Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1979 Triumph Spitfire - One of the Nicest I've Seen

According to legend, the Spitfire almost never came to be. Triumph wanted a car to compete against the Austin Healey Sprite. They commissioned Michelotti to design a body that would fit on a shortened Triumph Herald frame.

Triumph ran into financial trouble in the early 1960s and could not afford to put the car into production. The legend has it that when Leyland took over Triumph they found Michelotti's prototype tucked in the corner of the Triumph factory, under a drop cloth. Knowing they had a good thing when they saw it, they quickly approved the car for production.

This car is a 1979 Spitfire 1500. The 1500 was the final incarnation of the Spitfire. In some ways it was the best. The Spitfire had been updated throughout the years and this is the culmination of those updates. By the late seventies it had become a comfortable (by small sports car standards), nice handling car. The interior looked like it was from a far more expensive car and the body, even with the US 5 MPH bumpers, still looked great. The only letdown was the engine. While the 1500cc engine was the biggest ever offered in a Spitfire, it wasn't very quick. In order to meet US emissions regulations the compression ratio was dropped to 7.5:1. After adding a catalytic converter and EGR system, the engine only put out 53 hp. It took over 14 seconds to reach 60 MPH. Still, all things considered - I had a 1979 Spitfire - it's a really enjoyable car to own.

This is one of the nicest Spitfires I have ever seen. It has just 41,000 miles on it. The seller writes "nearly every part, every bolt and every hose clamp is how it left England." I love that. The wheels were supposedly a dealer installed option.

As I write this, the car has been bid up to $5,000.00 by 7 separate bidders, with 5 days left to go in the auction. It has not met the reserve yet. Spitfires have always been lower than a TR3, TR4 and TR6 in the Triumph pecking order. It will be interesting to see what kind of money one in this condition brings.

Located in Eugene, Oregon, click here to see the eBay listing.

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