DECEMBER 19, 2014 (JANUARY 2015): ’76 TRIUMPH SPITFIRE—PLAYING THE LONG GAME

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Triumph Spitfires were the more affordable younger brother of the TR series.

 

They’re well known for their nimble performance and friendly buy-in costs.

 

Tom Wilson has been a fan of British iron for a long time and he was in the market for something sporty when he found this ’76 Spitfire.

 

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Tom is no stranger to the English rides as he explained: “I used to race a Mini that’s why I wanted something British so I said okay let’s get something British. I’ve actually had a Mini for quite a few years and I still have it”.

 

This Spitfire had a well-defined ownership history: “I found it in town, she was the third owner and her husband had passed away. It was in her garage and it was covered in oil. I bought it in ’98 and drove it for 4 years doing little things and then worked on it for six years”.

 

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This car was clearly a long term project but Tom made some quick alterations: “It’s a ’76 so the rubber bumpers were the first thing to come off”.

 

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Tom dove into the Spitfire rehab in a big way when he felt the time was right: “After four years I could barely get it up to highway speed so I stripped it right down to nothing. The engine is a ’74 (1298) and it’s got bigger valves. It was stripped down and rebuilt and I tried my hand at custom so I took the ridge off the trunk too plus I used half a spray bomb for hood scoops because I wanted something totally different from other Spitfires”.

 

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There were a few speed bumps in the process: “First time I took the panels I got into a few scrapes. I painted it in my garage twice, I bought a gun and after a few tries I got it done after practicing going back and forth. I just had to buff it out a bit, it’s not perfect but it works for me”.

 

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This is an ever evolving project so Tom still has a significant list for his Spitfire: “It really needs a new carb plus it’s running a little hot and it needs new rear shocks. There are still a lot of bits and pieces left to do and one thing missing is the top”.

 

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Spitfires are notoriously cranky machines and Tom is well aware of that reputation but he’s also very realistic about his car. This is a car that he can work on for the most part and learn on the job and so far it’s been a good lesson.

 

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There’s an end game to every project and Tom’s end game for his Spitfire comes from his son: “He wants me to take it out to Victoria so that’s why I have a luggage rack”. Tom is pretty happy at this point, “We have lots of fun with it and we’ll always keep it-I still have my Mini”.

 

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Tom is also motivated by another family connection to the car that may be unbreakable:

 

“My father in law calls it Nigel”.

 

Jerry Sutherland

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