1976 – I realised that actually buying one would have been madness. The GT6 was pricey to run – the insurance costs would have broken me and the ultimately its panache was imagined – the anti-social flush of teenage otherness getting the better of me. I never did get the Triumph – but settled instead for a Transit van and went on my wanders. But looking at them now – they might be the perfect antidote for middle aged angst…
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