Triumph Spitfire Mk I, 1965
Triumph Spitfire 4 (Mk I), year 1965. Colour red with a black leatherette interior. This delightful Spitfire of the first series was 'nut and bolt' restored, the car is in superb excellent++ condition! The car shows all original details. Very seldom on offer in this pristine condition!
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The Triumph Spitfire was introduced in the year 1962. Triumph wanted a smaller and more affordable sports car alongside the Triumph TR as an alternative for the Austin Healey Sprite and the MG MGB.
The Triumph Spitfire was equipped with an uprated four cylinder Triumph Herald engine. The engine was covered by a large bonnet enveloping the entire front of the car just like we see with the Jaguar E-type. The Spitfire was designed by the Italian designer Michelotti who had drawn the TR 4 and Triumph Herald too.
Between the years 1962 and 1967 the MK I and MK II were built. From 1967 the MK III and from 1970 the MK IV. In the year 1974 the 1500 appeared on the market as final version which was continued until the year 1980.
Four cylinder in-line engine
carburettors: 2 x S.U.
cylinder capacity: 1147 cc.
capacity: 63 bhp. at 5750 rpm.
top-speed: 150 km/h.
gearbox: 4-speed, manual
weight: 715 kg.
Triumph built and marketed their first car in the year 1923; the Triumph 10/20. In the two decades before Triumph had built up an excellent name in the manufacture of bicycles and motorcycles.
De Triumph 10/20 was accompanied by the Super 7 in 1927. In the thirties of the ninetieth century more models followed which were placed higher in the market; the Gloria and Dolomite. The Dolomite engine was also available with blower (compressor)!
In the thirties Donald Healey (the latter creator of the Austin Healey) was director of engineering at Triumph motor company.
In the year 1934 Donald Healey won the Rally of Monte Carlo in his class driving a Triumph Gloria...
In the year 1936 dark clouds packed together over Triumph motor corporation; they had to introduce new models soon to get the sales back on track again... Unfortunately the second world war spoiled their plans; the entire factory was bombed by the German air strikes. In 1944 Triumph had no factory and no money left; they ended in bankruptcy.
After the second world war Mr. John Black, owner of Standard Motor Company, was thinking about how to improve his product-line of cars. Standard delivered engines to Swallow Sidecar Company (soon thereafter to be known as Jaguar Cars) who build nice sports cars fitted with the Standard engines.
John Black saw the nice S.S. sports cars using "his" engines and decided that he had to build sports cars too. In 1945 John Black decided to acquire Triumph and what was left of it, from that day his company was named "the Standard-Triumph Company".
John Black and his people started right away to bring Triumph back on wheels again. They build the Triumph 1800 based on a Standard chassis and equipped with the 1800 engine they delivered to S.S. Cars. The 1800 came onto the market in 1946. There where two models, the 18T Saloon and the 18 TR Roadster. The Triumph 1800 TR roadster was not quite the sports car John Black expected it to be. The cylinder capacity was enlarged up to 2000 cc. which resulted in the introduction of the Triumph Roadster 2000TR(A).
In the year 1948 Jaguar Cars (just like Standard-Triumph located in Coventry) astonished the entire automobile industry with the Jaguar XK 120. This very slick sports car with it's all enveloping body must have been inspired by the prewar BMW racing cars... but the XK 120 was for road use, it topped 120 miles per hour and it was far more affordable than other exotic cars like the Ferrari and Aston Martin.
John Black decided that he had to follow a new road with the Triumph sports car too.
After world war two many US soldiers took small British MG sports cars home. The American market did not know this kind of sports car and the beginning of a hype started. MG was doing good business with the prewar MG TC and John Black decided to position the new Triumph sports car between MG and Jaguar.
The first prototype was presented in 1952 the 20 TS later to be known as TR 1. The 20 TS was not good enough and was evaluated. the result was the Triumph TR 2 which was presented in 1953. This no-nonsense sports car topped 100 miles per hour, the car was very robust and had its own characteristic looks. The TR 2 was an immediate success in Europe and in the United States.
The year 1955 saw the introduction of the Triumph TR 3 , the first production car with factory fitted disc brakes at front. The TR 2 design was slightly changed, Triumph introduced a new radiator grille.
In the year 1957 the Triumph TR3a was presented. Again Triumph changed the grille (wider, covering the entire width of the car). Also the headlamps were placed a little backwards and door handles were fitted. Very short after the introduction of the TR 3a the Triumph TR 3b was introduced, the only change was the larger cylinder capacity of the engine.
