The Design

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No prizes for guessing the answer to the above question!


      

Michelotti sketches of the Triumph Spitfire and GT6



Giovanni Michelotti (1921-1980) with a 1:10 wooden model of the Spitfire

Triumph's long standing relationship with Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti began in 1957 when a certain Captain Raymond Flowers contacted Standard-Triumph. Born in 1921 and educated at Oundle, Magdalen College, Oxford and the University of Zurich, he ran his family business, the Cairo Motor Company in Egypt after the war. A former racing driver, he was a member of the British Racing Drivers' Club. He was also heir to the Flowers brewing company.


Capt. Raymond Flowers 1921-2015

Under the aegis of The Cairo Motor Company, Captain Flowers proposed a number of projects for car manufacture in Egypt, one of which was a small and economical car for which he needed an engine. He contacted S-T to see if he could buy the 'SC' engine used at the time in the Standard 8 and 10. Harry Webster (Director of Engineering) and Martin Tustin (Director & General Manager) met with Captain Flowers in Coventry. Webster recalls that "We did not know much about this project at that time, so we asked him for what reason did he want our engine. Flowers told us that it was intended for a small car and so I asked him how that could be? He told us he did not know but there was not much of a problem because he would have a prototype in just three months. He really wasn't believed but this provided a challenge. If he could have a prototype in three months we would pay for it." Captain Flowers eventually got his engine from Meadows, and the small car became the Meadows Frisky. To read about the Frisky click here. Flowers initially acted as an intermediary between S-T and the Italian designer. However after some detective work by Tustin and Webster they found out that it was Michelotti, who at that time was working for Vignale of Turin.

      

At the time Triumph were looking to redesign the TR3. Alick Dick (Managing Director) hired Giovanni Michelotti as a consultant/designer to help with the product line at Triumph. His first attempt was the TR Dream Car, built by Vignale (see above) and heavy with American influences including a full width chrome grille, (rumored to have influenced the grille of the TR3A as well) pronounced tail fins, and 'eyebrows' over the headlights. Although this car was only a styling exercise, several of the styling cues would carry over to the new TR. Another Triumph he influenced was the 'Vignale' version of the Standard Vanguard (see above also). His next project for Triumph was to design the Herald saloon, which was a great success for the company, and later lead to the Spitfire/GT6 line of sports cars as well. To read an article about Michelotti, click here.


The GT6 was based, of course, on the Spitfire (which apparantly was Mitchelotti's favourite design). What were his influences at the time? Below is a drawing of the GT6 Mk1.

What are the main characteristics of this design? I propose the following:

1. Sloping door (higher at the front)
2. A curved rear wing which rises just behind the door, then falls towards the tail.
3. A bonnet which echoes the bonnet but is more drawn out.
4. Headlamps which are set back, and a slightly protruding grill.

What influences did Michelotti have in the early 1960s? Characteristics of his TR Dream Car and the later Triumph Herald show American influence. Michelotti was a prolific designer who could summon sketches out of thin air, so he could included features that he observed in other cars, particularly American, without even realising! While thumbing through a copy of Classic & Sports Car I noticed a picture of the 1954 Kaiser Darrin. American designer Howard "Dutch" Darrin's trademark was "a sweeping fender line which descended gently along the side of the car until it reached a "dip" at the head of the rear fender" (for fender read wing). This feature can be seen in the following picture:

This echoes the design of the Triumph Spitfire (and GT6) as in characteristics 1. to 3. above. Of course Howard Darrin may well have been influenced by the Italian designers of the day, there was a lot of cross pollination in designs but it is entirely possible that Michelotti admired or knew of Darrin's designs!