By on November 19, 2013

12 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy far the most numerous British sports car in junkyards these days— and, in fact, for the last few decades— is the MGB. We’ve seen many of these cars in this series, but today’s find is just the second Junkyard Find Spitfire, after this ’75. The Spitfire had a long production run, 19 years total, but Spitfires just weren’t anywhere near as sturdy as their MGB cousins and most of the non-perfect examples got crushed long ago. Still, every so often a forgotten project gets evicted from a garage or back yard, and that’s probably what this happened to this battered ’65 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month.
07 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Mark 2 Spitfire was built for the 1965 and 1966 model years and was replaced by a version with a 1296cc engine instead of just 1147cc.
16 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s not much demand for tiny pushrod engines these days, nor is anyone likely to buy these cute little SU carburetors.
14 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMany, many years in the California sun for this car.
10 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt doesn’t seem very rusty, but Spitfires just aren’t worth enough to make this one worth restoring.
17 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars like to break axles, so perhaps some Spitfire owner will pull the ones on this car.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1965 Triumph Spitfire...”

  • avatar

    When I was in high school I had a classmate who had a cherry red ’80 and as much as everyone liked it he frequently drove his mom’s Honda when it was down for the count. Very nice cars despite their issues.

    Additional: I like the 940 wagon beside it, for shame its in the yard already.

    • 0 avatar

      I noticed that as well. Hopefully someone yanks the headlights/grille/trim from the 945T.

      Meanwhile, I don’t have much experience with Spitfires, but the front is clearly this one’s best angle.

      • 0 avatar

        Every year an event called the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is held and cars like this Spitfire are actually raced. From what I understand Spitfire and MG ownership is truly a labor of love.

    • 0 avatar

      Yea thats a shame, I’ve seen at least 2 turbo redblocks in the junkyard during my visits, one was high mileage (250k) and in a horrible accident, the other more than likely wasn’t maintained right.

      Though I’ve seen much worse, I saw a diesel Mercedes 240d with about 115k on it not long ago, I think a stupid hippy killed it.

      I always find it odd how compact convertible buffs had so much variety in the 60’s-70’s, now its just the ever more effeminate grinning Miata.

  • avatar

    a friend recently purchased a MGC GT in fairly nice condition and labor of love does not begin to describe it. me thinks he is already looking for a way out.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately for him, he’s picked up the least desirable MG made. While stuffing the Austin Healey six cylinder under the hood of an MGB may have seemed like a good idea on paper, the execution was bad to begin with, exacerbated by the early British Leyland build quality, and ended up with an MG that doesn’t handle.

      Then the automatic (which were in the majority) isn’t the most reliable transmission out there. The car was incredibly nose heavy, undersprung, under developed . . . . and then add in the normal ’60’s/’70’s British car foibles.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry to fact check you, Syke, but actually MGC’s have become very very desirable lately. Over the years simple ways to vastly improve the handling have developed, in addition the motor has quite a bit of tuning potential. In addition production numbers are roughly 2 autos for every 9 manuals sold. In addition most the manuals had overdrives. MGC’s go for more money than all but the earliest MGB’s… I have a B now, would I trade it for C? Absolutely, while it won’t handle as well as a with poly bushings it makes up for it with smooth torquey motoring.. Sadly Jaguar was part of BMC at that point which likely aborted the Healey 4000, and vetoed use of the Rover V8 by MG, but the C is not nearly as bad a car as it’s reputation.

  • avatar

    I’m an MG Man , even though BMC made both MG’s & Trumpets , I always kinda look down upon lowly Triumphs , sort of like Chevy Vs. Ford I guess .

    These were O.K. cars in their day , I know several in the L.A. Metro area that remain daily drivers .

    This one actually looks pretty good ~ were it a ’65 VW Beetle it’d have been saved & put back on the road as the tin worm is the only real reason to junk out vintage cars , they’re so dang easy to resurrect and then keep running .

    Yes , it’s a labor of love ~ some folks (me) will have wrenches in their hands until they die anyway so why not have some fun with it ? .

    I wish this car was closer , I’m pretty sure I could use that fuel pump on my ‘B’ series BMC engines .

    I’ll have to watch the local P-A-P’s in case one comes in .


    • 0 avatar

      What do you think of MGs for the weekend tinkerer? Friend of a friend has a fully restored mid 60s MG he occasionally tries to sell me but I always refuse for lack of garage but also because I expect a decent amount of money to be involved.

