One Of 329: 1961 Triumph Italia 2000 GT

I1

Back in the late 1950’s, an Italian gentleman by the name of Ruffino decided that while the Triumph TR3 had a terrific power plant and suspension, its looks left something to be desired. Perhaps he was inspired by the Bertone-bodied MGTDs, the Arnolt-Bristol or other Anglo-Italian hybrids. The story is too long to tell here, but he got Giovanni Michelotti to design the body and the coach builder Vignale to build it. If it looks a little like a Maserati 3500 Spyder or a Lancia Appia, there’s a good reason as both were made at about the same time by the same folks. Italias received serial numbers through 329, but no one knows exactly how many were built. This particular car has been refurbished to a very high standard (although not perfectly to original specs) and is on offer here on eBay. Thanks to Jim S. for this find, which isn’t a barn find by any means, but is unusual enough for us to feature. Besides, I own an Italia that I’ve had since 1987, and it’s literally my favorite car of all time, so I’m a little biased!

I2

I fell in love with these lines when I was 14.  I had just purchased a Triumph TR4A to refurbish by the time I got my driver’s licence and bought my first Triumph book. As soon as I saw the picture of the Italia (to this day, the book falls open to that page) I was hooked.  After a 9-year search I finally found mine. This particular Italia was the subject of a restoration blog while it was being restored, and is now being sold by the restoration shop since the owner doesn’t use it enough. The pretty blue car pictured here is the second this shop has refurbished, and while they deviated from standard on several things (like using a TR4 frame that is 4″ wider than the TR3 frame the car came with), the work certainly seems to have been done to a very high standard.

I3

I’ve stripped my Italia to bare metal before, and trust me, this is definitely a hand-made body, with many small panels welded together and then leaded; it’s not an easy body to work on, and mine actually differs significantly from side to side despite never having been in an accident. Hats off to the body craftsmen at this shop; this car really looks beautiful and actually finished second at the prestigious 2013 Concorso Italiano. Sadly, it has only covered 500 miles since restoration (I have driven my Italia over 60,000 miles) so the owner is passing it on in the hopes someone will use it more.

I5

Needless to say, the interior looks very nice as well, although again some details are not perfectly original. According to the shop’s website where the car is also listed for sale, over $70,000 was spent on the restoration. I’m awfully glad I bought mine when I did, because I sure couldn’t afford one now. And no, mine will not be sold while I’m around. I absolutely love the combination of the relatively simple Triumph mechanical components with the beautiful Italian design, and I can tell you that the seats are extremely comfortable on long trips; I’ve driven mine from North Carolina to San Antonio.

I7

The 1991 cc wet-liner four-cylinder power plant coupled with the improved aerodynamics raised the top speed of an Italia over that of a TR3.  Trust me when I tell you, though, we are not talking rocket ship here. But that’s not the point of a true GT like this; what is the point is style with relatively decent performance and the knowledge that you will almost never see another one on the road. If that fits what you want, an Italia is a great car for you! If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging my writing about my all-time favorite car and let me know what you think!

 

 

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Comments

  1. MacVaugh

    Jamie,

    I owned this one (or its twin) while in the Navy in the 70s. http://britishsportscars.com/blog/2014/07/on-the-market-1960-triumph-italia-2000/

    I too had my nearly first experience rebuilding the engine for my dentist in a TR 4 that had been left him by a buddy who went to Vietnam and didn’t return alive.

    Mine had originally been red on red, but someone had repainted it silver. I wanted to get body work done on it to ‘square it away” but the body shop in San Diego told me that I would end up spending Ferrari money to work on a Triumph :)

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Working on my Italia is why I learned to do my own bodywork…similar experience with a body shop! I wonder if that one was yours?

  2. wagon master

    This thing.is gorgeous. I love coach built GT cars.

  3. Charles

    That’s a beautiful little car!

