The Triumph Spitfire was a small British two-seat convertible sports car that first came on the automotive scene at the London Motor Show in 1962. Its design was based on the 1957 Standard-Triumph lined by the Italian designer, Giovanni Michelotti.
The Spitfire’s platform (engine, transmission and running gear) was mostly from the Triumph Herald saloon. The Spitfire was built at the Standard-Triumph plant located in Canley, Coventry England.
The Spitfire or Mark I (1962-1964) was equipped with 1.1-liter (1,147 cc) 4-cylinder. It had a pushrod OHV head fed by two SU carburetors. The engine provided 63 hp and 67 ft. lb. of torque. The transmission was a four-speed manual box. In 1964 an optional overdrive was available on the transmission.
The steering was rack and pinion and the suspension up front was coil and wishbone. At the rear, the car had a single transverse-leaf axel design.
In March 1965 the Spitfire Mark II was launched. The car had the same engine as the earlier model but with a revised camshaft and a water cooled intake manifold. The engine provided 67 hp at 6000 rpm. The coil-spring clutch of the earlier model was replaced by a Borg and Beck diaphragm spring clutch.
The exterior was updated with a new grille and badges. On the inside the seats were redesigned and better interior materials were used.
The Mark III was introduced in 1967. The front bumper was raised in response to safety regulations. And although the car’s front end was basically the same as the previous model, the new bumper placement made the car look quite different (of note is that the new look likely impacts the car’s collectability). The rear received new taillights.
On the inside, the dash received a wood-veneer instrument surround. As with the Mark I and II, the instruments were placed in the center (this saved on production costs as the instrument placement was identical on left or right hand drive cars). Towards the end of the Mark III range (in 1969), the instruments for American Spitfires were moved to in front of the driver.
The engine was enlarged to 1.3-liters and made 75 hp and 75 ft. lb. of torque. The car’s 0-60 mph time was in 14.5 seconds and the top speed was 95 mph.
Of note is that after 1969, U.S. bound Spitfires are referred to as “federal” Spitfires (likely affecting collectability). Emission requirements slightly lowered the car’s power to 68 hp. The instruments were moved to in front of the driver, the seats had integrated headrests, and the wood dash was replaced by a matte black finish.
From a classic collector viewpoint, the 1962 – 1967 Triumph Spitfires are the most desirable.
And going by the number of Spitfires manufactured (see below), the earlier models are more limited.
Model Name Engine Year Number Built
Spitfire 4 (Mark I) 1147 cc Oct. 62 – Dec. 64 45,753
Spitfire 4 (Mark II) 1147 cc Dec. 64 – Jan. 67 37,409
Spitfire (Mark III) 1296 cc Jan. 67 – Dec.70 65,320
Spitfire (Mark IV) 1296 cc Nov. 70 – Dec 74 70,021
Spitfire 1500 1493 cc Dec. 74 – Aug. 80 95,829
So after looking at the numbers, the Spitfire Mark II of Dec. 64 – Jan 67 had the lowest numbers and the car gained some improvements. Next, is the Spitfire Mark I with still a quite low 45,753 unites. These Triumph Spitfires were in there most ‘pure form’ and are thus likely to be the best collector investments.
If you are interested in any of these Triumphs, it is recommended that before you buy, have the car gone over carefully be a mechanic that specializes in older Triumphs.
I’m just trying to bring it to you straight!
Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money.” He welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: www.cartown1.com. Follow Kyle on Facebook and Twitter.