By on February 10, 2014

05 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSome old cars have managed to maintain a steady trickle of fresh examples into self-serve wrecking yards since I began crawling around in such yards, back in 1981 or so. The kings of this phenomenon are, of course, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider (in a few years of this series we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80), and the MGB (so far, this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’79, and this ’79 with Toyota 20R power). The MGB’s British Leyland cousin, the Triumph Spitfire, has been a rarer but just-as-steady find for me; first this ’65 and then this ’75, and the prehistory of this series gives us this Spitfire-sibling ’67 GT6 as well. What these cars have in common is near-scrap value when in rough shape, respectable price tags when in nice condition, and a tendency to be hoarded by guys who plan— someday— to turn the former condition into the latter condition. Eventually, reality sets in and a car that sat in a driveway from the time of the Chowchilla Kidnapping until a few months ago takes its final trip. Here’s a rust-free, fairly complete, restorable early-ish Spitfire that I saw last month in a Northern California yard.
06 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEvery time I write about a junked car like this, readers proclaim that the chrome pre-5MPH-crash-rule bumpers must be worth tremendous sums. However, these yards are prowled seven days a week by guys who make their livings buying parts that are worth much more than the flat-rate price charged by big junkyard chains (e.g., BMW E30 limited-slip differentials, Lexus Nakamichi amplifiers), and they never buy these bumpers. An overdrive transmission from an MGB or Spitfire is another story; that will be gone within two days of the car hitting the yard.
01 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLikewise, Jaeger and Smiths gauges aren’t worth a whole bunch (though some VDO gauges— and I ain’t saying which ones— are always worth grabbing).
04 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Mark III got the new-for-1967 1296cc pushrod four, making an optimistically rated 75 horsepower. A junkyard shopper wanted the SU carbs, but the engine is doomed to the shredder and subsequent trip to China via the Port of Oakland.
02 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars are fun to drive, they look cool, and they make fine projects thanks to the abundance of cheap used parts. Someday, though, the flow of those parts will dry up… and then we’ll all be sorry that we didn’t buy pre-Malaise Spitfires when they were cheap.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1967 Triumph Spitfire Mark III...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    This makes me sad.
    :-(

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    My New Hampshire eyes tell me that this Spitfire’s worth saving… but they tell me that the CRX beside it is, too… and possibly the late 244 behind it…

    West Coast junkyards in particular make me sad, but I know that it’s not worth shipping a $500 car thousands of miles to sell it, optimistically, for two grand. I suppose there could be money in cutting out/unbolting and shipping rust-prone bodywork to Salt Country, but if there was, I imagine it’d be a lot more common.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      If you had a sizable holding lot to store inventory, you would probably be able to make at least 200% on each example. Sort of a Desert Car Kings operation, except real, and specializing in not just muscle cars.

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      A guy here in Ontario does (or at least use to) do that but with a twist. He owns a car hauler and brings cars in by the load from Arizona, but without engines – that way they can come over the border as scrap metal.

      Then he sells them to guys that re-body and VIN swap from their rusted out car. He must have been doing good, all his Darts and Dusters were selling for $4500-$8000 and those can be picked up down south for $500-$2500. 2 car loads a month = in the cash.

      EDIT. Just did a check to see if he was still in business, and it appears Mr. Wayne Rowe passed away back in 2009
      http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ottawacitizen/obituary.aspx?page=notice&pid=137732954

    • 0 avatar
      AlienProbe

      Or even that Datsun Z in the back! Us New Englanders better stay away from CA junkyards, we see waaaaaay too much potential without rust.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Those gauges are worth something to a British car guy. I’ve taken gauges just to get parts to rebuild gauges. I also remember scrounging smog parts when these cars still had to pass.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    It is sad , you shoulda seen what went through the Pick-A-Part Yards back in the early 1970’s……

    Close looking reveals poorly done collision damage & rust to this one and overall wrinkly body , not worth saving even if it ran and drove .

