When considering small sports cars, Mazda’s MX-5 is always the safe choice. Some of us want to live on the edge and that’s why cars like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Spitfire tickle many a fancy. Let’s see if this not-so-safe choice has a totally safe-to-buy price.
Disneyland’s new Star Wars Land is an immersive adventure into the beloved sci-fi film universe. The company has opened the same attraction at their Orlando, Florida park, but I can’t pass judgement on that because I’m terrified of Florida. The 1979 Dodge Tradesman van we looked at yesterday could be considered a test run for that immersion into the Star Wars culture, seeing as it had been customized in homage to the initial film.
Sadly for the seller however, it, and its $9,800 asking price, went over about as well as Jar Jar Binks or the Wookie Christmas Special (yes, that exists) and by the credits, the van dropped in a massive 83 percent Crack Pipe loss.
I’ll bet a lot of you weren’t even born when Star Wars first came out. There’s a generational bent to certain movies and to certain cars as well. As example, I was reflecting the other day on all the cars I’ve ever owned and realized that I’ve never owned a car that was older than me. I’m sure that means something terrible about my psyche, but we don’t have time to discuss my mental state. Instead, we have to look at this 1975 Triumph Spitfire 1500, which is most likely also from before you were born.
Even if you’re as old or older than this Triumph you’d probably discount it as a fun car or weekend fiddle-about as there are newer and more capable Miatas to be had within average Spitfire pricing. And who doesn’t like newer stuff?
Discounting the Spitfire however, would be a mistake. These are fun little (very little) cars with personality to spare. The Spitfire debuted in 1962, running on a chassis adopted from the clever Herald saloon, the model that engendered the famous holiday song: “park the Herald, axles swing...” The Spitfire draped that in sexy Michelotti styling that actually did recall the model’s namesake fighter plane forerunner.
In 1969, Michelotti was called up once again, this time to restyle the Spitfire’s nose and tail, freshening the sports car for the new decade. It would also get a new engine along the way, a 1498cc four shared in the U.S. market with MG’s Midget. A four-speed manual was the only transmission offered, although you could optionally fit that with a ¾ overdrive. The Spitfire’s suspension is comprised of double A-arms up front and a swing axle in back tamed in the 1500 with a floating transverse leaf spring. The front suspension was leveraged by such notables as Lotus for the Esprit, Eclat and Elite, and De Tomaso for the Vallelunga. Nobody ever used the Spit’s wedgie underwear rear suspension for anything.
This 1975 1500 presents well in its ad. The fly yellow paint does not appear to be original, and although missing all its identifying decals, it seems to be overall in serviceable shape. The chrome bumpers are also tidy but are missing the over-riders front and rear. A fun and funny design feature of the Spitfire is its bonnet, which hinges at the extreme front of the car, just behind those missing bumperettes. The whole thing lifts forward, where it’s held in pace by a hinged stay. If you want engine access, you’ve got it with the Spitfire. This is definitely the car for weekend mechanics that suffer from bouts of claustrophobia.
With the bonnet raised you can see that the single Zenith Stromberg CD 175 and related intake have been replaced by an aftermarket downdraught Weber. That’s a good switch since the coolant actuated automatic choke on the original carb is a weak spot and expensive to repair. A header below that offers exhaust duties.
It’s not easy to say whether the bigger carb and better exhaust bump up the pony count, but since the Spitfire only put out about 53 horsepower to begin with, anything would be an improvement. It’s all said to be running and although not fast, still a ton of fun to drive.
The interior has had some work done. The seats, while a bit stained in places, are intact and seemingly recovered. Everything else seems to be in place too, and who doesn’t love a traditional British wooden dashboard?
There’s 69,000 miles claimed on the car and the seller says that the transmission is new as are the brake hydraulics. The reason given for the sale is declining health, and in fact the car appears to be listed by a shop where the Spit’s owner has been a customer.
That’s a sad end to an owner/auto relationship, but it could be a wonderful new beginning for another. All it takes in this case is $2,900, which is the car’s asking. For full disclosure, if this car were anywhere close to me, I’d buy it for around that. Sadly, all the Spitfires in my neck of the woods go for twice this price. Having once owned a 1500 I know the car’s foibles and wouldn’t mind getting behind the wheel of another one.
How about you? Is this Spitfire too old to be any fun? More importantly, is that $2,900 asking too much to do so?
H/T to Peter McCarthy for the hookup!
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