  4. Woodie Man

    I agree……..really beautiful..the front reminds me of a Sixties Maserati

  5. Gary I

    I am not normally a fan of these, but this is about as good as I have ever seen a Triumph look. Nice car all around.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      I agree!

  6. boxdin

    Best looking Triumph Ive ever seen.

  7. Joe

    Agree with all above. Gorgeous design. On this one, would prefer saddle or darker interior. Hagerty suggests 100K for concours level car, this one looks to be one of the best in the photos, but can tell in person only if at this level.

  8. Doyler

    An achingly beautiful car

    • Alan (Michigan )

      Great choice of words.
      Agreed that the style, combined with color choice and condition, engenders a physiological response.

  9. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Yes very beautiful, and similar to but smaller than the Maserati 3500 GT that appeared a few years before in 1957.

    If you look at photos of the two cars you would think they were designed by the same person. Maybe they were. Touring built the Maserati 3500 GT coupe bodies, and the firm is also given credit for the design, although the particular person who designed it isn’t named as far as I know. The Maserati 3500 GT Spyders were built by Vignale and credited to Giovanni Michelotti as designer.

    A couple of years later the Italia 2000 coupe appears, also built by Vignale, and also credited to Michelotti for the design.

    So did Michelotti design all three bodies? Probably, but it’s likely that Touring, as builder of the 3500 GT coupes, also took the right to be credited with the body design, at least by implication since no individual designer was named. Advantage: Touring. Anyway, they are all similarly beautiful designs.

    I’m not sure that it makes sense for the owner to have sunk $70K into restoring this Italia, only to turn around and put it up for sale because he’s not using it very much. The SCM Guide has these listed (in the Triumph section) at a median auction sale price of $65K, with the high auction sale price being $85K. Maybe they will be selling for more by the time this car is sold. Maybe he’s just testing the waters with an Ebay listing.

    I don’t know whether the frame change will affect the car’s value, but it does affect the car’s stance—-for the better, given the increase in the track of the TR4 over the TR3.

    With all due respect to British-built TRs and their diehard fans, I think the Italia 2000 is the best looking Triumph ever made.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Does the frame change indeed change the track width? I wouldn’t think such a major alteration to be good for the evaluation.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        If you look at the pictures, the front track reflects the TR4 front suspension and is 2″ wider on each side than a standard Italia. I believe they put a TR3 rear axle in the TR4 chassis, or shortened the TR4 axle. as the rear track looks normal to me. But it would be hard to tell without an in-person inspection.

      • Dolphin Dolphin Member

        I had actually searched for photos of stock Italias yesterday to do that exact comparison with this blue car, but my comment was getting long so I didn’t include them. But since you asked….

        Jamie is right. The front track on the blue Italia in the Ebay auction is definitely wider, by about the 2″ on each side that Jamie said. The rear tracks look the same on both cars.

        The best comparison photo of a stock Italia that I could find was a—wait for it—barn find, but there are lots of other photos of stock Italias that show the same thing—a front track about 2″ narrower on each side compared to the blue car (Google: Italia 2000 photo).

  10. Wayne Thomas

    With so many Cobra kit cars and generally crappy ones out there, why hasn’t anyone replicated this beauty? The Triumph chassis is not that rare or expensive, so a rebody in glass seems like a right way to go. Everyone here knows that it would sell.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Revington TR in the UK tried for a while to produce/sell replicas. See this page for details: http://www.revingtontr.com/shop/collection_display.asp?CID=728

    • Kevin Harper

      Hey wayne, off subject here but who makes crappy cobra replicas anymore. I have dealt with F5, superperformance, kirkham and Hawk and none of them are crap. Factory 5 is probably at the bottom end of the market but there kit is far better than the original.
      There use to be a lot of Triumph based kits, but Sammio is the only one I know of now, and it is a low cost sports racer. This car could be done but I think the market is limited, and replicating that interior would be prohibitively expensive.

  11. Van

    I’d love to know more about the frame

  12. Kevin Harper

    Quite a gorgeous car.

