By on November 18, 2011

A less-than-perfect Spitfire, like the MGB, typically spends a decade or three as a get-around-to-it-someday project car under a tarp in the driveway… and then it’s off to the junkyard when reality finally sinks in. I haven’t seen a beater Spitfire for at least a decade now, so this is one of many smoked out of its hiding place by high scrap-steel prices.
53 horses. Do we really need to talk about that?
This one has been picked over pretty well, which indicates that some other Spitfires— ideally, pre-huge-crash-bumper examples— will benefit from this car’s sacrifice.

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31 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1975 Triumph Spitfire...”


  • avatar
    RobAllen

    My dad had a pair of these growing up – he had a 79 for a while and then an 81. Unfortunately the last one went to a collector before I was old enough to drive it.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I don’t recall any of these after, say, 1969. I was under the impression they quit making them, as the only European sports cars I saw were MGB’s, Fiat Spiders, TR-6′s & TR-7′s. Yeah, that’s about it.

    Owned and saw lots of Gremlins, though.

    • 0 avatar

      The 5MPH crash bumpers were so horribly ugly on the ’74-75 Spitfires that most owners kept them hidden.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Luckily, the big rubber “boobs” upfront and the giant crash bar in the back unbolt so you can toss them. You then get a pair of dainty hing covers for the front like the European market cars had and the looks are much improved. Did that to my car about 16 years ago, along with putting UK-spec front springs on it. The front is jacked up on the US models to meet our silly bumper and headlight height requirements.

        The best thing about Spitfires is that you can still get EVERYTHING for them, and the parts prices are silly cheap.

      • 0 avatar

        At least Triumphs rubber baby buggy bumpers were a better kludge than MG’s solution.

  • avatar

    Check out this car that’s local to me.

    http://www.martinaveyard.com/?p=338

  • avatar
    millmech

    It looks like it has a set of barely-worn original tyres; as if it’s a really low-miles original.
    Downside to that- the Triumph 1500 engines were real doodoo.
    When MG shat the rubber-bumper Midgets on us, the dealer had a big pile of low-miles Triumph engines replaced under warranty.
    There was also something about making a quick stop & the reverse idler in the transmission would slide into engagement whilst still going forward; nothing good came of that.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The 1500s are truly awful – they knock out their big end bearings regularly, and the thrust washers have a nasty habit of falling out and causing the crank to get damaged.

      BL would have been better served to put the A-series in the Spitfire than the Triumph 1500 in the Midget. Unfortunately, emmissions could not be met while retaining a reasonable amount of power with the A-series, while the 1500 at least had decent torque when smogged. The 1500 got all the way down to 48hp in the final couple years of catalytic converter equipped cars – ’79-80.

      • 0 avatar
        millmech

        A simple thing- getting an iron head to seal to an iron block was difficult on the 1500.
        Cylinders were bored out so far that there was very little sealing surface left.
        I always liked the timing gear timing marks- it looked like someone @ the factory used a big scratch awl to gouge marks in the gears.
        The engines also had no bearings for the camshaft- just holes in the block. It made a difference in hot oil pressure.
        Triumph 1500 had been used for years before in English-market cars; I wonder how they did then.
        Later emissions equipment on these (+ MGs) had the exhaust manifolds & converters glowing red hot = lots of cracked manifolds.
        The earlier Spitfire engines really didn’t make enough power to hurt themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      That Triumph motor started out as 800cc. The stretch to 950cc was fairly simple, but it took a lot of work to stretch it to 1147, including putting the cylinders slightly out of line with the crank.I had an 1147 motor in the 60′s making 65hp, but we didn’t have emissions tests.I think the stretch to 1300 was ok , but 1500 was a stretch too far. The “A” series engine in the Midget wasn’t capable of being stretched to 1500 as far as I know, so the Triumph unit was used in MGs as well.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    My uncle has a nicely restored example of a ’73, which I had opportunity to drive through the Swiss Alps in 2007. It was dead slow, rode harshly, braked like something from the 19th century, and basically had trouble keeping up with minivans on a mountain road. And it was a total blast. Very much a precursor to the Miata, it’s a car that made driving fun, nevermind that it could barely do 75 MPH without overreving the engine.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    My dad also had a Spitfire, and I believe it was a ’75. He paid $1500 for it in 1981, spent about a year sorting everything out, and it ended up being a surprisingly reliable car after that.

    His was a retina-searingly bright orange-red color. It came with a hard top which was an equally vivid metallic blue color, and he didn’t bother to repaint it. The combination actually looked pretty cool on the rare occasions the top was on. Not to digress too much, but why can’t we get new cars (other than the nostalgia-mobiles) painted with REAL colors like this any more? I’d love to have a new car like a VW or Audi with a bright, vivid electric green or even the same flaming orange or blue I remember on dad’s car as opposed to all the bland “earthy” colors now available.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have a rather nice example that I have owned for nearly 17 years now. Mine is a bit special though, the previous owner built it to autocross, and used the best bits of the various model years. So it has a ’69 small-bearing 1296cc engine bored to 1350 or so, dual SUs, headers, and a fast road cam. Also a Laycock electric overdrive, and the electric fan cooling system from a ’79-80. Also uprated and lowered springs and Koni shocks – it rides quite nicely. It makes about 75hp with all the go-fast goodies, and is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

    Except for a broken crank due to using the wrong bolts to hold the flywheel on when the o/d was installed, it has been utterly reliable. No electrical issues ever. The only thing keeping me from driving it long distances is I would not be able to walk after I go there. Comfortable it is NOT.