      • 0 avatar

        Anything British in good condition is a good weekend tinkerer – just get used to the idea that there’s a learning curve, not unlike a vintage Italian vehicle, but not the same as the Italian. And there were quite a few of them in the Pittsburgh-Johnstown area because the cars is just absolutely wonderful on roads around Greensburg, Ligonier and into Johnstown.

        I haven’t spent a lot of time with the cars, but lived for decades with the bikes, which I’ll happily put up against anything Japanese two wheeled at the time for reliability. Just understand, that you’re going to do a lot more work for that Japanese reliability.

      • 0 avatar

        Long term MG owner here. I’m obviously biased, but I think these are a reasonable choice for a weekend tinkerer.

        -Excellent parts availability at reasonable cost.
        -Excellent club and online support.
        -Simple, easy for DIY work.
        -Not particularly valuable, so it’s easy to buy a nice one, and not be afraid to drive it.
        -Plenty to choose from, and easy enough to find a good one.
        -Surprisingly comfortable for long trips.

        They are not a substitute for a modern car like a Miata, and will take more work to keep running. That said, these cars are not as unreliable their reputation would suggest – probably no worse than other cars of the same vintage. The basic body and mechanicals are pretty robust, and there are simple improvements for some of the known weak spots (e.g., add relays to high current circuits such as headlights). Any problems due uneven initial assembly quality have been sorted out long ago on any survivors by now, since the newest MG is over 30 years old at this point.

        If these things appeal to you, I would suggest visiting, and maybe checking out a local club event or car show to ask around before buying.

        If you like what you see – go for it. But you probably would want a garage to store and work on the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        Next door neighbor has an old chrome bumper MG. He dotes on it like a grandchild. Beautiful car. He has learned his way around the mechanics and even tackles the electrical issues. Lots of manuals and other weekend tinkerers to draw from.

        If you’re a car guy, these old roadsters can become a lifelong passion, very rewarding to drive and learn to maintain.

        I went the old 911 route myself and have found that the learning curve for the do-it-yourselfer (and the checkbook depletion) is quite a bit more than the British route. The drive is fantastic, but I could easily find myself selling the porker for a tidy MG or Triumph. Therapy on wheels.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for all of the responses guys. This particular MG is fully restored and from what I understand the engine is custom tuned. The gentlemen who owns it is part of that older generation of true craftsmen who spent his life wrenching cars, doing body work, and machining parts. He’s getting older and due to some kind of neuropathy is slowly losing the use of his right hand/arm and won’t be able to drive the MG in the future. Hopefully in the near future I’ll acquire a property with a garage and be able to possibly acquire it.

        • 0 avatar
          Domestic Hearse

          When the 911 came home, it immediately took up residence in the garage next to my wife’s car. My daily driver moved to the driveway.

          One morning I came out to find a note on my windshield…from a kindly elderly neighbor down the street. “I love Porsches! Brings back memories of my son who raced them. I only have my one car in my garage, so if you’d like to park your 911 at my place, you’re very welcome. I would enjoy seeing it every day, and wouldn’t mind a ride now and then.”

          Wow! I didn’t take her up on the offer and she moved not long afterwards, but who knows, maybe there’s a car lover in your neighborhood that wouldn’t mind leasing you a spot in their garage on the cheap.

          If this is a tight MG, fully sorted professionally, the price is right, ask around. You may find a temporary home for it till you find a place with room to store it yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m the other way around, as in “I’d rather push a Triumph than drive an MG” :-)

      Really though, I like them all. I’ve owned a 74 Spitfire for nearly 20 years.

      One note – in 20 years of ownership and club and mailing list membership, I have never heard of a Spitfire breaking an axle. Rear ends wear out due to neglected leaks, but with a max ever of about 75hp in a breathed on 1296 like mine you are highly unlikely to break an axle. Late 1500s had 48hp stock…

      I will say also, once these cars are properly fixed and maintained, they are very reliable. Not much to go wrong really. But it is also true that they are not worth enough to justify an extensive restoration, too many decent ones out there. Though I suspect sales numbers have more to do with the abundance of MGBs than Spitfires, not fragility. Certainly Spitfires seem more common than Spridgets these days.

