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Triumph Spitfire vs. Sprites & Midgets

Triumph Spitfire vs. Sprites & Midgets Published: 12th Oct 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Spitfire vs. Sprites & Midgets
Triumph Spitfire vs. Sprites & Midgets
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H3>Triumph spitfire

 

Why should I buy one?

Spitfires are super, easy going, easy owning sports cars that make a great entry into classic car ownership. Prices remain very affordable and, because it’s a Herald in drag, it’s difficult to think of a simpler car to maintain at home.

 

What can I get?

Spanning almost two decades, and with around 1700 (just 17 Mk1s, 244 Mk3s) remaining, there’s a good choice although for many it will boil down to the Mk3 onwards models thanks to their added power and less freestyle handling traits. The Mk4 of 1970 and the subsequent 1500 four years later are the most pragmatic and the best for modern roads and far more than a facelift with a Stag-like tail grafted on. The infamous rear suspension was properly sorted and the gearing revised to provide quieter running, although acceleration is down on the Mk3. Rather like rubber bumper Midgets (which ironically use Spitfire power), the 1500 models are shunned yet they are by far the most polished performers. It’s a shame that a GT4 was never produced but factory hard top models (with or without a separate hood) look good, especially on Mk4s and 1500s.

 

What are they like to drive?

The Spitfire was always seen as the more effeminate, stylish choice and the Triumph definitely less rudimentary, thanks to a more luxurious feeling cockpit that offers a touch more space than the MG – though the offset pedal arrangement needs getting used to. That Herald rear suspension layout, causing the rear wheels to ‘tuck in’ during cornering is always there and pretty nasty if you’re not familiar with this trait although from the MkIV onwards this is quite well controlled and driven, within its limits, is fine plus there’s accepted mods to make Spitfires handle and brake better. Performance can only at best be described as lively; the 1500 doesn’t rev so well as the smaller unit but does offer more pulling torque.

Where the Spitfire automatically scores over the MG is the fitment of overdrive (optional from 1964 models) and it really makes a big difference in terms of roadability, refinement and touring fuel economy for such a small sports car. Make no mistake though, the Spitfire isn’t a MX-5 and the floppy chassis construction makes for plenty (too many if you are new to such oldies) creaks, rattles and groans on the move but no worse than many rivals of that era.

 

What are they like to live with?

Enthusiastic and well-organised Triumph clubs mean there’s a good support network, and companies such as Rimmer Bros and DMG will keep you well-supplied with spares. Rust can be bad but at least panels – including chassis parts – are replaceable and as the body can be lifted off, it’s a relatively easy car to restore at home.

Price-wise, Spitfires still fly under the radar and £5000 is more than enough to net a good Mk4 or later 1500 – you must add a third if you want a similar Mk3 while truly super Spits (of which there are a growing number of top restored ones) can break the five figure barrier. Agreed, this sounds expensive, but you try restoring one to this standard for less.

 

Sprites and midgets

 

Why should I buy one?

A follow on from the original Frogeye Sprite ‘Spridgets’ come with Austin-Healey and MG badges and are proper hard core sports cars that are only short on size. A direct, and some believed more manly, rival to the Spitfire they offer not far short of Lotus 7/Caterham-like character for much less cost and, being Austin A35 based, are easy-peasy to own and run.

 

What can I get?

Ignoring the Frogeye, which marked its 60th this year, the Spridget ran in tandem with the Triumph although was killed off a year earlier in 1979. Like the Spitfire, it received numerous upgrades over the decades, the most significant being the Mk3 which benefited from wind up rather than sliding windows (Mk2), a better hood, and a perky 65bhp 1275cc A-Series power that was almost to Cooper S tune. In 1971 the Healey name was dropped and a year later the Sprite was killed off. For 1974, what was considered sacrilege by many was the fitting of the Spitfire 1500 engine (alas sans overdrive) but at least the raised ride height and rubber bumper look didn’t denigrate the Midget half as much as it did the bigger MGB.

 

What are they like to drive?

The immediate impression you get with a Spridget against the Spitfire is their fun factor. Sparse and spartan they may well be but there’s a real Caterham-like character about them and this extends to the beautiful go-kart-style handling that’s a delight to explore without any of the quirks Spitfires display when pushed, even if the penalty is a rodeo ride that’s worse than the none too comfy either Triumph.

What Spridgets lack in power and sophistication, they make up for with their sheer driveability and, critically, feel like a proper sports car should – more so than the Spitfire if truth be told and as a result remain great cheap mounts for motorsport where there’s a dedicated championship for them.

Whether or not the ‘1500’ is an inferior car depends if you prefer a more civilised performer care of an all synchro (Morris Marina) gearbox, raised gearing and a less sharp Spitfire steering rack. Later cars further boasted head restraints, inertial seat belts, two speed wipers and a radio console were introduced for 1977, with dual-circuit braking the following year. The ride is much improved thanks to raised height but the handling not as crisp as before although can easily be rectified if desired.

 

What are they like to live with?

If it wasn’t for the Spitfire’s separate chassis a Spridget would be as easy to own and restore. They rot badly (most will have seen a welding torch by now) but panels and even complete bodyshells are available for BMH – but their cost (comfortably over 10 grand once painting is factored in) is as much as what you’d pay for a top car, the favourite being a Mk3, preferably one of the rare, short lived ‘round arch’ types of 1971. We tip the rarer Sprite to rise in price. In contrast, the rubber bumper 1500 Midgets are bargains – £4000 will net you a very nice one. With around 7000 surviving, you can afford to be choosy when selecting your Spridget.

 



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