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Triumph Spitfire

Triumph Spitfire Published: 29th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Spitfire
Triumph Spitfire
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Why should I buy one?

The Scimitar was the ‘new Spitfire back in the 1980s – but was it any better? A Herald in sports clothes the Triumph may be, but the transition to Spitfire remains as neat as it was clever and good ones still serve up proper sports car fun with more civility than the cruder Sprite and Midget.

What can I get?

With a production run lasting almost 20 years, there’s no shortage of choice from the five generations. The accepted view is that, from a classic perspective, the mid 60’s Mk3 is the best care of a sweet running 1296cc engine and ever improving handling, making the earlier generations the purists choice. By the same token, least popular is the 1500 which was the evolution of the 1970 MkIV even though it’s the best developed; much of the blame centres on the longer stroke engine which doesn’t rev so well although you probably wouldn’t notice it if you haven’t driven the earlier models, but more likely to be taken by the engine’s improved pulling power and, thanks to the revised cockpit, good touring capabilities that far exceed those of the rustic MG Midget.

It’s certainly the cheapest Spitfire by a fair chalk; a good 25 per cent less over pre- Mk4 models, but on par with this later Stagtailed 1970 refresh. Try as many as possible.

What are they like to drive?

Fun but from a bygone era compared to the Reliant. The driving position is compromised by the lack of foot room and offset pedals but you soon get used to it. Whether you become quite so conciliatory about the Spitfire’s attention-seeking handling depends upon the model you go for. Secure, confident cornering only became standard fare on the MkIV (although many earlier cars have been uprated by now) and while a good Spitfire is enjoyable enough in an ‘olde worlde’ sort of way, you’ll be blown away with the cutting precision and speed of the Scimitar that has the feel of a Caterham about it and with a far comfier ride.

Only the 1500 ranks as a 100mph sports car and acceleration is modest at best but again uprating is so easy, with tuning parts so plentiful, that it’s simple to correct, as many owners choose to do.

The Spitfire bowed out just as fivespeed transmissions became the norm but the overdrive (if fitted) is equally effective and keeps the noise level down, mpg up.

What are they like to live with?

If you are after a starter classic (see our Backpage Bargain feature in this issue), there can’t be an easier sports car than the Spitfire. Routine maintenance is made a cinch thanks to that forwardhinged bonnet and the Herald mechanicals are cheap and easy to obtain from one of the best served marques in the classic community (owners’ clubs and specialists). More in-depth repairs are made simpler with a gearbox that’s removed from inside the car and a body easily lifted from the chassis, which is handy as chassis rot is prevalent and may be essential but at least repair sections, as well as replacement frames are readily available.

The engines are very easy to keep sweet and tough with the exception of the 1500 which has a tendency to wear its crank bearings, due to the added strain of the longer stroke but the sump, can be dropped in situ to tackle this quite inexpensive job that’s recommended as preventative maintenance.

We reckon

A Spitfire provides a sound sensible grounding as your very first sports classic yet you’ll be flying high with a good one and remember the ownership experience with fondness. Ignore the jibes, Spitfires fight their corner with the best of them.

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