    Coach built cars are a double edge sword to me. Beautiful to look at but a pain to work on and own. I currently have both a zagato bodied alfa and a vignale bodied maserati in the shop. Both are nice cars, but if you study them left and right side do not match nor do two cars of the same model match. The English were much better at building bodies in th his time period.
    You could have a really nice triumph with a hard top, maybe even a dove and it would have the same dynamics of this car. But if you had a bad day in the standard triumph and crunch a fender you open a catalog order a fender and bolt it on, with a coach built car you order a sheet of metal a malet and an English wheel. It would be somewhat scary to drive, but it is beautiful.

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      Decades ago Car and Driver magazine discovered what you describe. They were doing a road test of a Ferrari 275 GTB I think it was, and looking at the car lengthwise they were horrified to see that the shape of the body at about the level of the doors was asymmetrical. They could not understand how that could happen.

      The reason: as you said, the bodies were hammered out of sheets of metal by men with hammers, not by giant presses with tons of force stamping down. The smaller carrozzeria were thinly capitalized, and used the resources that were available to them: artisans with hammers and torches.

  13. Howard A Member

    Kind of creepy. It kind of looks like a Triumph, like a cross between a 4 and a 6, but with an Italian flair. While it is a nice looking car, about the only thing I see that really should have been marketed, was a Triumph with that roof. Don’t care for Italian cars, so this doesn’t really do anything for me, and the fact it’s so rare ( and presumably fragile) it’s like looking at an Italian super model, nice, but there’s no way. Cool find, though.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Howard, here’s how they were marketed. Nice artwork if nothing else:

      http://www.adriansinnott.com/italia/italiabrochures.html

      And no, they really aren’t fragile…it feels much more solid than my TR’s do when I drive it :-). This is me going through turn one at Roebling Road in mine many years ago, I was touching somewhere around 100 mph at the end of the front straight in this “touring” event.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Love to see it being used in anger!

  14. CT

    I’ve seen this car in person at the National Triumph meet that was in San Rafael California a couple of years ago, like a week after it was finished. It is spectacular to say the least. Fit and finish is far and above anything that ever left England and the color combo was breathtaking. I wish I had the money now!

  15. angliagt

    Beautiful car – but expensive.

  16. Peter R

    reserve not yet met at $66K – no surprise given the restoration costs. I’ve been a Triumph fan since 1960 when I bought a TR3. I think this is one of the best I’ve ever seen – wish I had the bucks to buy it

  17. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Love the lines. Much improved over the original.

    Would have loved to have seen them match the model name with the later engine from the Triumph 2000 straight six engine. Performance might have been a little better.

    Gorgeous car!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Ross, I’ve found references to at least two, one mounted on a TR5 chassis, one on a TR250 chassis (neither left the factory that way). It would make an intriguing combination.

  18. Alan (Michigan )

    What a beautiful and timeless style.

    But for just an attempt at sobriety in the presence of such an intoxicating vision: Someone could have this for about the same amount as the ask price in the off-eBay listing.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Alan, I’m not saying that’s not pretty…it is…but if you gave me a choice between the two, I’d keep my Italia. :-)

      • Alan (Michigan )

        That sentiment is well-appreciated here.

        And a big plus is that 5 years down the road, if your transmission acts up, the repair bill will not equal the price of a new Kia!

        But I am so very seduced by the performance and build quality of the AMG GT-S. Amazing.

  19. Doug Towsley

    Interesting car, I own a TR4a, and had a few other Triumph cars and can see some interesting details here. Something Id love to review in person, and would love to go for a ride in this (Northern California Wine country?) But I have to agree, for the money, theres other cars out there that would get my vote. But I truly do appreciate the work that went into this and what a beautiful car this is. Nice posting and feature.

  20. DAVID Pilcher

    I’d rather have a Dove (GTR4A). Fewer made and probably more parts available (most of it is a TR4).

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