      • 0 avatar

        Here in San Diego, I see Spridgets being driven from time to time, but I haven’t seen a Spitfire in years. I’ve driven three Spitfires. The best was rebuilt by a brilliant engineer to standards unimagined in the UK. It was a 1500 with a single side draft Dell’Orto 2 barrel carburetor. It had some throttle response issues not exhibited by my FIAT 124 Sport Spider, but was otherwise…okay.

        The other two were defined by chassis flex. One of them was the very Spitfire MKIV that caused me to want one in the first place. It was owned by a beauty named Sharon that was a teenager when I was a kid. When I was a teenager, she was done with it. I responded to an ad only to find her at a door. I couldn’t believe how miserable it was to drive, but I felt obliged to make an offer, which I was relieved when she rejected. The third one was on a used car lot. Like the other two, it looked much better from twenty feet than it was from behind the wheel.

        To be fair, I have some Midget experience too. In some ways they’re worse. My engineer friend drove one while he was restoring his Spitfire. It was one of the best looking rubber baby bumper Midgets I’ve seen, but he wouldn’t even let me test drive it when he was done with it. No way he’d sell it to a friend. I love the MKI Sprite in concept, but the reality is a serious reminder of how long ago the late ’50s were. By the late ’70s, they were about as bad as Car and Driver said they were. The Fiat X1/9 wasn’t much different in quality, but it was decades ahead of the small British sports cars from the driver’s seat.

  • avatar

    Always loved the lines of the Spitfire. I remember as a kid, riding by the local British Leyland dealer and they had a bunch of Spitfires lined up facing the street. They looked like pure fun on four wheels.

  • avatar

    I knew a guy who had a Spitfire, and claimed that it was the most rudimentary transportation device known to man.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be like, “Bicycle.”

    • 0 avatar

      Well, compared to an MG Midget it is quite sophisticated. Independent rear suspension. Wood dash. Top that is easier to erect and mostly pre-attached to the car. Much roomier too. Downsides are the body on frame construction and the huge tip forward hood can make them rather rattley. But yes, it is a pretty simple device. Stupid easy to fix too. You can have the engine out in an hour.

    • 0 avatar

      No ;

      That’d be a Hillman (English) or a Trabby .


      • 0 avatar

        Trabants are actually kind of brilliant in their simplicity. I owned the one in my avatar for a summer in Budapest. Platform chassis with some steel hoops here and there, cotton resin body. 2-stroke twin with 4spd column shift. 4 seats. Simple, cheap, rugged, and reliable. Got great gas mi!eage too, and in those days you could buy gas with the oil pre-mixed in the East. I drove it to Vienna many times on the old suicide highway. It would do 100km/hr easily enough. Bought it for $500, sold it for $500, spent nothing fixing it. Fantastic!

    • 0 avatar

      Rudimentary British transportation? I’ll put my vote in for a Raleigh Tourist. Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub, rod operated brakes (built for traffic being a couple of Model T’s), 28″ wheels, very laid back frame angles. In production from 1913 until sometime in the 90’s in original format, still in production now, but it’s the original frame with very changed components.

      To those who can’t visualize one, either watch the village scenes in Downton Abbey, or look at a picture of Mao-era China and all those bicycles swarming the streets. The Chinese Flying Pigeon is a copy of the Tourist.

      I finally restored one about six months ago and adore it.

      • 0 avatar

        My wife taught English in China for a few years in the late 1980s and used a Flying Pigeon as daily transportation. She says the joke about the bike was that “everything on this pigeon sings except the bell,” i.e., the whole thing squeaks except for the one part that’s supposed to.

        That said, she misses her Flying Pigeon.

  • avatar

    A fraternity brother purchased a Spitfire new in 1976. I think it had a 1.5 liter inline 4. I thought it weighed 1700 pounds, but even as a fly weight, the car was rated at 19 MPG. I have to say it would corner well and was easy to work on. The entire hood was hinged on the front. You lifted the hood open, then you could sit on the tire while working on the car. You had complete access to the engine. Yes. I was jealous.

  • avatar

    Yep ;

    The MGB / MGC are very good cars indeed ~ they don’t handle as well as modern cars but they’re simple and *very* robust , designed to run in The Colonies over bad roads with poor quality fuels , gasoline and iffy maintenance so if you make *any* serious effort , you’ll be well rewarded .

