Triumph has the car…

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarMonday, January 19th, 2009

 
 

For those of us with an old Triumph or two lying around the place, a piece of motoring news last week seemed to bring us one step closer to the Holy Grail of a modern-day Spitfire being put into production.

We learned that a duo of Dutch brothers named Tino and Paul Huet have put together a modern racing version of the iconic – to Triumph enthusiasts, at least – TR6 called the HB Special.

It was originally intended to compete in a handful of classic races but, quite unsurprisingly if you see the pictures, customer demand has led to limited production.

Take a look at the HB Special here >>

And we don’t think they’ve done a bad job of re-imagining this classic. Put it this way – when Triumph had the gall to move on from the TR6 via the Spitfire to the wedge-shaped TR7, the howls of protest nearly sank the company. So it was always a tricky endeavour.

Achtung, Spitfire! The Brits on Pole company car

Achtung, Spitfire! The Brits on Pole company car

However this rather seems to capture the spirit of the original. Not only does the body have the curvaceous, Italian-inflected lines that are the Triumph hallmark, and which sent the blokes at Top Gear off into a highly personal world of their own when considering the HB Special, they have them to a considerably greater extent than the original.

Here’s a clue to why. On their website the Huet brothers introduce themselves as follows: “They consider themselves extremely lucky having grown up among classic Alfas and vintage Bugattis.”

Interesting. Because numbers of the TR series (although not actually the TR6) as well as the Spitfire, the Stag and several other models were all designed by prolific Italian sportscar guru Giovanni Michelotti.

The marque has a little touch of Italian heritage in its very English blood and this is clearly what the Huet brothers have responded to. Just consider the resemblance to one or two of the Alfa Romeo Spyder designs if you have any doubts.

So, will we ever get our modern Spitfire? Or would that be a distinctly mixed blessing, in the way that the new Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle have very little to say to enthusiasts of the originals?

We fear it would.

In fact, the indomitable spirit of the Spit lives on very well in the form of other budget sportscars aiming to give maximum fun and driveability to their owners. The Mazda MX5 is a very obvious example and the Smart Roadster may be another.

Plus, Top Gear have rather hit the nail on the head towards the end of their piece: “It’ll be available in power outputs of 160bhp, 180bhp, or a heady supercharged 210bhp, which we’d imagine will give it more than enough pace to keep up with a base-spec Vauxhall Corsa.”

That is indeed a problem with this rather underpowered marque. You can blame the Americans and their damned emissions regulations – but that still doesn’t get around the basic fact.

But, there again, when you’ve got that much fun and lovely Italian style to play with, do you honestly need to have all the speed as well? Or would that just be showing off?

Unfortunately, with a retail price ranging from €67,000-€80,000, your Brits on Pole management is not due to be lining up an HB Special on the drive any time soon.

It looks like we’ll just have to go ahead with our recently-hatched scheme for acquiring a TR8 in red, white and blue rally trim…

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