Barn Find: 1966 Triumph Spitfire Mk II

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Sometimes cars are actually found in real barns. Here’s one on eBay, a 1966 Triumph Spitfire Mk II project car, purchased from an estate after sitting in a dry barn for over twenty years. This car is bid to $3050, reserve not met. You will need a trailer to pick her up from Prospect, Pennsylvania. The Spitfire might have never happened if British Leyland hadn’t found a prototype sitting in a corner of the factory floor after it absorbed Standard Triumph. Inspired by the pretty little car, and needing a competitor in the sporty four-cylinder market, BL eagerly put the Spitfire into production. Pre-1967 Spitfires are easy to spot thanks to the upright grille and low bumper – just part of the appeal of Giovanni Michelotti’s original design. In 1967, the car’s front springs and bumper were raised to meet US safety standards. These cars are referred to as “bone in teeth“.

The Spitfire was situated on a shortened Herald chassis, inheriting the same coil-over front suspension, rack and pinion steering, and 1147 cc in-line four-cylinder engine. To put distance between the Herald’s stuffy image and the new sports car, the Spitfire received front disc brakes, and the engine was retuned with a better cam and twin SU carburetors. This increased the horsepower to 67 – a world apart from the Herald’s 48 ponies. While the top speed can’t break 100 mph and it takes 15 seconds to get from zero to sixty, the car sits so low that it feels plenty fast. Oh, right! … that swing axle rear. Be careful. Like the Corvair, the Spitfire can tuck its rear wheels under hard cornering. The seller indicates that this car will run, without chattering and with no smoke, but the master and clutch slave cylinders are seized. The odometer reads 59,101 miles.

The interior has been spruced up after its long nap – I do appreciate a seller who bothers to vacuum and clean up a car to present it for sale. The dash is missing the washer pump knob and the choke knob is broken. There’s rust in the passenger’s side floor, but that’s not the worst iron oxide I’ve seen – even on this car as we’ll see in a minute. The early Spitfires had a top bow arrangement that could challenge a NASA engineer, so get the hang of it before you are caught in the rain. The trunk still contains the spare. I prefer plain steel wheels over wires, but each to his own!

And here’s the bad news. In addition to the passenger floor, both sills are infested with the tin worm. Once rust has emerged through paint, the interior structure will be swiss-cheesy if it hasn’t already been reduced to dust. The paint is oxidized and splotchy, anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be ruining a perfect original paint job when the welding torch comes out. The existence of rust is challenging to this car’s value, but the good news is, the value of pre-’67 cars has taken a jump in the last few years, justifying putting a bit of effort into fixing this one. And if you bemoan higher prices generally for collector cars, later Spitfires can still be had very reasonably for top-down fun.

Auctions Ending Soon

Comments

  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    When looking for my first new car I narrowed it down to a Spitfire and an MG Midget. Midget won out when I found a grey with red interior car on the local dealer’s showroom floor. Never bought a Spitfire but the one my step son has now got me familiar with the car and it turned out to be fun to drive and easy to work on. Parts for these cars are readily available and would aid in bringing this car back to like new.

    Like 6
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Oh.. there is an easy fix available for the swing axle problem.

      Like 5
      • EuromotoMember

        Z bar?

        Like 2
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        Yes, Z bar.

        Like 4
      • Cal NorthMember

        Before I knew what I was doing, I had and autocrossed a 65. I tried to install the camber control bar but I think that I installed it wrong and the camber changes when pushed were astonishing. A lot of fun, but not fast in hard turns; a real e-ticket, especially as the driver’s door kept popping open.

        Like 0
  2. Danny Thompson

    My first car was a 65 Triumph Spitfire. Paid $400 for it. Learned how to drive a stick shift with this car. It was a neat little car, wasn’t much power and that’s what a 16 year old really wanted. The seats were starting to fall apart when I got rid of it the summer I turned 18.

    Like 5
    • Philip Lepel

      Mine was a 64 Loved that car . I also drove it my last two years of high school but it succumbed to the same thing this one is suffering from.

      Like 2
  3. ClassicCarFan

    The history you mention is slightly off, Leyland Motors Limited, who were essentially a truck manufacturer originally, bought Standard-Triumph in 1960 and green-lighted the Spitfire project….Leyland Motors also absorbed Rover. The much-maligned “British Leyland” wasn’t created until 1968 with merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings ( which was itself a conglomerate of the old BMC, Austin/Morris and Jaguar) .

    I’m a big fan of Spitfires. Have restored and owned two of them. a huge amount of fun for the money. as the author says, not a muscle car type hot-rod, but when you’re sitting 6 inches off the ground and have no roof, it all feels a lot faster and they are a lot of fun to drive. and how many other cars can you work on setting your valve clearances…sitting on top of one of the front wheels ?

    The tuck-in oversteer is a thing, as noted, but you have to be pushing it really hard to actually induce the problem. Later Spitfires from Mk IV (1971) onwards had a redesigned “swing spring” arrangement which solved the problem and there is a fairly simple conversion to upgrade the Mk 1,2, 3 cars to the swing spring to eliminate the issue.

