Mike Humble’s Column: Come fly with me – The Triumph Spitfire

Certain words create quintessentially English pictures in the minds eye and make a grown up feel all comfortably warm with pride don’t they? Examples include Concorde, The Flying Scotsman, Yorkshire pudding and Spitfire… go on.. say that last one again, but out loud – sounds great doesn’t it. Some years ago I was a Spitfire pilot I kid you not, but sadly, this one lacked the awesome power of the Supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin aero engine. Sadly, it also lacked the grace and unmistakable silhouette in the sky of R.J Mitchell`s legendary fighter plane, of course, we are talking about the Triumph Spitfire – but both were the dream of small boys.

Cutting a dash along the A428 towards St Neots was hardly comparable to soaring over St Hellier on another dog fight mission I guess, but I stood a much fairer chance of making it back to base before sunset. The car in question was an Inca yellow 1500 owned by the Father of a girlfriend I once new and it was very much a rolling restoration project – or in other words, a bit of a wreck. He was a reserved kind of man, very much the protective type and rightly so, but once he was aware of my love for his first born as well as his car, he dropped his guard somewhat and every spare moment I had was shared with either his daughter or his 1979 Triumph.

The Triumph Spitfire is a great little thing, of course there are constant reminders that it is after all a British car. The oil leaks on your driveway, the rev counter refuses to work without a provocative tap on the glass and the constant need for a nail file in the glovebox to clean the points would drive the owner of an SL Mercedes to insanity. In the crazy world of Triumph during the British Leyland era, all the aforementioned are both acceptable, very much fondly loved and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The old phrase ‘less is more’ certainly hits the spot – two seats, four wheels and 1500 cubic centimeters of Canley assembled fun is more than enough to tug at the heartstrings.

Sliding and fidgeting into comfort behind that three spoke wheel poking out from a walnut trimmed fascia is enough to make you forgive the fact that the car is not even really that sporting. Even with twin carbs the engine can only just cough up 71bhp but there is a useful wedge of torque under 3000rpm and for a little pocket sized thing that weighs less the 800kgs, it feels like a lot more. With your backside not even 6 inches from the floor, everything seems to feel 6 times quicker and the ultra low tech transverse rear leaf and front wishbone suspension is remarkably effective in keeping you on the straight and narrow.

Do it yourself repairs and servicing is are simple as they come too, with the Spitfire being as advanced as soil, nothing really presents a problem if the little thing splutters to a stop without warning – which they do. But for me, the happy naughty puppy looks, plentiful parts availability and back to basics engineering are still enough to make me want one. The MG Midget may be a rival to the Spitfire, but the ever so slightly higher class look and feel of the Triumph Spitfire could just be the deciding factor should you be in the market for a cute, simple no frills two seater.



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