The Triumph Spitfire is another Michelotti miracle. It arrived in 1962, partly in response to the arrival of the MG Midget version of the Austin Healey Sprite and was another example of Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti’s incredible talent for sports car design. It was reasonably quick, very attractive and despite its very diminutive size by today’s standards of motoring – has a huge character and charm.
The model was named patriotically after the iconic British fighter planes from the Second World War and represents a golden era of the British Sports car. An era when manufacturers were driving to offer their trendy young customers of the 1960s the delights of open-air performance motoring on an accessible budget.
Giovanni Michelotti already had the adrenaline of success from the Triumph Herald and Triumph TR4 coursing through his designer’s hands when he re-skinned his Herald design. A design with a cut-down version of the same chassis, mated to the Herald’s engine with a sportier cam, cylinder head, manifolds and of course, twin carburettors.
Overdrive, wire wheels and even a hardtop were all on the options list when the Spitfire was unveiled to the public at the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show as “The Spitfire 4”.
The less said about the wet weather gear the better, for the early models offered not much more than a complex and time-consuming arrangement of metal sticks, over which a vinyl hood draped. If it started raining, you’d best buckle up the flying jacket and press on!
The Mark 1s are very rare these days. If you see one at a car show, stop awhile and marvel at its beauty in simplicity and that gorgeous Italian inspired design. The Spitfire went on to have 5 generations of development.
The Mark 2 brought more refinements inside and more power.
The Mark 3 followed, and to classic buyers today is regarded by most as the most sought – after. Design changes heightened the bumper line, the perkier 1.3 engine had good power and the brakes now to match and finally, you could erect the hood without a year’s training in tent construction.
The dainty rear lights of the early models, perched atop the rear wings like cherries on a cake, gave way to the more modern and corporate design and family look to match the rest of the Triumph line with a flat rear panel like the Triumph Stag.
In the Mark IV, the refinement continued. The big change was underneath, where the rear suspension was heavily revised to dial out some of the handling uncertainties, and drama of previous models. The gearing was slightly raised as well, giving more economy and a generally more relaxed feel to the drive.
The arrival of the 1500, which shared its engine of course with the last of the MG Midgets, also saw out the last of the Triumph Spitfires. In an uncomfortable parallel with the MG B celebrating the same birthday this year, the Spitfire also lived on until 1980 where it became one of the last of the Triumph brand to be produced.
The Triumph Spitfire had success in motorsport as well, with a class win at Le Mans in 1965, and success in the Tour De France and Geneva rallies.
Owning a Triumph Spitfire
The Triumph Spitfire must be one of the easiest classic cars to own, use and maintain. There are large numbers on the market to choose from and with the refinements over its lengthy period of production described above, there is a model to capture any era of classic motoring that most appeals to you.
Club support is superb, with the Triumph Sports Six Club being the hub of information and support on the model with a packed calendar of events throughout the year that you can enjoy your car at to its fullest.
Restoration is straightforward, and the entire body may be lifted from the chassis by a couple of strong bodies to work on the chassis and running gear separately from the body. The design includes wings that are integral to the bonnet, so the entire front-end tilts forward for access to the engine making servicing easy.
When you are carrying out servicing or indeed larger repair projects or restoration, you’ll also find that the spares supply is plentiful with most parts available either new, reconditioned or second hand through a plethora of specialist workshops and parts suppliers.
The Triumph Spitfire’s diminutive size also means it easily fits into a single garage allowing room to work on it as well, an important consideration given the size of many driveways and garages in many housing estates these days!
Insuring a Triumph Spitfire with Peter James
Peter James can offer superb rates on a tailored policy for the Triumph Spitfire, made more competitive by our partnership with the Triumph Sports Six Club. Furthermore, through our partnership with the Triumph Sports Six Club, our team can offer you a policy with several useful options such as inclusive breakdown cover, self-repair cover, salvage retention, agreed values and the ability to nominate a specialist repairer in the event of an accident, plus much more.
Our team at Peter James know and love these special little sports cars very well, so if you own one, or if you are looking to own one, then give us a call and we’ll be eager to help you realise those sports car dreams of summer soft-top cruising in a Triumph Spitfire.
Picture credit: Jane Rowley, Triumph Sports Six Club.