  • avatar

    And no, the Lotus Elan does not use a Triumph Spitfire front suspension. It has a modified Triumph steering rack and uses Spitfire uprights and wearable parts but the wishbones and geometry are Lotus designed.

    Still, I think the early ’70s Spitfires are some of the best looking cars of the era. Great lines. A much more interesting shape than the Midget/Sprite or the MGB. Plus it has the clamshell tilt-forward bonnet/hood.

    While the engines were a bit anemic, the later Spits with true IRS (as opposed to the early swing axles) were nicely handling cars. They did pretty well in SCCA racing too.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      When did Spitfires get outboard constant velocity joints? The one in the junkyard looks to be late production and swing axle equipped.

      • 0 avatar
        TR4

        The way I heard it Spitfires never had a “full IRS” with double joints. The more expensive GT6 did for a couple of years. Then the transverse leaf spring was modified to pivot in the center and this eliminated the jacking tendency of the swing axles. Late Spitfires and GT6s both had the swing axles with pivoting spring.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re correct. They improved the suspension but it never got double jointed axles.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      And I can attest that the swing-spring works quite well. Almost too well in fact, I would prefer more of the tail-happiness of the earlier cars. I have a friend with a ’70 and that thing is a laugh-riot. You can go sideways at walking pace. My car is FAR more planted.

      Found a picture of mine: http://flic.kr/p/aG3B5p

  • avatar

    Here is one from my neck of the woods owned by a thoroughly English woman. She celebrated her British roots with a stylish flag on the trunk. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/stories/566-a-1973-triumph-spitfire-finds-the-right-home-in-the-colonies.html

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Had one of these.
    I believe it was around 1975 to 79.
    I understand everybody saying that it ran like crap, but I don’t really remember being that much unhappy with it.
    It was Los Angeles, and it looked great.
    My mind is gone, but I think it had a removable hard top that I had to keep stored. In an LA apartment, this was hard.

    It also had some kind of push button overdrive that I never used.

    Lastly, did I say it looked great?
    It did.
    It was one of those great designs that never had the mechanics to back it up. Beautiful teardrop look and awesome front end…a pearl white.

    I miss this car.

  • avatar
    oxbowfarm1

    If I remember correctly I had a ’68 MKIII and this was the MKIV. I sold a dead reliable slant 6 Dodge for this. It was a hit with the ladies but a maintenance nightmare. I remember one time I lost a bearing on the generator. My Dad mentioned that the British never change/upgrade anything and that he still had the bearings from his 53 Jaguar. A perfect match. I drove it my senior year in High School and through three years of college. The cabin would fill with water when driven in the rain due to leaks in the floor boards but I was happy.

  • avatar
    nikita

    A mid-1970′s sports car with the technology of a mid 1960′s VW.
    1500cc four with 53hp (gross), check.
    Swing axle rear suspension, check.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Would an Amish one-horsepower buggy beat it on a race track?

  • avatar
    smithr

    I fondly recall test-driving a ’72 model that was for sale at a local gas station in our town years ago. No worries about synchronizing the carbs on that model – it only had one Stromberg sidedraft. It would turn so tightly you could practically feel your eyeballs crowding to the side of your head.
    By the way… is that an E-class wagon I spy next to the Spitfire?

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……the Spitfire doesn’t get a lot of respect these days…..a 1st and 2nd place class win at Le Mans in 1965 guarantees it’s place in the history books, however (a young David Hobbs placed well in one the previous year). The Bob Tullius GROUP 44 Triumphs dominated SCCA racing for years. It was also deadly at autocrosses, where it’s incredibly tight turning circle gave it an unfair advantage in the section where you take 4 pylons in every direction. And today’s DIY guys would love to have the ease of access that forward tilting clamshell hood provided. Always wondered why British Leyland didn’t fit the six cylinder in the Spit, as the engineering was already done for the GT6+…..but I guess it would have competed too closely with their own TR6 and MGB,C, etc.

  • avatar
    hunttriumph1500

    I am now on my 14th Spitfire restoration and I can tell you these cars are a blast to drive!!!! With only slight modern modifications they can easily keep up with modern traffic and be quite dependable. In the 17 years I have owned Spitfires I never got stranded on the side of the road, yes they do require regular maintenance but the design is from the late 50s-tech with only added safety and pollution stuff over the years. These were made from 1962 to 1980, with most be imported here in the States. My current car is a 14k all original 1975 model, like the one shown here, only in much better shape! I love cars, I also drive a 2010 SRT8 Challenger but I prefer driving my Spitfire!


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