Common Faults of a Triumph Spitfire – Buying Guide
All in all, the common faults of a Triumph Spitfire are few and far between. It had the usual niggles of cars of the era but mothing particularly outstanding.
If you are intending to buy a Triumph Spitfire, you should have a walk round of the vehicle first to look at body condition, the interior and overall alignment of the body panels and doors. During your walk round tour, stand about 4 paces away at the front and back and check for door alignment. If the doors are poorly aligned, it could indicate a damaged or faulty chassis. Check door fit too by opening and closing each door. Check that the shut line is even. While standing at this distance, you can check for suspension sag. The leaf springs on the rear suspension have a tendency to sag over time.
Checking in more detail means that you should have a good look inside as well. Common rust areas of the Triumph Spitfire are to be found under the footwells, under the pedals and along the seat rails. In the engine compartment, the battery box and under the hydraulic master cylinders are prone to the dreaded orange stuff. Whilst the bonnet is open, check the wheel arches, suspension attachment points and around the lights. The hinges of the bonnett and behind the rear wheels need chacking carefully. Run your hand along the paintwork to check for blemishes that could indicate rust bubbling under.
Inside, lift the carpets to check for rust and condensation. The seat foam can also become perished so have a poke at that too.
The engines weren’t too bad but listen for the usual noises – rumbling, knocking, tapping and so on. The biggest common problem however is that the engine has been changed for something that is less well tuned. . All Spitfire engine numbers start with an F: FC in the case of the MkI/MkII, FD for the MkIII, FH for the MkIV (but FK for US cars) and FH for the 1500 (FM for US cars). However, there’s a good chance that something else will be fitted, such as an engine starting G (Herald), D (Dolomite) or Y (1500 saloon).
If someone has done a cheap oil change and has not used the correct oil filter, one fitted with a non-return valve. The latter prevents the oil draining back into the sump when the engine is stopped. If it does, the big end bearings can wear prematurely. On the whole, if correctly looked after, the engines should be trouble free for 100 000 miles or more. Usually the first major engine issues are worn rocker shafts and rockers.
An issue with the 1300 engine is worn thrust bearings. This manifests itself if you push and pull the front pulley, movement indicates this problem. That can be a complete disaster as the thrust bearings in a worn state can fall out suddenly. This will wreck the block and you will need a new engine.
The two recurring issues with 1500 engines are piston and ring wear and crankshaft wear. So look for blue smoke on starting and listen for bottom end rumblings.
Likewise, the transmission of the Triumph Spitfire was reasonably robust. On the test drive, put it in reverse first and see how that goes. If when you then engage first and drive forwards, a clunking noise indicates a worn differential. The frist thing to go in the gearbox is usually the synchro.The next most common issue is the bearings so if the Spitfire you are interested in has a whining or rumbling from the gearbox, budget a few hundred quid for a gearbox replacement.
Please note that this is intended for entertainment only, if you are buying a Triumph Spitfire, we strongly recommend that you take along a qualified mechanic to advise you.