    The slushbox tranny is the world beating Borg Warner A-35 , designed in 1949 for Ford and used by millions upon millions of foreign cars through the 1960’s ~ 1980’s , if ever it gives troubles it’s the owner or Mechanic’s fault , not the tranny .

    ” fully restored ” this I flat refuse to believe , I get them in all the time and they’re full of rust & bondo , [email protected]$$ed repairs and so on , every one from a ” Master Mechanic ” . feh .

    If you can afford it and it runs well , has no bubbles in the paint , it’ll be a fun hobby car ans yes , you _can_ use it as a daily driver as long as you take proper care of it .

    Be the average lazy American ” enthusiast ” who cuts corners and only does ‘ good enough ‘ repairs , it’ll be a never ending nightmare .

    Your choice .


  • avatar

    I had a 1971 MK 4 – Fun little car. At highway speeds the back end would sway gently back and forth since the sheet metal that the radius arms bolted into was fatigued. I did some reinforcing welding but it didn’t really help. Sold it to a guy that didn’t pay attention when I told him about it. The arms apparently pulled free at 70+ MPH. Took the brakes out in the process. He said it was one exiting ride!! He ended up trading it on a Monte Carlo…

    I wonder if radius arms pulling loose could be the source of the broken axle stories??

  • avatar

    Relic export currency earner from a company that no longer exists. Grandparents like mine would endure hours of travel on British Rail to catch a live Welk when he toured. Consider Spitfire part revenge on Cali. Looks like BMC primrose yellow for those who didn’t want to seem too loud in the crowd.

  • avatar

    @ CJinSD

    ” Trabants were 2-strokes, so the fuel had to lubricate the crank. ”

    In Two-Smokers , the fuel lubricates _everything_ as many discovered when they didn’t add sufficient oil to the fuel or in the case of the old SAABs , you didn’t want to embarrass yourself by jouncing the car by it’s rear bumper to properly mix it after adding oil to the fresh tank of fuel…..

    I know a brilliant and famous research Doctor who did this to his SAAB and seized the pistons .

    For another weird & wonderful basic transportation , how about the Citroen 2CV ? two cylinder boxer engine in front , no fan belt having the generator mounted directly to the nose of the crankshaft ~ 425 C.C.’s two taxable horsepower , lawn chairs for seats , no fuel gauge , just a 4′ long dipstick , windshield wipers were cleverly run off the speedo cable so the faster you went , so did they .

    Centrifugal clutch and the shifter stuck straight out of the middle of the dashboard .

    A quirky & wonderful car I still miss 30 years later , incredibly slow and a worse death trap than any VW Beetle ever made .

    Austin 7 was prolly the most popular basic transport ever made , there’s still scads of them in daily service .


  • avatar

    I drove a Trabi once after the wall fell….I’d call it agricultural but I’d be insulting tractors. I also drove a ZR1 Vette that year…great comparison/contrast

  • avatar

    This post reminded me, after 40 plus years, of this commercial with Jean Shepherd, though the car in today’s post is of course quite a bit earlier:

    Also, some noted the adjacent Volvo 940 as dead before its time. Never mind that–in the next, row, isn’t that a V70, likely to be considerably newer? Of course, we can only see the back; maybe a front-end crash sent it to scrapblivion.

    • 0 avatar

      On the right of the 940 is a 700 series front end, but behind the Spitfire is either an 850 or an early V70 wagon. From what I have seen after so long either the car or the owner just give up, although it may have been in a front collision. I see no damage on the 940 wagon I’m guessing it died of indifference or owner stupidity.

  • avatar

    That car doesn’t look that bad really It’s a round tail which worth a little more. I have seen worse cars than that restored.

    I have a 76, very basic car and easy to work on. For 76 they upped the CR so remove the smog junk, add a header, twin SU’s or a Weber and they don’t have problems keeping up.

    The optional overdrive is nice but I never drive it on he freeway anyways.

    Most of the problems I see are due to the extra components that were added to the car in later life to keep it federal compliant or make it more marketable. Removing much of that bogus junk keeps it simple.

    Parts are easy and “cheap as chips” , the nice thing is switches, and stuff like heater valves etc can often be disassembled and repaired. The car will will never be at Pebble Beach, so originality is not really an issue either.

  • avatar

    Spitfires may not be worth enough to make this one worth restoring, but I wonder … what if this Spitfire was given the restomod treatment?

    Such a project could be along the lines of something like this:

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