Cheap And Cheerful: 1976 Triumph Spitfire 1500

1976 Triumph Spitfire

If you count the cars my family has owned and I’ve taken care of, we’ve owned almost 20 Triumph Spitfires (the current count is three in the family). Always offering good value for money if you want a British convertible, the Spitfire is the one LBC (Little British Car) that actually got better as time went on, with cleaner body lines, better rustproofing, improved handling and larger engines. This one is attractive for a number of reasons and is offered here on craigslist in Apex, North Carolina for $2,100.

Triumph Spitfire Ad

This ad sums up a lot of the reasons a Spitfire 1500 was a good buy then and remains so today. It has all the ingredients of a classic sports car. Excellent handling (.87g when new on skinny tires) based on the swing spring rear solution and a wider rear track, decent fuel economy, a top that goes down, a real wood dashboard, a surprising useful trunk and a great racing heritage. This car happens to be the most desirable year of Spitfire 1500 production as well, with a unique to 1976 high compression (9:1) engine and the wheels only fitted to ‘76’s (actually surplus Austin/Morris Marina wheels). The rust in the floorboards doesn’t look too bad, and the place they rust first and worst, just in front of the rear wheels, looks good in pictures although I’d recommend a first-hand look.

Triumph Spitfire 1500

From the rear you can see that the bumpers are decent and straight, the top and muffler are new, and taillights are intact. Even the tire tread looks pretty good, although the seller doesn’t say anything about tire condition.

Triumph Spitfire Engine

More good news awaits under the hood, where unusually for a Spitfire everything looks unmolested. Even the cardboard side valences, usually the first things to go, are intact. And look at the under hood access! I frequently sit on the tire when doing maintenance, which is a very comfortable way to work on a car. Since this is a British car, you will be working on it, but Spitfires benefit from not being very complex and have great parts availability. And this one comes with a pile of new pictured parts, including door panels, latches and mirrors!

Triumph Spitfire Interior

I need another Spitfire like I need an extra hole in my head, but if I were at home rather than in Germany right now, I’d be going to look at this car. The seller states it “starts, idles, shifts and stops.” What more could you want? Someone is going to get a great buy!

 

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Comments

  1. Dave Wright

    In today’s world……..where can you have more fun for 2 grand………one days driving this car on an early spring day is worth the price of admission.

    Like 1
  2. Catfish Phil

    This looks like a really great deal. But I’m just partial to Spitfires, having owned mine since 1991. Truly, this looks like a very complete car. Pop on those door cards and get down the road.

  3. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    As I wrote, I’m in Germany at the moment. I’ve informed members of my family and friends that they should be looking at this car, here’s hoping it’s in my driveway when I get home :-)

    Probably not, but a man can hope, right? It would be the perfect Spitfire for my stepdaughter, who’s expressed an interest in them and is dating a friend that owns a ’76 in the same color….

  4. RickyM

    Guten Tag Jamie – Hope your wish comes true and it is at your home when you return. Really nice find (although I do prefer the English versions without your enormous US bumpers). A friend of my wife’s had one and used to drive around with the roof down in all weathers, as he used to travel with a cello in the passenger seat !

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I understand at least one branch of my family is thinking about it. We already own three Spits, including one that I daily drove from 2008-2013 (27 miles commute each way), so it won’t be me that buys it. BTW, you can source UK underriders and fit them to the front bumpers quite easily (other than the 1979-80 full plastic bumpers) and the rear large center section and overriders are a bolt on (although you have to have the chroming shop fill some holes and polish the area that was under the center section). Done that twice now! Oh well…I hope SOMEONE picks it up!

  5. Dolphin Member

    These are a tad small for me, but what more could you wish for in a resto project for about $2K? Floors, dash, engine bay, even the paint looks good, plus you get some new parts for the interior.

    I wish my projects were as nice as this one.

  6. jim s

    this should already be sold. i see more then the asking price in parts, i think. so since it runs this looks like a great deal. it looks like it is very close to being a daily drive. i could live with out the door cards/carpet. great find

  7. Sandy

    I drove a far rougher one than this one everyday for 5 years in the UK, same colour as well.
    Of the cars I’ve ever had, that was my favorite. Sadly no overdrive, but even so this a great car.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Sandy, I agree, I’ve driven some rough ones as well (thanks for sharing!). Sad part is I have an “extra” rebuilt overdrive transmission and the shorter driveshaft sitting on the shelf.

