Selling your classic car? It's FREE to list your car on Honest John Classics | No thanks

Triumph Spitfire (1962 - 1980)

Last updated 10 May 2013

 
4

Model Timeline

March 1962
Spitfire launched

The 1962 Spitfire 4 had similar performance to the MG Midget and the benefit of independent rear suspension - and although styling is a subjective thing, most people agreed that Michelotti's effort was better than Gerry Coker's. It was basic, fun and reasonably nippy, and offered at a bargain price. As was traditional for Triumph, the Spitfire was continually upgraded - overdrive was offered as an option from October 1963, and was something else the Midget never had the benefit of.

March 1965
Spitfire Mk2 goes on sale

The Mk2 was launched in March 1965 with a new radiator grille, and improved interior, stronger clutch, but there was an extra 4bhp thanks to a new cam and tubular exhaust manifold.

January 1967
Spitfire Mk3 launched

The Spitfire was revised into Mk3 form. It was instantly recognisible by the raised front bumper (or 'bone-in-teeth' as some people describe it), and actually looked better as a consequence. The soft-top hood was also much improved, both in terms of looks and ease of operation. But the biggest upgrade lay under the bonnet: a 1296cc engine with an eight-port cylinder head based on the FWD Triumph 1300's unit.

January 1970
Spitfire Mk4 brings major changes

It didn't last long - three years - before mutating again into Mk4 form. Michelotti comprehensively redesigned the Spitfire Mk4, using many styling cues from the 2000 'Innsbruck' and Stag – only the sills and door-skins were carried over from the Mk3. A change to 'swing-spring' rear suspension made a vast difference to the roadholding, making the Spitfire much safer at the limit.

The engine is often said to have been detuned from Mk3 specification, but in fact only the system of measuring output changed – from SAE to DIN – so the drop from 75bhp to 63bhp was not a real one. The Mk4 was slower though, thanks to both extra weight and the taller gearing.

January 1971
Seatbelts fitted as standard

January 1973
Export models get a boost

A 1500 edition is launched in the USA. The bigger engine counteracts the power-sapping anti-smog equipment. There’s also a wider rear track said to improve handling.

March 1974
Spitfire 1500 goes on sale in the UK

The final Spirfire incarnation arrived in 1974 - primarily to restore the lost performance from the Mk4 upgrades. Although it looked near-identical to the Mk4, the real change came under the bonnet. The increased capacity unit (which also found its way into the 1500 and Dolomite saloons) came from a longer-stroke crankshaft, which rather blunted the engine’s willingness to rev - but improved mid-range tractability no end. The long stroke engine did introduce a few new problems, not least that it made life tougher for the crankshaft bearings.

But overall, it was probably the most usable Spitfire of them all, and thanks to the additional power and longer gearing, it was also the fastest, with a genuine maximum speed of more than 100mph. It was in this form the Spitfire saw out its days.

August 1980
Production ended

Back: IntroductionNext: Buying Guide
 

Ask Honest John