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Triumph Spitfire

A Herald in hotter clothes,the Spitfire may well be, but what’s so wrong in that as a recipe for cheap and cheerful thrills? As a starter sports classic,these Triumph toddlers are unbeatable and, on the move, are a lot smoother and more comfortable than their rival MGs – and usually cheaper to buy, into the bargain.The forward, swinging bonnet allows unbeatable engine and suspension access.

DRIVING

Basically, as it’s a hotted Herald,the handling has always been a contentious issue due to that infamous rear suspension design,highlighted by the sports car’s shorter wheelbase.Pre-1970 models could be particularly tricky and it was only the advent of the MkIV that the design was properly sorted although many earlier cars were thus modifed over the years.Spitfres are no better than lively but the engines are highly tunable if you want more pep.The 1500,from the mid ’70’s, is generally disliked in Spitfre circles due to its lazier engine although it’s not as bad as it’s painted out to be,say specialists and as tunable as the 1296 cc unit. The option of overdrive on all is a boon touring,less so the rock hard ride, but they are more civilised than the Midget.

VALUES

It’s still rare to see a Spitfre bust the £10,000 barrier and £7500 is a common figure for any models, although late 1500’s are usually the cheapest due to the fact that,although the quickest and being a genuine 100mph car, the engine isn’t as pleasant as the 1296.The inherent lowly residual values of all Spitfres mean you need to carefully evaluate poor examples, no matter how cheap,as restorations usually outweigh any up front savings.Projects can start from a grand – or less however, if you fancy having a go – they’re delightfully easy and straightforward to work on and restore, if not that cheap.

TIMELINE

1962 Car launched as the Spitfre 4

1963-1964 Few changes,welcome additions to the options list included overdrive,hardtop and wire wheels

1965 Spitfre Mk II arrives.Better padding for seats and now carpeted.Engine tweaked to give a little more power– up from 63bhp to 67bhp.

1967 Mk III arrives with bigger 1296 cc 75 bhp engine upgraded brakes and a proper folding hood

1970 Cleaned up Mk IV.Mechanical upgrades include all-synchro gearbox,alternator and higher gearing.Biggest improvement is a better design of rear suspension

1974 After a wood-fnish dash for 1973, comes Spitfire 1500 using a Marina gearbox.It is less sporting and willing to rev however

TOP FIVE FAULTS


RUST Chassis rots badly; rails, suspension pickup points (especially the rear) and outriggers and rear bulkhead where fuel tank lives, although parts replacements are available as are complete new frames although the cost is maybe not worth the expense.

ENGINE

The main foible with most Triumph engines is excessive crankshaft end float. Check for movement at the crank pulley as an aid works the clutch pedal.Repair work means an engine strip down.1500 is known to wear around number three cylinder and runs hotter.

RUNNING GEAR

At the front,trunnions can seize and even result in a wheel falling off! In the same area,check the wishbone bushes,drop links, ball joints etc.


REAR SUSPENSION


Check for weak dampers and worn transverse springs, which may have been updated to Mk4 spec over the years.Clapped out universal joints lead to vibrations and geometry setting is quite sensitive.

TRANSMISSION

Check for normal wear; if overdrive is rear fitted,is the wrong rear axle ratio now used?

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That Triumphant Feeling

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