Triumph Spitfire 1500
|1974 to 1981|
|Production||1974–1981 95,829 made|
|Engine||1,493 cc (1.5 l) I4|
|Transmission||4-speed manual with optional overdrive on top and third|
|Curb weight||1,750 lb (790 kg)(unladen U.K.-spec)|
In 1973 in the United States and Canada, and 1975 in the rest of the world, the 1500 engine was used to make the Spitfire 1500. Although in this final incarnation the engine was rather rougher and more prone to failure than the earlier units, torque was greatly increased by increasing the cylinder stroke to 87.5 mm (3.44 in), which made it much more drivable in traffic. The reason for the engine problems was the continued use of three main bearings for the crankshaft.
While the rest of the world saw 1500s with the compression ratio reduced to 8.0:1, the American market model was fitted with a single Zenith-Stromberg carburettor and a compression ratio reduced to 7.5:1 to allow it to run on lower octane unleaded fuel,and after adding a catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculating system, the engine only delivered 53 bhp (40 kW) with a fast 0–60 time of 14.3 seconds. The notable exception to this was the 1976 model year, where the compression ratio was raised to 9.1:1. This improvement was short-lived, however, as the ratio was again reduced to 7.5:1 for the remaining years of production.
In the UK the 9:1 compression ratio, less restrictive emissions control equipment, and the Type HS2 SU carburettors now being replaced with larger Type HS4 models, led to the most powerful variant to date. The 1500 Spitfire now produced 71 bhp (53 kW) at 5500 rpm, and produced 82 lb·ft (111 N·m) of torque at 3000 rpm. Top speed was now at the magical 100 mph (160 km/h) mark, and 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) was reached in 13.2 seconds. Fuel economy was reduced to 29mpg.
1975 Triumph Spitfire 1500 USA spec
The American market Spitfire 1500 is easily identified by the big plastic over-riders and wing mounted reflectors on the front and back wings. The US specification models up to 1978 still had chrome bumpers, but on the 1979 and 1980 models these were replaced by black rubber bumpers with built-in over-riders. Chassis extensions were also fitted under the boot to support the bumpers.
Detail improvements continued to be made throughout the life of the Mark IV, and included reclining seats with "chequered brushed nylon centre panels" and head restraints, introduced for domestic market cars early in 1977 along with a new set of column stalk operated minor controls (as fitted already in the TR7) replacing the old dashboard mounted knobs and switches. Also added for the model's final years were a wood dash, hazard flashers and an electric screen washer, in place of the previous manual pump operated ones. Options such as the hard top, tonneau cover, map light and overdrive continued to be popular, but wire wheels ceased to be available.
The 1980 model was the last and the heaviest of the entire run, weighing in at 1,875 lb (850.5 kg). Base prices for the 1980 model year were $5,995 in the US and £3,631 in the UK. The last Spitfire, an Inca Yellow UK-market model with hardtop and overdrive, rolled off the assembly line at Canley in August 1980, shortly before the factory closed. It was never sold and is now displayed at the British Motor Heritage museum at Gaydon.
The Triumph Spitfire is a small English two-seat sports car, introduced at the London Motor Show in 1962. The vehicle was based on a design produced for Standard-Triumph in 1957 by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. The platform for the car was largely based upon the chassis, engine, and running gear of the Triumph Herald saloon, and was manufactured at the Standard-Triumph works at Canley, in Coventry. As was typical for cars of this era, the bodywork was fitted onto a separate structural chassis, but for the Spitfire, which was designed as an open top or convertible sports car from the outset, the ladder chassis was reinforced for additional rigidity by the use of structural components within the bodywork. The Spitfire was provided with a manual hood for weather protection, the design improving to a folding hood for later models. Factory-manufactured hard-tops were also available.
The Triumph Spitfire was originally devised by Standard-Triumph to compete in the small sports car market that had opened up with the introduction of the Austin-Healey Sprite. The Sprite had used the basic drive train of the Austin A30/35 in a light body to make up a budget sports car; Triumph's idea was to use the mechanicals from their small saloon, the Herald, to underpin the new project. Triumph had one advantage, however; where the Austin A30 range was of unitary construction, the Herald featured a separate chassis. It was Triumph's intention to cut that chassis down and clothe it in a sports body, saving the costs of developing a completely new chassis / body unit.
Italian designer Michelotti—who had already penned the Herald—was commissioned for the new project, and came up with a traditional, swooping body. Wind-up windows were provided (in contrast to the Sprite/Midget, which still featured sidescreens, also called curtains, at that time), as well as a single-piece front end which tilted forwards to offer unrivalled access to the engine. At the dawn of the 1960s, however, Standard-Triumph was in deep financial trouble, and unable to put the new car into production; it was not until the company was taken over by the Leyland organization funds became available and the car was launched. Leyland officials, taking stock of their new acquisition, found Michelotti's prototype hiding under a dust sheet in a corner of the factory and rapidly approved it for production.
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