    This car seems like a good start point. The rockers are going to need re-doing obviously, but that isn’t insurmountable problem on these cars. Parts availability for these cars is great, and most things not outrageously expensive.

    As a driving car, the later Mk IV ad 1500 cars I feel are a better option, but the earlier Mk I, 2 and 3 cars do look and feel more vintage.

    Like 3
    • Andrew S MaceMember

      Thank you for posting most of the corrections I was about to post! I would add that “stuffy” is not really appropriate as a descriptor of the Herald, which was intended primarily as an “economy” car (much like a Morris Minor or Mini at the time).

      At the time of the Spitfire’s introduction, the Herald was 40 hp (not 48 hp, which came a bit later, although a twin-carburetor upgrade could be ordered), so the original Spitfire’s 63 hp was a significant increase.

      The Herald also lent its then-optional front disc brakes to the Spitfire, where they were standard equipment from the beginning. The Sprite and Midget finally gained front discs about the time the Spitfire was introduced.

      This particular Mk2 Spitfire does appear to be relatively straight, original and well-optioned, but a new owner is in for some significant rust repair. Once that’s done, she or he could have a terrific ride!

      Like 2
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        The Mark 1s were out when I bought my ’62 Midget, which didn’t get the disc brakes until the ’64s came out with the 1098 engine. Good, solid design as I’ve got 30 years plus stopping our Sprite race cars with them up front.

        Like 0
    • MichaelMember

      Since the Spits have a frame the body rust doesn’t matter for strength, simply cut the rust out and weld another piece of tin in and it’s like new! Their small turning radius makes them parkable anywhere! Power wise I recall they won their class in the SCCA run offs several times and you can buy a little factory book on how to build your own Spit!

      Like 1
  4. Memphis

    I had a 79 last year they were imported. There were literally hundreds sitting on.long beach unsold.My first sports car. scca plaque on the wood dash..drove her flat out one night Phoenix to grand canyon and back top down foot glued. She’s not just a pretty face folks. the real deal. Rear end ? I came up with the solution it’s called doenshift , floor it, drive. in that order.

    Like 1
  5. Smokey Smokerson

    When one of my older brothers was in HS, he sold his 1972 2 dr LeMans to buy a 1976 Spitfire…..cute little car. Driving down the freeway you had unobstructed views under semi trailers. It had the optional doors coming open when cornering hard. Sadly, it spent most of its time sitting in the garage with the hood open.

    Like 2
  6. Big C

    I almost bought my cousin’s ’66 Spitfire, as my first car. At 16, The parental units decided that they wanted me around for a little while longer, so, no deal.

    Like 2
  7. Nevadahalfrack NevadahalfrackMember

    Had 2 later models at different times (a BRG ‘74 and later an odd colored brown ‘76) Both were a hoot to drive on the mountain roads or the 2 lane highways. My friend had a college girlfriend in Jerome, ID., about a 600 mile trip. We’d make it a nonstop trip, never had a problem. Many good memories and a few close calls as well. We once found ourselves behind a very large old dump truck cruising right along at 65MPH when the truck gearbox exploded, sending gears and metal fragments bouncing on the roadway and over the top of the Spitfire! Made a quick swerve and pass, then pulled off the side of the road about 5 miles on. Got out saw no damage but it kinda rattled us some-if we’d been in his Mazda pickup we’d’ve taken a couple rounds through the windshield! Just wasn’t our time…

    Like 2
  8. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    My other sister (not the one with the ’68 Road Runner) bought a 1966 Spitfire as her first car in ’66. Red, black interior. She got married in ’67 so that was the end of the Spitfire. I followed six years later with a new ’72 MG Midget, harvest gold with black interior. That didn’t last long either. Eighteen months, then back to my land yachts.
    These are cute fun cars to drive, but definitely country cars as driving them in the city, you’re not seen and I almost got run over several times in Manhattan, NY.

    Like 2
  9. BobinBexley Bob in BexleyMember

    Great drag your knuckles on the road English sports car.

    Like 0
  10. MGSteve

    While it is never a true comparison, I just received my new Classic Motorsports magazine. Right there on pg 90, they show a 1970 TR Spitfire, sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $84,700!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s flippin’ crazy money! OK, my moniker is “MG Steve”, but I still like Triumphs OK, but I just can’t rationalize that price. The Spitfire and the MG Midget were supposed to be direct competitors. The BJ car was supposedly completely rebuilt, 5 spd box and the postage size photo looks nice. But still . . . .

    Like 1
  11. Kelly Breen

    The best thing about the Spitfire and Midget was that they were cheap to buy and operate.
    $84k for a Spitfire is insanity.

    I opted for the Midget due to my tiny garage and the fact that the Spitfire commands a higher price.

    My 1500 has a Triumph engine – similar, but not a direct swap for the Spitty.

    Like 0

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