Triumph hired the successful Italian designer Michelotti in the fifties of the nineteenth century to design a compact family car, the Triumph Herald. In this period the board of directors were fed up with the stubborn and unpredictable behavior of Sir John Black; they sacked him. John Black's assistant Allick Dick took his place. Allick Dick was convinced that Triumph-Standard needed a strong partner to stay in business during the years to come. They started successful negotiations with Leyland Truck & Bus company which resulted in the founding of Leyland Motor Corporation in 1961.
Triumphs new technical director Harry Webster was very impressed by Michelotti's designs so he asked him to design a successor for the Triumph TR 3. Additionally he asked Michelotti to design a completely new sports car, smaller and cheaper, to compete with MG. The MG competitor was born in 1962; the Triumph Spitfire.
The successor in the bloodline of TR sports cars was the
Triumph TR 4.
The Triumph TR 4 was in large based on TR 3b mechanics but it was a completely different car by design. Clear flowing lines and a compact purposeful look made the TR 4 a very handsome sports car. Functionally a lot changed; the interior offered more space as did the booth, the engine room was larger and easier to reach and the car was fitted with roll up windows.
In the year 1964 the TR 4a was introduced with IRS (Independent Rear Suspension). The sixties of the ninetieth century were the glory days of Triumph, they had a very nice product line and sales were flourishing.
In the year 1967 the six cylinder Triumph TR 5 was presented, the TR 5 was the first car factory fitted with a petrol injection system. This mechanical injection system was manufactured by Lucas. The TR 5 was in fact a Triumph TR 4a fitted with a six cylinder engine.
The 2498 cc. straight six with P.I. (Petrol Injection) system had a power output of 150 SAE hp. The complex P.I. system did not make it to the US market because is was delicate to service and adjust. The TR 5 for the US market was fitted with two carburettors and was named Triumph TR 250.
In the late sixties Triumph was working on a prestigious project, developing an entirely new car and engine which would later result in the Triumph Stag. The project consumed an awesome amount of money and Triumph had to come with a Triumph TR 5 successor soon because the TR 4 looks of the TR 5/250 ran out of date.
All Triumph Engineering capacity was dedicated to the new project and Triumph had not much money to spend on the TR 5 successor. Triumph got in touch with Karmann company located in Osnabruck, Germany. Karmann had the possibilities and means to design and develop the new car and was also able to manufacture all the tooling. Karmann decided to redesign the front and rear of Michelotti's original TR 4 design and not to touch the structure underneath and the cockpit-area.
Karmanns efforts resulted in the Triumph TR 6 in the year 1968. Karmann succeeded in creating a new, more aggressive, modern and masculine look for the TR which was very well accepted by the public. The TR 6 was to become Triumph best seller ever, approximately 95.000 TR 6 were built until the end of production in 1976.
The prestigious project, mentioned above, gave birth to the Triumph Stag in 1970. The Stag was a real safety-car, it featured a roll-over bar and a safety interior with all padded surfaces. The engine was a newly developed 2997 cc. V8 engine. The Stag was not a real sports car but more like an open GT, comfortable and fast. The greater part of Stag production was shipped to the USA fitted with an automatic gearbox.
In the early seventies competition got tougher on the important US market and a safety hype against open cars was not helping either. This was all in advantage of the most important TR competitor, the newly introduced Datsun 240 Z a 6 cylinder, 150 bhp. GT coupe sports car. Triumph tried to compete by introducing the wedge shaped Triumph TR 7 in 1975 but regretfully fitted the car with a 105 bhp. four cylinder engine instead of a "hairy" and powerful six...
1980 saw the introduction of the Triumph TR 8, a TR 7 convertible with the powerful Rover V8 under the bonnet.
Finally the right package but too late; approximately 2.500 were sold before bankruptcy forced Triumph to close the factory gate.
At present day the make Triumph is a "sleeper". According to our sources the make is owned by the Rover-Group.
The chance that Triumph will revive again is very slight because Rover Group is investing all their energy in their MG sports car brand.
© Marc Vorgers
1968-75: BRITISH LEYLAND MOTOR CORPORATION, LTD
1975-78: BRITISH LEYLAND LIMITED
(in the merger of BRITISH MOTOR HOLDINGS with Austin-Morris and Jaguar interests in 1966)
and LEYLAND MOTOR CORP. LTD.
partly nationalized by the British government in 1975