    In the 1960’s all junkyards were full of ‘A’ Model Fords and they were still daily drivers for millions of Americans , cheap and readily available new parts abounded just like for LBC’s now ~ I’m tying to finish up my LBC while the parts supply is good , you should too .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    DougD

    When I look at this and think about all the hours of my life I spent welding up rusty Triumphs it brings tears to my eyes…

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Typically, I like the early versions of a car’s styling better than its later years. It was never so with Spitfires. I think they are absolutely beautiful, but only the Mark IVs.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    This, in response to Kreutzer’s call for secret crushes. If I was given a terminal diagnosis with a $30K treatment option that could extend my life by 3 months, I would probably spend the $30K on a restored one of these instead and kick the bucket in SoCal.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Murilee,

    You said these cars are fun to drive. What were the particulars of any Spitfires you’ve driven? I have vivid memories of three Spitfires, ranging from a questionable back row used car lot special to a freshly restored and upgraded 1500, but I’ve never driven one that wasn’t a profound disappointment. They handle so sloppily that the road shrinks around you instead of the car. The engines are Chevette quality. The chassis-flex is more dramatic than that of a convertible BB E-body with the top up and the mounting clamps trying to rip the to of the windshield off. Of all the types of cars I’ve driven, the Spitfire is one of the hardest to reconcile its looks and specs with its driving characteristics.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I know the radiator is long Gandhi on this example – but what an amazing amount of space to work on the engine.

  • avatar
    ect

    Good article, a couple of minor points of correction.

    Triumphs were made by Leyland Motor Corporation – the Spitfire was introduced 1-2 years after Leyland bought Standard-Triumph around 1960. British Leyland didn’t come into being until 1968, a year after this example was made.

    Also, the MGB’s Triumph “cousin” at the time was the TR4. The Spitfire competed against the MG Midget/Austin-Healey Sprite.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Spent one of the most interesting / harrowing nights of my life as a passenger in one of these in late 1984, blasting up I-35 from Des Moines to Ames, Iowa to get tickets for a Bruce Springsteen show. Let’s just say the ass end of a semi looks really, really scary when you it comes at you out of nowhere at the low angle you see it in one of these cars…in the dark…in the rain…with no lights and no wipers. The beer and weed didn’t do me many favors in this regard.

    And we were too late for tickets anyway. Might have had something to do with pulling off the road for an hour and waiting for everything to turn back on. Prince of Darkness, indeed. More like the freakin’ Witch King of Angmar.

    The guy got tons of tail with that car, though, so bully for him.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    A friend who had a Spitfire referred to it as one of the most primitive transportation devices known to man.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, but it was a looker. In that context, maybe it was appropriate that it was primitive.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      And as someone who has owned one for nearly 20 years – your friend was absolutely correct. Still a ton of fun on a sunny summer day though. Mine is far from stock though, the guy I bought if from built it originally to autocross, and it is a frankenstien of the best bits of the whole range of Spitfire production. 1296cc twin-carb small-bearing engine bored out to 1350cc, headers, overdrive, lowered suspension to European spec., Koni shocks, etc. Fun, fun, fun. Crazy easy to work on and parts are cheap. It is even very reliable. About 50% more power than a stock 1500 single-carb, and it handles a LOT better too.

      One correction for Murilee – chrome bumpers on a Spitfire are not worth much, as ALL Spitfires bar the very last two years of production have them (and they hardly sold any of those). Not at all like MGBs where there is strong demand in converting them over.

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        There’s an “urban legend” about Triumph raising the front on the later Spitfires to meet the headlight height requirements in the US. They couldn’t raise the rear because of the suspension design.

        Not sure if that story is true but dropping it back to the original height along with carburetor replacement and removal of the smog stuff turns them into a fun cheap little toy.

