Monthly Featured Classic Car: Triumph Spitfire

By Kurt Buttress - July 29, 2019

Although based on Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti’s 1957 take on the Standard-Triumph, the Triumph Spitfire is exclusively a UK manufactured two-seater assembled in Coventry at the Standard-Triumph works in Canley. Let’s take a look back at the sporty Spitfire’s history. 

The Spitfire is as British a sports-car as they come, and as iconic for its time as models like Aston Martin, Mini, Austin-Healey Sprite or the Austin A30/A35/A40.  Originally developed to take on the small car market – the folks at Triumph quickly realised that their ace up the sleeve for this competitive market was a release that could stand on its own within this vehicle class. And how would they go about achieving that platform?  

The Herald, Triumph’s other foray into the small sports car market boasted a separate chassis as compared to say model’s like the A30 which is of unitary construction. This allowed the Herald to be used as a template to underpin the new Spitfire project.     

History of the UK’s Triumph Spitfire 

The Austin Healey Sprite uses a basic drive train from the Austin A30/A35 to formulate their budget sport car. Triumph would tap into their small Herald saloon car which boasted that separate chassis – they could cut the chassis down and give it a sport body, cutting the cost of brand-new chassis development. This also meant the go-to-market turnaround was faster, and heralded (pun intended) a new entry to the small sports saloon range.   

With a swooping body design from Michelotti, wind-up windows and a single-piece front end tilted forward for easy access to the engine – the Spitfire Mark I design ensured that the sports car distinctly stood out from the competition. What would be a revolution in the industry and for the Standard-Triumph brand would have to be shelved due to financial difficulty leading to the new car not being put into production.  

Standard-Triumph would later be taken over by Leyland who, after taking stock and finding the gem that was the Spitfire gathering dust in the factory, immediately put the sports car into production. The Spitfire moniker was adopted to pay homage to the World War II fighter planes of the same name.  

A new generation of UK sports car: The Spitfire MkIMkIIMkIIIMkIV and Spitfire 1500  

The official Spitfire Mark I release saw little change from the prototype except the full-width rear bumper which was changed to two part-bumpers and with front disc brakes being the biggest addition to the stock Herald mechanicals used.  

The release would lead to numerous iterations over time which improved upon the design aesthetic and performance. Here’s a brief history of the Triumph Spitfire series' specs throughout its various iterations. 

Spitfire 4 / Mark I (1962-64) 

  • Performance: 63 bhp (47kW) at 5,750 rpm 
  • Speed: 92 mph (148 km/h), 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) acceleration in 16.4 seconds 
  • Economy: 31 mpg fuel consumption 

Spitfire Mark II (1965-67) 

  • Performance: 67 bhp (50kW) at 6,000 rpm 
  • Speed: 96 mph (154 km/h), 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 14.8 seconds 
  • Economy: 31.7 mpg fuel consumption  

Spitfire Mark III (1967-70) 

  • Performance: 75 bhp (56kW) at 6,000 rpm 
  • Speed: 95 mph (153 km/h), 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 13.4 seconds 
  • Economy: 33 mpg fuel consumption 

Spitfire Mark IV (1970-74) 

  • Performance: 61 bhp (45kW) at 5,500 rpm 
  • Speed: 90 mph (140 km/h), 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 15.8 seconds 
  • Economy: 32 mpg fuel consumption 

Spitfire 1500 (1974-80) - UK Edition 

  • Performance: 71 hp (DIN) at 5,500 rpm  
  • Speed: 100 mph (160km/h), 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 13.2 seconds 
  • Economy: 29 mpg fuel consumption   

Motoring Classics Bodybuilding: Reviving our Triumph Spitfire 

At Motoring Classics, we love to set out personal challenges. Our manufacturing-arm, British Motor Heritage (BMH), has a rich history in UK heritage vehicle spare parts, body shells and more.  

As such, we enjoy dabbling with various projects from time to time. When we’re not having fun constructing and reviving a classic for the track (read up on our A40 restoration project which won second place at Snetterton), we enjoy supplying customers with bespoke parts or, in conjunction with BMH, do individual revival projects.  

One such project was reviving a Triumph Spitfire Mk IV. Take a glimpse behind the scenes as we construct our Mk IV and GT6 bonnet from scratch, at our heritage factory workshop:  

If full scale restoration is on the cards, or you’d like to revive or accessorise your classic car – you know who to get in touch with. Explore our full range of spares and accessories or reach out to us for a bespoke project.   

Motoring Classics Car Parts

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