British Week – V.I.S.I.T.: Triumph Spitfire 1500

A while back (before I learned how to turn off the date on my elcheapo ebay digital camera) this olelongrooffan was up in Flagler Beach to meet a buddy from St. Augustine for lunch. While I was there, I spotted this ole British machine and captured some images of it to share, unwittingly, with my fellow Hoons for this British Week here in the Hooniverse.

This is one of the final series of the esteemed Spitfire, the fifth generation parked, nonchalantly, along the infamous Highway A1A.

It features an optional factory built hardtop to assist the standard ragtop in keeping the driver dry during wet British and Florida drives.

Wikipedia, and we know how much depth of accuracy that site has, tells this olelongrooffan that Giovannai Michalotti designed the original Triumph Spitfire way back in 1957. However, Standard Triumph didn’t have the funds necessary to produce this body on frame design.

But when British Leyland acquired Standard Triumph at the turn of the 60’s decade, the prototype was found in a warehouse under a “dust cover” and BL quickly moved forward with its production. It was destined to become a competitor to the “bug eye” Austin-Healey Sprite and was somewhat successful in that endeavor.

This one does possess the rubber baby bumpers so generic on imported vehicles to these United States during the malaise era of the late 1970s. Yeah, BL was all about cost containment during its later years.

And, like all Spitfires, it possessed the full opening “bonnet” allowing easy access to change out all of the Lucas electrics from under it.

My older brother, the Bus, had a Series 1 Spitfire back in the late 60’s/early 70’s. This olelongrooffan remembers being a 12 year old sitting in the cockpit of that classic roadster, with my little brother, while it was up on concrete blocks as Jim was overseas defending these great United States. thejeepjunkie and I were rallying that British Racing Green, hardtop clad, roadster over every back road we could remember from our hour long bus ride to middle school! It was a blast and something I remember nearly 40 years later.
Hey Blake…thanks for the memories and, again, have a safe trip back to the States. And. Oh, snag a Bristol oxford for me will ya?

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  1. muthalovin Avatar

    I guess I never really "got" the Spitfire. Sure, it is kinda cool and funky, but they just hold no real appeal to me.

    1. Lotte Avatar

      Whenever I hear Spitfire, I think of the British fighter plane. This car to me is special for that reason alone, like I'm actually piloting a Spitfire! The name fits the car very well (not that I've driven a Spitfire, but it looks it).

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        Don't get me wrong, I do really like the name, and I think that is one of my problems. A car named after a badass fighter plan should be something less, hmm, weak. Like a Mustang.

        1. Lotte Avatar

          I see what you mean, but then again, maybe because it's BL I've automatically lowered my expectations 😉 Oh it's so charming!…

    2. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      You know, I kinda feel the same way. The Spitfire seems a little, I don't know, maybe "fussy" is the word. Now, a TR6 in a dark color – that's a whole different story.

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        Yes, I think "fussy" is fairly apt. I do like the TR6 a whole lot more.

    3. tonyola Avatar

      The Spitfire made the MG Midget look sexless by comparison.

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        Good point.

  2. OA5599 Avatar

    A friend had a red one with a hardtop. He bought it as a 95% complete project car, and fixed it up enough to take it to work every now and then, but in the two or so years he owned it, he never once had it running when I came over to go for a spin in it. I think he sold it for less than he paid for it, not even counting the elbow grease.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    I seem to be exactly the opposite of most of you guys. You can keep your TR6s and MGBs. I'll take a Spitfire; it's just got a sexier-looking bod. It and the Austin Healey 3000 are the two British cars I would still seriously like to own, with a late rubber-bumper Midget perhaps running a distant third.
    My tastes go back to what I experienced as a kid: My neighbor had an immaculate '67 A-H, my older cousin drove a Midget throughout the mid '70s, and as I mentioned in Hoonicast #7, I had an unexpectedly intense personal encounter with a yellow, roll-bar equipped Spitfire at the '78 auto show.

  4. Feds_II Avatar

    These have always been my favorite of the British roadsters. A lot of shape, detail, and sexiness into a surprisingly small package. Might be why others consider them fussy.
    10(?) years ago, I was working a co-op job, and had banked enough dosh for the upcoming academic term. My '86 Z-24 Hatchback was getting a little long in the tooth, and I was looking for something more interesting.
    I found an early70's (chrome bumper) spit, in running condition. It hat sat for a while, so it would have needed a going through, but overall it was in very nice shape. I left the gentleman's driveway fulliy intending on returning the next day to pick up the car, take the last week of the co-op term off, get the spit on the road, and sell the Cavalier. Obviously, showing up on campus with a classic British sports car would have allowed me to pull tail like it was going out of style, so I was jazzed.
    That night, on the way to the bar, I stopped to pick up a friend. Pulling into the driveway, the motor mount on the Cavalier failed. Investigating the motor mount found failed ball joints, tie rods, and exhaust. I couldn't afford the spit without getting good money for the cavalier, and I couldn't get good money for the cavalier without repairing it, which would have killed the profits. I took it as a sign that the spit wasn't meant to happen.
    10 years on, there have been others, but I haven't been able to bring myself to pull the trigger. One of these days I will, but until then, the spitfire will always be "The One That Got Away."

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Nice find, Longroof. I can imagine a Spit making quite an impression on you as a kid. It did the same for me!
    I want one of these roughly 6.48 times more than I want an MG Midget. There's something about those cheeky upswept exhaust outlets, and the trunkated tail applied from the MKIV onwards. They have a terrific fruity ehaust note and offer bags of fun on virtually zero horsepower.
    Incidentally, the GT6, fixed-head coupe with the straight six, makes one of the best sounds on four wheels.

    1. MadKaw Avatar

      I have a '65 Herald convertible that somewhere along the line had a GT6 mill stuffed in it's engine bay…and you're dead-on – that sound is sublime!

  6. oldcarjunkie Avatar

    Spitfires are fantastically good looking (less so with the 79 & 80 rubber bumpers) and very simple to work on (less so with the awful water choke Stromberg like this one). Great fun. I loved my '74 1500.

  7. 59Parisienne Avatar

    Old Spike (RIP) would say "Spitfire? Isn't that a cross between a misfire and a spittoon?"