1963 Triumph Spitfire 4 Project Car(Trials and Tribulations of a Rescued Car)
Styling by Geovanni Michelotti
The project car displayed on this website is among the first generation of Triumph Spitfire sports cars manufactured in Canley, Coventry, UK by Standard-Triumph. This model is also known as the "Spitfire MkI" in some circles, but it was originally badged as the "Spitfire 4." During the pre-production stages, it was code named "The Bomb." According to production records, my car was manufactured in 1963, but is titled as a 1964. This is very common for old cars, and most likely because it was originally purchased from the dealership during early 1964, and therefore, the first title was issued during that year.
About ten years ago, I acquired this Spitfire 4 from a friend who had acquired it from a relative who had owned it since new. Since then, it had been parked in a storage building awaiting for its day to be resurrected. I recently decided the time was right to bring it home to my own garage, and tear it apart to begin the teardown and rebuilding process. During the months ahead I'll be performing a complete restoration, hoping to have it on the road sometime soon.....since I've already missed the official 50th Anniversary of the Triumph Spitfire (1962-2012). The original color of this car was called "Powder Blue", but I plan to change it to another original color called "Conifer Green" although I'm also researching paint codes that might match the original Le Mans racing green.
A little bit of Spitfire history:
The Spitfire 4 was the very first British car I had the opportunity to ride in during the late 1960's when a college friend of an older sister brought her home from college one weekend in a bright red Triumph Spitfire. When he noticed how much time I was spending looking at his car, he offered me a ride. I thought it was one of the coolest cars I had ever seen in person, and even cooler once I had the opportunity to ride in it! Since that ride, I have been hooked on British cars, and I have always appreciated the early Spitfire design created by the late Italian designer, Geovanni Michelotti (1921-1980). His other credits include the Triumph Herald, GT6, TR4, Stag, Dolomite, 1300, and 2000. He also designed a number of prototypes for Triumph that did not reach production stage. Other car design work includes Lancia, Maserati, BMW, Alpine, Nissan (Prince Skyline) and Reliant.
The Spitfire body was designed for Standard Triumph by Michelotti during the late 1950's, but due to the uncertain British economy at the time, the company was forced to pospone production. Until then, the car was referred to as "The Bomb." The first production version was finally introduced to the public at the London Motor Show as the "Spitfire 4" during October of 1962 as a brand new 1963 model. My car that you see on this web site was manufactured during 1963, but sold as a 1964 model according to my title.
The Triumph Spitfire was a very popular sports car because it had very attractive styling, handled well, and had great performance for a small sports car. Best of all, it was affordable and could be owned by average middle class Americans. It had more modern features than its competitors, including front disc brakes, independent rear suspension, roll-up windows, and a peppy 4-cylinder engine (1147cc) that created more BHP than its closest rival, the Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite (948cc).
The Spitfire also had a very impressive racing history among amateures and professionals alike. This created a lot of hype about the car, which helped drive healthy sales in the United States. In 1965, the Triumph Spitfire (special hard top version) won its category at the prestigious Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. In fact, even today you'll find Spitfires racing at the many vintage racing events taking place annually around the world.
Spitfire at Lemans 1965
1965 Le Mans Video (mp4)
Legends of Motorsport - Spitfires At Le Mans (mp4)
Triumph Spitfire - Practical Classics Group Test (mp4)
Early Spitfires have become relatively rare. This is mostly because the original owners of the day drove them for everyday transportation, and they had very little interest in preserving them for posterity. Once the cars became too rusty and couldn't be driven anymore, the owners would often roll them to an out of the way place where they would continue to decay. Since there was no further interest, they would eventually end up in a scrap yard. Today, like other British cars from the same era, they have become known as classic cars, and have a strong following among hobbyists and collectors.
Oxidation was a significant problem with these cars. It has been noted first hand that after transportation on ships from the UK to the US (salty Atlantic Ocean air), cars would show up at dealerships with early stages of rust forming. This oxidation also affected the electrical connections, which would give owners fits.
Based on my own experience with all British cars manufactured during the 50's, 60's & 70's, the most common problems are related to body rust, electrical connections (oxidation), and carburator problems (adjustments). Fortunately, when properly dealt with, these problems are a thing of the past, and cars that have been restored properly are very reliable.
Triumph Spitfire production began during October 1962 and ended August 1980.
Spitfire 4 (MkI) October 1962 - December 1964: 45,753
Spitfire MkII December 1964 - January 1967: 37,409
Spitfire MkIII January 1967 - December 1970: 65,320
Spitfire MkIV August 1970 - November 1974: 70,021
Spitfire 1500 FH Series (markets outside US & Canada) August 1974 - October 1979: 95,829 (number of all 1500's produced)
Spitfire 1500 FM Series (US market) August 1972 - October 1970: 95,829 (number of all 1500's produced)
Note: I'm not sure how many, but some Spitfire 1500's were manufactured up to August, 1980.
Keep an eye on this website for frequent updates!
Shortly after arrival - ready to roll into the garage
A couple of very good helpers
Below is the Index of the various stages of this restoration
Removal of Body Parts
Removing Engine Bay Components
Re-chroming Ugly Rear Bumpers and Overriders
Search For A Front Bumper
Stripping Paint From Doors
Blasted Deck Lid
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Sporty Triumph Motorcycle Projects
1968 TR6C Project
1971 TR6C Project