There are a few common faults that occur in the classic Triumph Spitfire. Of course, many of the problems are the usual niggles that were common in cars made it that era. If you’re planning to buy a vintage Triumph be sure to check alignment, rust, engine and gearbox. If you’re already the proud owner of a Spitfire, the following article will help you to diagnose any issues you’ve come across...
If you are planning on purchasing a Triumph Spitfire, walk around the vehicle and take a look at the condition of the body and interior, along with the overall body panel alignment and doors. To determine the alignment, stand roughly 4 paces away at the front and rear of the vehicle. If you believe the doors to have poor alignment, this could be an indication of a damaged or faulty chassis. At this distance, check for suspension sag - the leaf springs on the rear suspension have a tendency to sag over time.
Rust is a common issue that you may encounter under the footwells, pedals and along the seat rails. The battery box in the engine compartment is also prone to rusting.
When you have the Triumph’s bonnet open, check the wheel arches, suspension attachment points and all around the lights. The hinges of the bonnet and behind the back wheels may also need careful checking.
Run your hand along the paintwork to check for any blemishes that may give you reason to think that rust is bubbling underneath.
Listen out for unusual noises in the Spitfire’s engine such as any knocking or rumbling. One common problem is that the engine may have been changed to something that isn’t as well tuned as the original. All original Spitfire engine numbers will begin with an F:FC in the case of the MkI/MkII, FD for the MkIII, FH for the MkIV (but FK for US cars) and FH for the 1500 (FM for US cars). Although, it is likely that something else will be fitted, such as an engine starting G (Herald), D (Dolomite) or Y (1500 saloon). For more information on Spitfire engine numbers, take a look at this table.
If someone has done a cheap oil change and hasn’t used the proper oil filter, one fitted with a non-return valve. The latter would stop the oil from draining back into the sump as the engine is stopped. If this happens, the larger end bearing may wear away before their time. Overall, if the car is looked after properly, the engine should run without trouble for 100,000 miles or more.
The first major engine faults are usually worn rocker shafts and rockers. A fault that may occur in the 1300 engine is worn thrust bearings. This will happen itself if you push and pull the front pulley, movement will indicate this problem. If the thrust bearings are in an extremely worn state, they may suddenly fall out and wreck the block and you will require a new engine.
The transmission of the Triumph Spitfire had been quite robust. When test driving, put the car in reverse and see how that plays out. If - when you then engage first and then drive forwards - you hear a clunking noise this indicates a worn differential. If the gearbox of your Spitfire is rumbling, you may need to invest in a replacement.
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