1968 Triumph Spitfire Mk III hardtop 1.3 petrol
Brilliant value and great fun with superb spares back-up
Unfair to list all as the car was bought from a scrapyard as a (good) project after 17 years off the road. Returned to good working order rather than totally restored. Mainly:
Body: inner & outer sills, trailing arm mounts, rear wing edges & floorpan edges rotted: all replaced. Front valance rotted; some dents & paint scarring to rest of body. Small rust in hardtop lower edges.
Chassis: surface rust.
Suspension: seized rear links, needed new rear dampers and bushes all round.
Steering: New bottom trunnions (lubricate with EP90 gear oil, not grease), top ball joints, track-rod ends, steering column bushes (latter quite a fiddly/delicate job), etc.
Interior: Mostly OK - petrol & temp gauges seized in storage; driver's seat frame needed welding, seat fabric repaired; seats, trim & carpets slightly worn, but all repaired & retained for originality/period feel.
Engine: diesel-down bores & oil changed before any attempt to start! Engine turned out OK. New radiator/hoses, heater valve, generator, exhaust and mounts (a bit fiddly: needs careful positioning to stop contact with chassis rail, all service items.
Differential: whines, but OK for moment (Molyslip added to new oil helps). New UJs needed on half-axles and rear of propshaft.
Gearbox: Seems fine. Vintage whine in (non-synchro) first. (Never engage except when car at rest, & slipping into 2nd before 1st at rest prevents 'ching' of teeth).
Brakes: All parts except actual discs and drums needed replacing. Clutch hydraulics replaced.
Fuel system: New carbs, fuel pump, fuel lines & hoses. Internal rust in petrol tank: most removed when tank taken out, but in-line fuel filters fitted & replaced regularly for first 500 miles or so until rust stopped coming through. No need for new tank.
Wheels: after-market wide wheel replaced with standard items.
Above all standard Spitfire stuff and a lot less than some projects. Worth getting an unbodged, if worn, original car as starting-point. Body repairs done professionally. Check original specs before buying car & starting work. When working on car always use correct nuts/bolts & spring washers/locknuts as car vibrates more than a modern one and things otherwise work loose.
Car feels very ancient compared with modern, but great fun. Takes time to get into its 'rhythm' but, once you have, driving is second-nature. Slow-in, steady round, accelerate out on curves. Remember it's got swing axles at the back so if you brake in a fast curve it can 'bite' (Read contemporary reports for guidance).
Not fast, but you feel 'involved' at 50!
Comfortable seats (passengers remark on this) possibly better, despite appearances, than later, bigger seats)
It may look Italian (which the Michelotti styling is of course) and with its high bumper even a little French (especially in Valencia blue) but it is not a supply-sprung cutie with a whirring overhead cam engine, but a true British sports car underneath. You either like it or...
Great value, and reliable so long as you service it by the book and keep an eye on everything. A good Spitfire is much better than the sum of its parts, even if a bad one can be really horrible. If you buy what turns out to be a horror, do try a good one before you throw it away - you might decide it's worth fixing after all.
It cost £575 to buy, with repair costs in low thousands, and very cheap maintenance thereafter. Parts availability and club support excellent. Can't fault it for value.
I'm not usually a sports car person, but the Spit was definitely worth doing and is the sort of old car that's fun in non-car social contexts as well as classic car etc events. Is neither naff nor pretentious so you can take it anywhere and people always enjoy riding in it. And it's fine over long distances (so long as you don't mind a little noise and effort in driving) even if you're well over 6'.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 28th July, 2002