1971 Triumph Spitfire

 

When you think about a classic English two seat sports car chances are you're recollecting the popular Triumph Spitfire.

1971 Triumph Spitfire

1971 Triumph Spitfire

The car shown in this photo article is an excellently restored 1971 Triumph Spitfire. This Triumph series were produced from 1971 to 1980 and the design was a significant departure from the prior Triumph model. The 1971 Triumph Spitfire was essentially a Triumph Mark IV with a more angular tail plus longer bumpers.

Triumph Motor Company

The Triumph Motor Company is now owned by BMW. Interestingly enough, Triumph really got it's start as a bicycle company which is similar to a few of the very early American auto companies. Businesses that were in the transportation industry such as those selling bicycles or horse drawn carriages were positioned correctly when automotive technology emerged.

The Triumph Spitfire was manufactured to be the answer to the Austin Healey Sprite sports car. These were considered affordable sports cars compared to some of the more expensive Italian models. The Triumph Spitfire was also the car which the later Mazda Miata models most closely resembled.

1973 model of the Triumph Spitfire

1973 model of the Triumph Spitfire

Designing the Triumph Spitfire

The two names involved with the designing of the Triumph Spitfire are Harry Webster and Giovanni Michelotti. Michelotti was a famed sports car designer and stylist who made major contributions to both Triumph and BMW. Webster was a noted British automotive engineer who headed the Triumph design group and who teamed up with Michelotti. The combining of Webster's engineering talents along with Michelotti's styling talents gave Triumph a very interesting and popular design.

Michelloti was actually responsible for all new Triumph models beginning from the late 1950's and onward.

Triumph Spitfire

Triumph Spitfire

Smaller Than the Triumph TR-6

Manufactured at the same time as the 1971 Spitfire was the Triumph TR-6. This was a bit larger of a sports car with standard inline six cylinder engines and manual four speed transmissions. The Triumph Spitfire was produced with an inline four cylinder engine and also came with a manual four speed transmission.

Another comparison between the Spitfire and the TR-6 was the length and wheelbase. The Spitfire's length comes in at 145.45 inches and the wheelbase at 82.68 inches. The 1971 Triumph TR-6 has a length of 155.5 inches and a wheelbase of 88.0 inches.

Links to three additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy include the Gullwing Mercedes made famous in a James Bond movie...the rare Auburn BoatTail Speedster and the 1980 MGB Roadster

1971 Spitfire side view

1971 Spitfire side view

Triumph Spitfire for the American Market

Like all imported automobiles, cars sold in the American market have to conform to various safety specifications. For the Triumph Spitfire this meant chrome bumpers up to 1978. The carburetor on the American models were also changed to run on lower octane unleaded gasoline. Add to that a catalytic converter and an exhaust circulating system.

With these many alterations for the American market there was obvious performance differences. One was that the engine produced only 53 HP as compared to 63 HP on the European model.

Sports car enthusiasts will want to visit Toad Hall Sports Car Museum at the Simmons Homestead Inn in Hyannis Port Massachusetts.

Photos of a large collection of Triumph automobiles including some experimental models can be seen at the Canley Classics Triumph Museum which is strictly an online museum. Check out www.canleyclassics.com.

(1971 model Triumph Spitfire photos from author's collection. 1973 Triumph Spitfire photo from the public domain)

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton Sedan

 

A New Start After World War Two

During World War Two the Mercedes-Benz factories were essentially destroyed. Some were destroyed a bit more than others but they were for all intents and purposes put out of business. Because Mercedes-Benz represented a large German industrial complex it was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II. This was quite different than during the First World War when the factories were untouched physically.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S

During the post war years the company slowly started to rebuild it's operations. Construction was underway during 1946. The first series of automobiles built after the war were the 170 Sedans. It was by selling these models that the company was able to put their finances together and rebuild.

Facts About Mercedes-Benz

Some interesting facts about Mercedes-Benz includes the fact that it is the world's oldest automobile brand still in existence today. It's history goes all the way back to 1886 when Karl Benz invented the Benz Petrol Motorwagen. The auto was designed with a four-stroke petrol engine.  Mercedes first automobile was sold in 1901. The first automobiles produced under the Mercedes-Benz brand name were introduced in 1926.

A second interesting fact is that Mercedes-Benz introduced several engineering technologies which eventually became common in the industry.

1958 Mercedes-Benz Ponton

1958 Mercedes-Benz Ponton

A third fact is that Mercedes-Benz was the first to introduce diesel trucks. The world's first diesel truck came out in 1924. This was quite an engineering feat for the era. The company even turned out a diesel passenger car model in 1936 with the Model 260D. The 170D came out after World War Two and sold well. This helped the company rebuild itself after the war.

The Model 170's essentially relied on pre-war styling with a four cylinder engine. It took until 1951 for Mercedes to unveil a new line of six cylinder luxury cars. These were the 220 and 300 Series models.

The Mercedes Benz Ponton 220S models came out in 1958 although the first Pontons came out in 1953. The 220S Ponton was manufactured in limited numbers beginning in the mid-1950's and continuing up until October of 1959.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton

The classic car shown in this article is a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton. The word "ponton" is derived from both French and German. The word means "pontoon". Today the word is generally used to describe the Mercedes-Benz models that were produced between 1953 and 1962. The Ponton is a auto styling word for the shape of Mercedes automobiles. The Ponton Models were Mercedes-Benz first entirely new design after World War Two and really represented the new post World War Two Mercedes-Benz.