        Depreciation is pretty much zero and there are lots of parts available new and used. My Spit costs $140 a year to insure fully comprehensive.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Not an urban legend – the difference between my car on UK spec front springs and a car on US spec is just silly. It’s 2+” difference in the front. Depreciation is negative at this point on a good one.

          You are getting robbed on insurance, I pay ~$80/yr for $8000 valuation. :-)

          I spend one afternoon a year on basic maintenance most years. Back in the day when I was younger and more adventurous, I put 4-5K a year on, but now I am down to about 1K. I’m away too much in the summer. I am getting to the point where it is time to redo the paint and interior again though, after 20 years it is time for a refresher.

  • avatar
    SkidRo

    My now ex-gf bought one of these back in 96/7. Fresh back from the Peace Corps she wanted a convertible. Out of all the cars around the DC metro area I find the only convertible in her price range in Boonesboro, MD – think Harpers Ferry, WV area. We head up there and the first thing the owner said was (he was a very nice gentleman)”You will have to work on this car everyday to keep it running.” When he realized it was for the gf and it was going to be her daily driver he almost didn’t sell it to her. The car was in really nice shape. It was beautiful. Anyway, she drove it home and kept it for 6,7,8 months. There were minor issues with it and it developed a clunking noise in the rear end when it say for a few days but when the throttle cable broke on her and left her stranded that she decided to sell it. Ironically it was one the easiest things to repair – I did it in the parking lot where she stopped – but she realized that she wasn’t a mechanic of any sort and she didn’t want to chance another breakdown. As soon as the ad published the car sold immediately to someone who collected them. She had fun in it and so did I. It was a cool car. But it was also damn scary since it sat so low. No one could see you.

  • avatar
    71 MKIV

    I’m with Rhodes. Had one for over 20 years.
    People like CJ who want their cupholders and cosseting won’t understand.
    I find mine to be fun to drive. The wife, a spring evening, the convertible. Nothing better.
    71 MKIV

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    Back about 15 years ago I almost bought one of these. A guy had what looked like a clean example for $1500.
    I opened the door to hop in for a test drive and watched the door, windshield and cowl lean back and down about an inch. Closing the door required pushing the top of the windshield forward.

    I ran from that thing like a scared rabbit.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Back in the day , had a buddy and 2 female co-workers who bought new Spitfires , the later malaise era ones with the ugly bumpers and recall really cheap allegedly fabric inserts in the seats. They all seemed to have constant problems with them . The guy I knew who had one struggled using it as a daily driver but finally bought a second car . Recall one of the co-workers , literally 3 days after buying it ,new , saying ” I hate it ! ” when I asked her how she liked it . IIRC she didn’t even keep it a year . I saw a rarely seen Triumph Stag the other day, decaying in a storage lot in South Houston with the rear view mirror hanging from a cable .They also had a bad rep when new and IIRC were prone to fires ( maybe owner set ) . Interesting looking car , though and it had the factory wheels.

  • avatar
    BillWilliam

    This is a 1968 Triumph MK3 ….not a 1967, I owned a 1967 Spitfire, the bumper is below the directionals,….
    Starting withe the 1968 MK3 ..the bumper was raised… known as the bone-in-teeth model….. This was the ultimate Spitfire in terms of performance [ handling was sorted a few years later]

  • avatar
    Krusty

    As Spitfires go, (and, granted, most of them don’t), this is actually a pretty collectable year/model, worth saving, even if only for the parts. The 1296cc engine was a short stroke, better revving version, compared to the later 1500cc version. Many racers choose this engine. The bumpers and various bits and pieces of this year are hard to find, and this body looks straight and relatively rust-free when compared to the ones we find on Craigslist here in the East. Spitfire restorations require a higher degree of optimism than most other British cars, but they are a fun drive for folks who acquire the taste.

  • avatar
    nimijory

    I recently purchased a 1969 Spitfire and have been looking for parts. I l live in Northern Ca. Can I ask what yard this was in?


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