Triumph Spitfire, the popular British classic sports car that outsold the MG Midget.
The Triumph Spitfire appeared on the silver screen in numerous films and programmes during the 60s, 70s and beyond. Sometimes it was a cameo appearance, appearing just for a few second whilst in some episodes, its role was more ‘meaty’. But what makes this British classic sports car tick?
The Coventry built beauty was also in competition with the Austin Healey Sprite. It was based on a late 50s design by Italian design guru Michelotti and launched in 1962 and was posher than the Sprite and MG Midget as it had window winders!But what was really useful was the way the bonnet flipped forward, along with the wings to give easy access to the engine compartment.
But why the 5 year delay in launching? Basically, Triumph were a bit strapped for cash and it was only when Leyland stepped in and the prototype allegedly was found languishing in a corner under a tarp that production began.
The last spitfire rolled off the production line in 1980. My main memory was of the dark blue hardtop Mk 4 that my Brother in Law bought for my sister. Definitely the coolest looking of the cars he bought. It was largely based on the Triumph Herald, with the heavily modified chassis being reinforced by the use of structural body panels. That of course can lead to safety issues as they rust.
The car had the nickname in some circles of ‘The Grasshopper’. The rear suspension was notorious for creating huge oversteer when pushed too hard round bends.
The Mk I triumph Spitfire was powered by an 1100 cc engine and for the time, was fairly nippy, although even a basic family saloon car would outaccelerate it! Such is progress. The Mk III (1300 cc engine) was the fastest of the ‘normal’ Spitfires, reaching 60mph in about 15 seconds. Naturally, the Spitfire 1500 was a bit faster but this larger engined version still only did the 0-60 in 13 and a bit seconds. The 1500 engine was unreliable as well.
Some of the more common problems with the Triumph Spitfire range occur with the overdrive, drive couplings, crankshaft bearings, body rust, sagging spring on the drivers side and carburation. Oh, and rust too!
But nevertheess, this is a fun classic British sports car, just to push it too hard on corners …