Eric's Triumph Spitfire


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Copyright ©2000-2007
by Eric Kieboom &
Jacob Poortstra
All Rights Reserved

How it all began
Pretty, isn't it? It doesn't go half bad, either.
Photograph by Olivier de Bruijne

I've been dreaming of classic open British sports cars ever since I was in secondary school. In the late seventies, there was a British Leyland dealership quite near to our school. We used to go there on our bicycles and gaze at the Spitfire 1500 in the showroom.
When I went to university, a friend of a friend had a white Triumph Spitfire mk III, which was quite something for a student to have in those days. Then, when I had my first job, one of my colleagues had a similar Spitfire, in true British Racing Green, with overdrive. I kept dreaming.

In the spring of 1995, I casually strolled into my local Daihatsu dealership to enquire about a towbar for my daily Daihatsu Charade. I didn't like the dealer's tale, especially the part beginning with "the price is...". As I quickly lost interest in the towbar, I glanced across the showroom. My eye was caught by what looked like a 1976 Triumph Spitfire. I checked it out.

Enjoying a trip with two Spitfires. The red one on the left is a mint 1979 example owned by my good friend Jacob Poortstra.
It seemed like one of the previous owners of this particular specimen had been quite good to it, adding some welcome improvements, like halogen headlights, an oil pressure gauge and a stainless steel exhaust.
The last owners had just run it, ignorant of its needs. Thus the left rear axle bearing needed replacing and the carbs were badly out of sync. Even though it was threatening to be a splendid summer, the dealer was desperate enough to fix the carbs, freely replace the noisy rear axle (expensive job), knock something off the price and offer 90 days warranty on the car. This was too good to refuse. I bought it.

So there you have it. I bought a 19 year old Triumph Spitfire, because the towbar I wanted was too expensive.

Why I have no regrets
The complete front of the car opens up, so working on the engine is very easy.
Photograph by Olivier de Bruijne

You only live once and life is short. In that short time, you have to make the most of it and so there are many dreams to be fulfilled. Boyhood dreams are the best and with buying the Spitfire, I fulfilled a classic boyhood dream.

And there's more. Nothing compares with the feeling you get when driving this car on a warm summer day. The feeling of having fulfilled your boyhood dream, being able to afford it, being able to enjoy it. It's my summer car, it's paid for and I maintain it all by myself. Such a rich feeling, you know, even though it's an old, noisy, tinny little car that rattles a lot. It's got character.
Talk to any owner of an Old British Convertible and he or she will tell you more or less the same. We relate to each other - that's why (Miata/MX5 owners take note!) drivers of open topped British sports cars always greet each other. Knowing you're a member of the club is another reason why it feels so good driving a car like this.

Pros and cons

So what are the advantages of a Triumph Spitfire?
    In needs a bit more maintenance than your average modern car. Note well-filled tool roll in the foreground.
  • Not over-exposed and 'trendy' like MG's, so still relatively cheap to buy
  • Small, light and nimble
  • Cheap to run
  • Simple to maintain
  • The whole front of the car opens up, so it's the easiest engine in the world to get at
  • Easy to restore, should the need arise
  • Pretty reliable (really!)
  • Reasonably practical for a sportscar
  • Can be equipped with overdrive
  • Pretty modern for its day, with front disc brakes and all-independent suspension
  • Looks great
There are some minor disadvantages, too...
  • Designed and built in an age when cars needed more regular attention to stay alive
  • Really needs a garage as it quickly deteriorates if kept outside
  • Not something to drive in Central European winters
  • Keeps marking its territory...
Brmm, brmmm!
Photograph by Olivier de Bruijne