Update – Well after adding Bars Leak Fix and letting it set, I’ve been able to put some miles on the car. And boy is it running like a top now! I keep checking the coolant level thinking it’s going to start dropping, but it hasn’t drop at all. I even put some highway miles on it this morning on the way to work and it ran beautifully! I know it isn’t a permanent fix, but it makes this a car you can enjoy right away. I won’t lie, I’m sad now that I’m selling it, but it’s for the best!
Update – So CycleMikey suggested I go get some Bars Leak fix and add it to the cooling system. I didn’t think it would work, but decided to give it a try. I followed the directions on the bottle and after letting the car warm up and cool back down, I don’t seem to be getting any more coolant in the oil! I’m going to flush the oil again and put some miles on it just to make sure it holds up to actual use. It isn’t a permanent solution, but it should extend the life of this engine significantly!
As some of you might remember, a while back I bought a sweet little Triumph Spitfire from our buddy Bruce. After getting it home, I discovered the engine was seized, but I eventually replaced it with a running 1500 from a ’74 Midget. Shortly after getting it running and driving, I ran it on the first ever Barn Finds Rally and ended up blowing a head gasket. After several head gaskets and countless phone calls with our very own Triumph guru, Jamie, I got it running yet again. Well, after taking it out for a drive recently, I discovered coolant in the oil. I’m not sure if I just never got all out or if it’s still leaking somewhere. I hate to throw in the towel, but I’ve just got too many other projects going right now to give this Spitfire the time it deserves, so I think it’s time to let someone else take over. If you’re interested in finishing it up, you can find it here on eBay in Boise, Idaho.
I really hate to see this car just sit, but between the Fiat, Blakely and our MGA, I just don’t have the time for it. I’d rather see it go to a good home than just sit in my driveway not being used. It already spent over 20 years in storage so I don’t want to see it spend any more time parked!
I’ve already done quite a bit of work to it, besides swapping out the engine. Here is what has been replaced or serviced at this point: new radiator, coolant lines, thermostat, aluminum valve cover, master brake cylinder, clutch slave cylinder, steel braided brake lines, greased all fittings and bearings, replaced starter, alternator and speedometer cable. I also straightened out the driver’s side seat frame and installed some NOS seat covers (they could still use some work to look their best).
As stated earlier, the replacement engine is from a ’74 MG Midget. When I bought it, it was running and had decent compression (about 100 psi with less than 5 psi variation between each cylinder). After blowing the head gasket, I installed a Payen gasket and replaced all the gaskets on the top end of the engine. I had two head bolts that wouldn’t tighten down to the required torque, so I had to pull the head, install 3 new bolts and install a new head gasket. Once I was finally able to warm the engine up and torque the head to the proper spec, I adjusted the valves and measured the compression (125 psi across all 4 cylinders).
Since discovering coolant in the oil, I changed the oil so that I could drive it across the street to take photos and capture a short clip of it running. It sounds good, but I wouldn’t trust to run it any more than absolutely necessary. Coolant in the oil is a big issue, so I would recommend pulling the engine apart and rebuilding it. I haven’t run it much since installing this engine, so it might be as simple as fixing the leak and flushing the oil system, but that is a big gamble and may only postpone the inevitable.
Now with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the good things about my Spitfire! The body has some dents and dings, but is wearing its original paint and is in amazing shape. There are some chips that should be treated to prevent rust, but overall the paint looks great. Someone installed pinstripes at some point, but I’ve removed them and you can’t see any discoloration where they once were. It looks a lot better without them if you ask me!
The matching hardtop is in good shape, but is showing some surface rust at the corners and one of the side windows is missing it’s latch hardware. I love the looks and security of the hardtop, so I’ve never had it off. The soft top is still installed and looks alright. I haven’t ever had it up, so I can’t say what kind of condition it is in though. I also have the original tonneau cover and the convertible boot cover. Both look to be in good shape, but would benefit from a deep cleaning.
Besides adding the pinstripes, it also received a new set of black side mirrors and snowflake style rims. I’m not a huge fan of the rims, so I tracked down a set of original Spitfire rims. I started refurbishing them, but they need finished. Thanks to Jamie, I have a complete set of lug nuts and I was able to buy a set of center caps from Bruce. I installed the spare wheel so you can see how it would look with the steelies and I think it looks great! I’m going to include both sets of wheels, so you can pick whichever is your favorite. The tires that are on the snowflakes are new and will fit on the steelies, so if you decide to finish them you can have the tires moved over. I’m also including the original engine and any spare Triumph parts I might have.
I’ve put less than 100 miles on the car, but I enjoyed every single one of them. It handles great, the brakes are firm and the transmission shifts like a dream. The overdrive engages and disengages smoothly. With the hardtop and overdrive, you can cruise at 65 mph comfortably. With the new seat covers installed, it’s a pleasure to be in it at any speed. The dash has a couple cracks and the carpets need some work, but neither keep you from enjoying the drive!
While my Spitfire does need a bit of work still, the body is in amazing shape and makes it more than worth the work. I wish I could keep it, but right now I feel the best thing is to let this one go to someone who can get it back on the road and enjoy it! I just hope it is one of you so that I can see how it comes along and hopefully go for a ride once it’s all finished up. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments! And here is a gallery of more photos for your viewing pleasure.