Spitfire is a classic, small British Sports car manufactured by British Leyland
up until the late 1970's. Unassuming as it may seem, it is a car steeped in history. It was successful in racing (Le Mans) and in rallying, and had a production span of 18 years, in which many model changes took place. There was the:
When I was but a nipper I loved Ferraris, today, it's more of an admiration rather then a love affair. I dreamed of owning one and came up with a savings plan which would mean I could afford to buy a second hand 308, or 328 by my mid-twenties. I was sticking to this plan up until early 2000, when browsing the Autotrader website I came across a wonderful, magical car, the Triumph Spitfire.
The desirability of this car is up there with the likes of the E-Type Jaguar, for me anyway. I won’t drag out the buying process, but basically, I went out and got a Spitfire 1500 in August 2000. A half-decent one that I'm currently restoring to its full beauty.
What I love about my Triumph Spitfire 1500 is:
- It's red just like the Ferraris I adore. Red is the only colour for a sports car
- It's convertible. Driving a roofless car is fantastic. Everyone can see who you are, the sun shines on the whole of your face, the wind gusts around your head on the motorway. I love being exposed to the elements, and providing it's not raining heavily I'll have the roof down.
- It only has 2 seats which is all I need. There's an air of impracticality that appeals to me. It also has a tiny boot and trying to fit any luggage into it is a fun challenge in itself.
- It has beautiful sweeping curves especially around the rear tires.
- It's extremely rare and unique. I'll only see another one driving around every few months, and have only seen another red 1500 once. If it's not red, I consider it inferior to mine.
- I drove next to a blue Spitfire 1500 down a dual carriageway once. We purposely stayed together for a few miles admiring each other’s cars. There was a kind of comradeship there, and with a complete stranger. It was a weird, but great feeling.
- The price. Mine only cost £2250. Restoring it to full glory should only cost another £2000 which should mean it will last for another 26 years (mine was built in 1976). So I feel like I have a worthy alternative to a Ferrari for a little over £4000. I aim to keep this car for the rest of my life.
- No other material object has brought me so much pleasure, and I'm including Hard Drivin on the Sega Mega Drive, and the initial feeling I had when I loaded up Destruction Derby from the demo disc on my brand new Sony Playstation.
- It's rear wheel drive, which means when I go around a mini-roundabout on a wet day, I can blip the throttle and the back-end steps out. Great fun.
- When I bought it, it was fitted with a twin Sports Exhaust. This makes it sound as though there is a snarling V8 under the bonnet. When I'm coming towards traffic lights I pray that they'll turn red, just so I can sit there, blipping away at the throttle. Pedestrian crossings are also good, blipping away as frightened children and old people hurry out of my way.
- People look at me for all the right reasons when I'm in this car. It draws such a lot of admiring looks and comments. Plus, they expect to see some old bloke driving it in a midlife crisis, not some young chap. When I'm driving along the motorway in the inside lane, sometimes a car will go past me, and I'll see a couple of little faces peering back at me from the rear seats. Stupid kids probably think it's a Ferrari or something, well I'm not going to correct them. I look like Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate in it, but I swear I saw that film after I bought it.
- It's almost the easiest car to work on due to the whole bonnet coming forward, allowing complete access to the engine. The parts for it are also readily available, and I could go onto a site now and order just about anything I wanted for it.
I love my Spitfire, although at the moment it's almost completely stripped down in my Nans garage and looking like a complete wreck. But I know, by summer, it will be all back together again, and purring away like a pussycat.
Crappy Restoration Diary
Curently the car has been almost completely stripped down. The body/tub has been lifted off the chassis with all interior bits and pieces stripped out. The chassis components, such as the engine, gear box, and suspension all need to to be taken out and cleaned up, replacing components which cannot be repaired, I don't think there should be many of these at all as mechanically the car is very good.
The plan is to clean and repair all the original parts I can, basically to save money, but also, this is what restoration is all about.
I have been working hard the last few days (being unemployed) and have so far made a whole load of new interior bits for the car with hardboard and some material and foam I bought down Romford Market. Including:
- Interior door panels,
- Rear cockpit trim panel,
- Recovered centre console (handbrake cover),
- Recovered tunnel cover,
- Recovered knee pads,
- Stripped and wire brushed both seat frames and runners back to the bare metal (you wouldn't believe the amount of rust and shit on these!), I'm going to either paint or lauqer these and buy brand new seat covers and new foam cushions as the foam that was in them had basically desintegrated. New seat covers - £150, New foam cushions - £120. Damn I need a job!
- Made new spare wheel holder
- Made new boot-fuel tank seperator
- Made new rear cockpit side panels
- Made one new sun visor, the other is proving to be a pain in the arse as I'm deciding on whether to try a new method of making it.
- Recovered right crash pad
Stripped and repainted hood frame, this took me from 9am this morning to 6pm this afternoon, I'm leaving it to dry overnight, but it looks pretty damn good in gloss black. I'm going to throw the old hood away and buy a new one, this will cost about £150, GODDAMIT! Brushed the chrome hood levers as well and they came up really well so I'm going to apply the same technique to the front and rear bumpers and try and save myself £300 on re-chroming. Next on the to do list is preparation of the seat frames, brushing and painting of fuel tank, preparation of ash tray, recovering the dashboard, preparing the wooden facia, recover the left crash pad, cover the passenger sun visor, prepare wheel rims, brush petrol cap, brush bumpers, brush and paint foot pedals.
Painted part of the seat frame, lacquered the runners, and touched up the hood frame because I'd missed quite a few bits. That was about it really because I didn't have much else to do and I had an interview with Holmes Place which I thought went quite well.
I've fucked my life up! Had to touch the hood frame up, but I made it look shit, apparently you're supposed to wait 6 weeks to re-coat, 6 fucking weeks! So anyway, looks shit now, so I have to wait 6 weeks so I can brush it back to the metal again, and repaint it properly, Jesus Christ! I'll have finished doing the whole fucking car by then and just be waiting to do the hood frame. I might just try and brush it in a couple of days and see what happens, I'll probably fuck it up even more. Oh well, everything has to be perfect or I'm really not happy, so I have no other choice.
Well I brushed the foot pedals down yesterday and thought I'd see what effect the angle grinder had on the hood, and the paint came off relatively easily, so once I started I couldn't really stop myself. I finished it off this morning, so now it's ready to paint again. This afternoon me and my dad took the gearbox and engine off the chassis and made some notes about what panels we need to replace on the body, quite a few it turns out, damn you rust! I also got an areosol of paint today so I'll try that out tomorrow.
Well, I've painted the foot pedals black, they came out quite nicely. Today we dismantaled the front suspension. Then came home and I grinded a couple of wishbones, a spring and the rollbar down, you wouldn't believe the amount of shit on these. After I'd finished my face was completely black, and I just spent 30 minutes in the shower getting cleaned up. Although it still looks as though i have masscare on. My dad's best mate also gave us a hand today and gave me £50 towards the work, which I was amazinginly happy with. My dad's also ordered some body panels totalling £400! Goddam!
Okay today I finished grinding down the rest of the front suspension, the brake callipers and the radiator. Everything needs to be painted now which I'll do tomorrow morning. I'm going to paint the brake callipers and the shock absorbers red and everything else black.
Just about all of the front suspension is painted up now. Plus the radiator has been restored. The shock absorbers look fantastic in red as do the brake callipers. A couple of bits need another coat, but I have to wait 6 weeks before I can. Borrowed some boxes off my bro so all the bits Ive painted can be wrapped up in newspaper and stored.