Two other cars on AutoMuseumOnline you'll find interesting are the Gullwing Mercedes and the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible.

Mercedes-Benz collector car

Mercedes-Benz collector car

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S Specs

The 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220S sold new from between about $4,500 to $7.300.

The car's total length is 187.0 inches with a width of 68.5 inches. It's wheelbase is 106.3 inches and weight of about 2,970 lbs.

The Mercedes 220S engine is a six cylinder four stroke 133.9 cid. Maximum speed was rated at 99.5 MPH at 3,320 RPM and 106 MPH at 5,200 RPM. Front suspension is independent with coil springs. The rear suspension is a single joint swing axle with coil springs.

The car came with a four speed manual transmission and servo operated drum brakes. A total of 20,181 sedan models were produced for the 1958 model year.

Mercedes-Benz automobiles, especially ones from during the 1950's, are prized collector cars. The 1950's were a key and critical decade for Mercedes as they transformed themselves after the end of World War Two. Depending on the automobile and it's condition including it's degree of restoration, the Mercedes-Benz autos from the late 1950's will see auction prices offered from the $40,000 range into the six figures.

(Photos from authors collection)

1927 Ford Model T Coupe

 

Henry Ford's famous and well accepted Model T "Tin Lizzie" put the Ford Motor Company on the map and made Mr. Ford a very wealthy man. At the same time, the Model T made it possible for the common working man to own an automobile. Much of Ford's success had to do with the development of the assembly line.

1927 Ford Model T Coupe

1927 Ford Model T Coupe

This helped keep costs relatively low. While Henry Ford wasn't the inventor of the assembly line he certainly knew how to adapt it to automobile manufacturing. As  an example, the first Ford Model T sold for a little over $800. Largely due to the efficiency of the assembly line, the 1925 Model T could be bought at under $300. The Ford Assembly line which Henry Ford perfected was the main reason car process came down as much. Henry Ford touted the fact that the Model T was a reliable low cost automobile that could easily be maintained. This type of car was what people wanted during the early days of automobile travel.

An interesting fact is that Ford Motor Company had the distinction of being the first American motor car being manufactured simultaneously in many foreign countries. Another widely held belief was that the success and public acceptance of the Model T convinced the federal government to make road construction a high priority.

ford model t interior

The 1927 Ford Model T was historic for several reasons. First, it was the best Ford Model T produced to date. Secondly, it was the last year for the historic Ford Model T.

The only problem for the 1927 Ford Model T was that times were changing. During the period of the Model T, 1909 to 1927 about 15 million of the models were built. There was no question that the car was improved as it headed into 1927 however it appears that the car buying public wanted something more.

A Simple Car

If there's one description to place on the Ford Model T it was simplicity. This was a simple yet extremely useful automobile. The engine was cast in one block and the four cylinder engine delivered 20 HP. Three pedals and a hand lever operated the transmission. In a large way, the simplicity of the Ford Model T was something cherished by the elder Ford. Henry Ford was a man who generally resisted change. As an example, during the 1930's when competitors were adding technical improvement to their cars, such as hydraulic brakes, Ford resisted until the last. Much of the credit for convincing the elder Ford to eventually agree to changes was given to his son Edsel Ford.

1927 Ford Model T

1927 Ford Model T

In regards to the transmission, Ford widened the transmission brake band from 1.125 inches to 1.75 inches. This gave it better stopping power and a substantially longer life. The three pedal arrangement worked as such. The left pedal was used to engage the gear. When the car was in neutral, the middle pedal was used to engage reverse gear, and the right pedal operated the transmission brake.

1927 Ford Model T Specs

The engine for the 1927 Ford Model T was a 2.3 liter four cylinder delivering 20 HP.

The brakes were contracting bands in the transmission with a separate parking brake on the rear wheels.

The transmission was a three speed planetary design using the three foot pedals mentioned above. The car had a 100 inch wheelbase with an overall length of 134.5 inches.

Model T decorated for the holidays

Model T decorated for the holidays

The 1927 Model T weighed about 1,200 lbs and the car speed was generally between 35 and 40 MPH with a top speed of 45 MPH.

Links to two additional photo articles on this site you'll enjoy include the 1930 Ford Model A Roadster and the 1929 Ford Model A.

The Last Year For The Model T

As mentioned above, times were changing during the 1920's. Ford's Model T managed to become the best selling car year after year however their share of the market was shrinking. Competition increased and General Motors made a lot of progress with their assembly line production methods. The car that was first built in 1908 at the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit Michigan would finally make way for another model in 1927.

In 1927 Ford sold about half the number of units compared to Chevrolet. This alone was enough to convince Ford Motor to come out with something new, thus the Ford Model A.

Ford Model T hand starting crank

Ford Model T hand starting crank

The "Tin Lizzie" was a huge success any way you look at it. It was the car that allowed the average worker to become a car owner and that changed society enormously. The Model T helped people cover long distances much quicker. This helped change the rural lifestyle. Neighbors in effect were now closer together. The Ford Model T was considered to be an automobile that ran before there were good roads.

The Ford Model A started to be rolled out in December of 1927 and it was accepted quite well.

One of the best books available on the subject of Henry Ford, the Ford Model T and Ford's influence on early 1900's society is Wheels For The World by author Douglas Brinkley.

Another good book on the Ford Model T is The Legendary Model-T Ford: The Ultimate History of America's First Great Automobile by author Tom Collins.

(Photos from author's collection)