Spitfire

Below is from a slightly more in-depth version of a posting I did about a month ago on my Triumph Spitfire Project. This is a great intro to the sub-pages that showcase my current Spitfire as it goes from not to hot:

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 of Danville, VA) a dark blue 1972 Triumph Spitfire Mark IV. He had infinity racing stripes on it, patterned after the famous British Auto racing group, Group 44. He loved that car. Well around the later part of 1973, 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. He later stated it was good thing he parted with it when he did as it had a major mechanical failure not long after the next guy got it from the dealership.

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. It wasn’t his Spitfire that he originally had, but it was like it in all other aspects. He was planning to work on it and start reliving his old glory days, but that didn’t happen. I remember the days when I was a kid laying on the hood of this car dreaming I would one day be driving it and imagining it turning into a Transformer (my favorite toy at that time). One day when I was about 13, he told me that if I came up with the money, he’d help me restore it and it was mine. Interestingly enough, someone offered to trade me a used 83 Ford Escort + $500 for my Spitfire. My dad thought it was a decent trade, but I declined because I really wanted that Spitfire and I didn’t quite have the $500 dollars at that time (I should have done it now that I know better).

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 before I could ever ride in it (this was my first omen of things to come). I got a loan from the local bank and started ordering parts. I also found an older 69 Spitfire Mark III for $75 bucks that we used for spare parts. I wanted to try to rebuild it too, but Dad sold it for junk so we could get more stuff for the 72. We basically rebuilt the block, got things loosened up, put in a new dash, new interior, painted it French Blue and added some minor details. In the end, she looked great and girls loved it too. Due to me being in the military after turning 18 I didn’t get to drive it until I was 20, when Dad finally finished putting her back together again.

I remember Dad taking her for a test drive down the road. She sure did roar with that Manza exhaust on her and sounded mean. For her maiden voyage, I took her to Texas where I was headed for technical training. She didn’t quite make it that far. She broke down somewhere along I-85 in Georgia with a spun bearing and I had to get her rebuilt there. I also had the carburetor go out on me when I made it to Texas about a few weeks later when I went back to Georgia to get her. From Texas, I put her on a transport out to Hawaii for my first duty station and drove her all over the island. I had several problems with her here, but I kept her and eventually took her to California with me when I went back for more training. It was there that I saw the paint job was fading and cracking. With that and all the problems I had due to her sitting for 10 years un-driven (spun bearings, thrown rods, multiple carb rebuilds, electrical fire, clutch problems, break problems and so on), I decided a complete rebuild was in order.

In my madness (and my weird fetish for doing things to the utmost degree), I wound up tearing the thing completely apart once I got back to Hawaii with her again. I had every intention of rebuilding her from the ground up and replacing every nut and bolt to a showroom perfection. Alas, that never happened. I wound up on sea duty and in 2004 went to Maryland for a three-year tour. Transferring back to the mainland and trying to ship her in pieces would have been nearly impossible, so I decided to keep her in storage. This was back in 2003. I didn’t pull her back out again until after 2009, about two years after I got back to Hawaii again. Unfortunately because the car sat for a good seven years again in pieces, she was rusting and in bad shape. I wound up picking up a 1979 Spitfire 1500 with overdrive for spare parts.

Almost a Decade Later

She wound up at the Auto Hobby Shop in Hickam AFB, but 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.

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