"The original Knight of the road knew how fuel shortages impacted on the common folks. His creations perfectly reflected democracy in driving. Images Courtesy Morris Press/Triumph Press [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="426"] Rakish in heart and intellect: Alec Issigonis.[/"
Everyman Classics: Everyman Visionary: Giovanni Michelotti
When consummate Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti worked for Triumph – it was a strange kind of fusion. It was as if Federico Fellini directed a Carry On movie. But in the fleeting period in which these two worlds collided, some real classics of stylish, accessible motoring were created. And look at the cars. There was always something jarring, awkward and off-kilter about the Spitfire, the TR4 and the Herald. The latin element sat strangely in the body of midland metal. But it’s this juxtaposition that makes these cars appealing.
The GT6 is a burly breadvan. It is a hard topped fastback compact Le Mans machine – the hard-edged bigger brother of the Spitfire. Six cylinders and meant for Grand Tour racing, this design exemplifies Michelotti’s panache. It’s figures wouldn’t win you many hands of Top Trumps, but the Michelotti-pennedbody is rakish and adds a touch of magic. There are swooping lines and subtle bulges that suggest more power than was actually under the hood. But the GT6 remains a workable and stylish little stallion. There were only 40,000 sold roughly – and we don’t know how many are left on the road but for mid range everyman sportster they can’t be beat. Cherish. Drive. Repeat.
Apart from Jaguar’s E-Type, which is another click up in terms of performance and refinement, the TR4 is perhaps the quintessential British sports car of the early sixties. To me it looks through the lens of the decades as a bold statement. Those fins, which are the coda of a chrome-trimmed line that describes the length of the car it shared with its aesthetic cousin the Sunbeam Alpine, look straight out of Detroit to me. The character of the front end combined with its dynamic stance has us reeling all the way to century 21. But there’s something wonderfully masculine and uncompromising about the TR4, which makes us ache to get out on the lanes in one of these cars.
Michellotti’s vision of this affordable sporty family runabout was that visibility and quirk was front and centre. And the look of the car is certainly whimsical, a little odd, but ultimately unique and timelessly appealing. The Herald actually provided the chassis for the GT6 – and the body was fully modular. In most models you could unbolt the roof to make a barchetta-style unit out of the car (always a fraught exercise in these islands of course). My aunty Sue had one for years. I loved the way the whole front-end tipped forward to reveal the engine bay and the front running gear, in the same way as the E-Type. The herald was shot through with that little vein of the exotic. It fitted my aunt’s sensibility perfectly.
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