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