When Triumph needed a small sportscar to do battle with the Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, it had the solution right under its nose; the Herald’s separate chassis was a well-proven arrangement that lent itself to being shortened and modified for more sporting use. Thus adapted and fitted with a dashing Giovanni Michelotti body and a tuned version of the Herald’s 1147cc engine, Triumph unleashed the Spitfire in 1962.
Much more than a Frogeye pastiche (not least because of its brilliant name…) the Spitfire offered significant advantages its rival with wind-up windows, more interior space, and a one-piece front section that hinged forward to give unrivalled access to the engine and front suspension.
Triumph launched the Spitfire Mk2 in 1964. Boasting another 5bhp but with no changes having been made to its styling, we had to wait another three years for the Mk3 before we got to see any visual differences in addition to a bigger, 1296cc engine.
The MkIV arrived in 1970, coterminous with the Mk3. The new cut-off Kamm tail was part of a family resemblance to the Triumph Stag and 2000/2500 saloons, and the changes were enough to see it soldier on until 1980 by way of an engine upgrade in 1974 that gave us the Spitfire 1500.
All Spitfires, no matter what age or power, provide enormous back-to-basics fun in the classic British sportscar model. They’re fast enough to be entertaining, cheap enough to run on a shoestring, and simple enough that they can be repaired by a chimpanzee wielding nothing more than a hammer and an adjustable spanner…