Posted by: Justin | January 6, 2010

The Spitfire

Today I got the pleasure of having my old 72 and 79 Triumph Spitfires picked up to be worked on (photos to come). I’ll hit on the rest of what I’ve been up to tomorrow, so here’s the story of the Spitfire…

The Spits Arrives

My dad used to race (on the local tracks) a dark blue 1972 Triumph Spitfire Mark IV. He had infinity racing stripes on it and loved that car. Well around the later part of 1974, when my mom was pregnant with me, he had to sell it. For one, it sat too low to the ground for her to get in and out of it and they needed something with more than just two seats for when I would be born.

About the time I was 8 (maybe more like 10), my dad brings home this dark blue 72 Triumph Spitfire on the back of a tow truck. He was planning to work on it and start reliving his old glory days, but that didn’t happen. One day when I was about 13, he told me that if I came up with the money, he’d help me restore it.

A History of Troubles

So, when I was around 16, Dad got the Spits running long enough to drive my mom and two sisters around the yard before it ran out of steam for my turn. So, he told me I’d have to wait for after the restoration (this was my first omen of things to come). We basically rebuilt the block, got things loosened up, new interior, new paint and some minor details. Due to me being in the military after turning 18 I didn’t get to drive it until I was 20 and that was from Southern Virginia to Central Texas (she broke down in Georgia on I-85).

Unfortunately because the car sat for a good 10 years before being driven again, I wound up with all kinds of problems including a spun bearing, thrown rods, multiple carburetor rebuilds, electrical failures and fires, clutch master cylinder issues and so on. Eventually a few years later when the paint started to fade, I decided on a total rebuild rather than doing what my dad and I did before and I tore the whole thing to pieces (this was around 2000). I literally took every nut and bolt out of her.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I wound up going out to sea a lot in 2002, then transferring to the mainland for three years and coming back in 2007 only to have had the car sitting there in storage the whole time. I didn’t pull her out until 2009, so she sat there for at least a good 10 years not being driven. Last year I decided to get her over to the hobby shop to put her back together and picked up a 1979 Spitfire 1500 at an auction for spare parts.

A Decade Later

Again, I never found the time to work on the thing and kept procrastinating on it. That and every time I went to work on it, I would stare at the thing and have no clue where to begin. After talking with several people and a few estimates, I managed to talk a guy into doing the job for seven grand. However, rather than piecing together the 72 and using the 79 as a spare, the guy (and several others) talked me into restoring the 79 instead and using the 72 for parts, seeing as how I handily tore it up already.

So today, Clifford of Hawaii’s Auto Restoration came by and picked up both Spitfires and will be working on the job for me. I’ll pitch in where needed to try to keep my costs under the 7k price we discussed. Clifford appears to be more honest than the other guys I’ve talked to and not a fast talker or slickster. That combined with the price to not only do the bodywork and paint it, but get it rolling again, I couldn’t refuse (other guys were hitting around 9k for the body and paint and then 20k minimum for a complete restoration).

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how I could manage to hold on to this thing for so long. Most people would have gotten rid of it, including my dad. However it’s because of him (God rest his soul) and my memories of this car that I’ve held on to her all these years. I feel sad stopping the work on the 72, but I think I can get some peace of mind in knowing that part of her will be in the 79 and at least I will have a Spitfire to remember my dad by.

– Justin



  1. I’m working on my own Triumph project over here in Hilo. I bought a ’67 Herald 1200 convertible and have been working on getting my workspace into shape to start in on it. The body’s in halfway decent condition…but the part that’s not in decent condition is really rusty due to the Hilo rain.

    Good luck on your project, I look forward to hearing how yours is going in the future.

    (I also play MMORPGs and was looking for something enjoyable to get me out and more active)


    • John,

      Glad to see someone else has a love for the British cars, so close to home too. Hope to see some photos of yours one day.

      I’m also happy to see another MMORPG fan move on to something else in life. I’d still love to play, but I know the moment I do, I’ll just get sucked back in and start doing raids and what not. Things I enjoy now are getting up early to work out (I have a link to my fitness site), working on my blogs and web pages, and then my involvement in the lodge.

      I look forward to hearing more from you.

      – Justin

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