  8. Carl

    Where are you as Davidson NC?are the floors good?? And would drive a little distance?

  9. jim s

    i also see this as a very low cost way to get an fun autocross car. and it is still for sale.

  10. z1rider

    .87 lateral g’s? Wow, back when these were new I didn’t give them a lot of thought and so wasn’t reading road tests. Which mag got that result? I seem to recall that back in the 70’s anything over .8 was exotic car (Italian mostly) territory.

    These have grown on me quite a bit in the last few years. I expect to own one someday. Was the ride height altered to meet Federal bumper mandates as was done by MG?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      According to this ad, it was Car and Driver :-) The ride height was not altered; they just raised the bumpers. The center section of the rear is added to the original bumper, while the front underriders were pretty high already. Triumph raised the height of the front bumper with the last of the round-tail Spitfires, the Mk. III.

      • jim s

        that would be the reason they were/are very hard to beat on an autocross course.

      • z1rider

        Thanks for that. I didn’t doubt you, I just like to be able to cite the original source. Is this ad for a 1976?

        Oh, and I did initially miss the “cheap and cheerful” reference. Isn’t that also attributed to the Bugeye Sprite?

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        @Z1Rider – that’s a 74 1500 in the ad (has slightly different looking one year only front underriders, but they left the suspension unchanged from 1974 to 1978. :-) And yes, I’ll agree that a Sprite is “cheerful”!! But not cheap anymore :-( Thanks for the comments!

      • whippeteer

        The road test was in April 1973 according to the ad.

  11. Rancho Bella

    I am also starting to admire Spitfires. Perhaps a GT6.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @Rancho, try the best of both worlds, the Spit-6 (GT6 frame/mechancials, Spitfire body) that many enthusiasts have created (it was never offered that way from the factory).

      • jim s

        yes there is one of them in my area. when i hear it i look for a GT6 or TR6 but instead see a spitfire.

  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    My mechanic has this same exact car, year, color, everything. His has a complete interior and he paid about this same price for it at an auction.
    He usually flips these sorts of cars, but he said he was keeping it because of the fun vs cost factor.

  13. gunningbar

    I would like a bugeye…but this is a much more affordable alternative! Hmmmmm…

  14. Cameron Bater UK

    I do wish it didn’t have the huge and ugly Yank (or should that be Rank?) Overiders on it, if I were to buy it it would be back in this country with the far more pretty overiders fitted as soon as it gets in at the docks.
    I also resent your use of cheap, This car provides so much fun for just £2-3,000 that it shouldn’t be called cheap on any level, if you put wings on one it would probably handle like its namesake as well.

    • z1rider

      Cameron,

      I suspect that there are subtle differences in the way “Cheap” is used in the UK vs the USA. Here it is mostly about the price, how much money it takes to buy. Your objection to it’s use for this car suggests to me that Brits use it more as a comment on the quality of the object, price being secondary.

      I don’t take the use of Cheap for this Spitfire to be derogatory at all. In this case we’re talking about a high value sports car. High value due to it’s low (cheap) price for a very competent set of wheels.

      Just a thought.

  15. jim s

    the listing is still posted on CL.

  16. jim s

    the listing is still posted on CL. so did the seller forget to take it down after selling the car or what?

  17. Mike L

    This car had too much going for it at the asking price. The car was still for sale until today 1/24 @ 4pm. I was waiting for a “looker” to make a decision, his time expired. I can’t wait to get this car home and tinker with it. There is some work to be done according the seller. (a very nice guy BTW) Nothing that ran me away from the asking price though. Wish me luck on this one!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Great news Mike! Please keep us updated as you progress. An occasional email with photos would be great so we can post them here on the site. Good luck!

    • jim s

      yes please do keep us updated. i hope you are planning on making this a daily driver. thanks for sharing.

  18. Walt

    This exact car and color was the first new car I ever bought at 19 years old. The trunk was exactly 3 beer cases across and I had a luggage rack and a AM/FM cassette radio installed. I had it 3 months before I realized the handles to release the hood were chrome. They came covered in the same paint as the car. Once I realized it, it only took a few seconds to peel off the paint and reveal the nice shiny hood releases.

    I bought it in the Bay area of Northern California and I had the salesman teach me to drive a shift using a demo model as part of the deal. Took about 30 minutes to learn then off I went.

    Good Times! I wonder with the coming of age of lithium ion batteries if this wouldn’t be the perfect platform to create an electric commuter car?

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