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Classic cars that bite back

My Triumph Spitfire MK3s

Triumph Spitfire
Some cars are just more trouble than they are worth..
Running a classic car is for the most part an enjoyable experience, and one long continual learning curve. However, some of this learning can often come from strange or unplanned motoring events, and are usually very unwelcome at the time. And you can guarantee that a motoring malady will happen at the most inconvenient of times.

Many moons ago, I ran a red 1967 Mk3 Triumph Spitfire, assembled from many many boxes of bits and resurrected to a presentable condition on a very tight budget. This Spit came fitted with wire wheels, but as they were showing some signs of wear I readily accepted the offer of some period Magna alloys to fit on it, very swish and correct for the period. I soon had 'em bolted on, fitted with 175x13 tyres, and ran the car for some time before hitting a slight problem that I'd not foreseen.

The wheel nuts used on steel wheels had a different shoulder profile than those needed on these alloys. Consequently I'd been merrily driving around with the wheels held on with the wrong nuts. One chilly January, brother Phil and I headed over to North Wales for a pleasant run around the lanes and a look at the sea. Late afternoon we headed back for home, however we'd not long been on the A55 when a serious wiggle manifested itself somewhere at the back. We pulled onto the hard shoulder, and a quick shufty at the back end showed the nearside wheel leaning at a very precarious angle, missing 2 wheelnuts and the others with not long to go before they also disappeared. The remaining 2 nuts tightened up enough for us to crawl along to the next exit, and head to a nearby farm that we knew the owners of.

Sat in their cosy lounge with cups of tea we waited for rescue from dad. Normally it'd have taken him only an hour or so to get to us, but that evening saw the beginning of a very cold snap, accompanied by heavy snow and ice. It took him over 3 hours to get to us, and the run back (sans Spitfire) took a similar length of time due to the lousy conditions. The Spitfire was collected at a later date and repaired by a guy I knew in Warrington who ran a Triumph restoration business.

Other gremlins manifested themselves from time to time, as with any old car that has been resurrected from the grave. The gearbox decided to disallow selection of most gears (also on a trip to Wales - I must avoid that place!!), although this was quickly sorted out - the reverse gear detent thing had worked loose and dropped down, hindering gear selection.

The only other exciting 'moment' I had with that Spitfire was in 1991, when the rear exhaust mountings on my Triumphtune twin sports exhaust let go, outside the Liverpool Arms pub on the Conway quayside, dropping the system onto the deck right in front of a large number of suppers enjoying an evening pint. Two bungee straps around the rear silencers and the boot catch soon restored some normality, and effected a temporary repair that lasted for several months (lazy &*&^* I know!!).

Other than these odd occurrences, most of my time with the red Spitfire was a lot of fun, even the wayward handling in extremis could be tamed, I remember a cross country chase with a shiny Alfa 2600 bringing out the Spitfire handling characteristics to the fore with great regularity. That Spitty was sold in 1992, and is still around, currently enjoying a lengthy rebuild in Sale, nr Manchester.

The sale of that Triumph however was not the end of my Spitfire driving days, as a couple of years later a 2.5 engined Mk3 Spitfire came onto the scene. This one had a 2500S saloon engine fitted in a very modified (Mk2 GT6 style) chassis, and handled very well indeed (rotoflex suspension fitted). However despite having a transmission setup similar to a 2.0 GT6, the extra torque of the 2.5 Triumph 6 pot would soon highlight some gremlins in the system.

Accelerating briskly from some traffic lights the rear split driveshaft tore itself off the diff, allowing the wheel to bang around merrily in the rear arch at 50mph, held in place only by the top damper mount. Somehow I cobbled it back together enough to get a tow home behind dads early Saab turbo and replacement driveshafts were fitted. Me and Triumph wheels have a love/hate relationship, the front stub axle sheared off at the top of our road sometime later on the same car. I'd always oiled it as recommended by the Triumph gurus of this world, but whether the previous owner had is anyones guess..

This Spitfire I also remember for having a notoriously innaccurate fuel gauge. One fine day I 'kindly' suggested to a mate of mine that we take the 2.5 out for a spin before he went to work in the mid afternoon (shifts). A fun blat around some country lanes soon gave way to a deathly hush as the car coasted silently to the side of the road, my mental calculations re fuel purchased vs mileage that it'd allow, were sadly lacking. We ended up pushing the Spitfire over a mile to the nearest petrol station, some of which was uphill. By the time we got there we were pretty knackered, and he only just made it to work in time, feeling a little flaky after such physical exertion.



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