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Something definitely different for me. A 1979 Triumph Spitfire!


chistech

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I was approached by an employee at one of my packaging customers about restoring a car for him. His boss, the gentleman in the company whom I deal with, had told him part of my business is restoring antique cars and he should speak with me. After our initial talk, I decided I would attempt the work and he decided he wanted me to do it. The owner has a budget so it’s not going to be a full frame off restoration. I will be concentrating first on all the mechanics and replacing the very poor interior. While there is no rot, just some surface rust areas, the car doesn’t run and has been off the road for 14 years. 
 

I picked the car up last Friday and got it in my Garage on Sunday. I had to use dollies on the rear axle as both brakes were stuck but luckily the front was free. Got the car up on my two post lift and immediately realized just how small a car it is. Its wheelbase was barely enough to allow the arms to pivot under. Once on the lift I got each wheel off and each, medium size soup bowl brake drums off! Compared to the other cars I work on along with my dually and other trucks, this thing is enjoyable to not be having to strain to move anything! With the brake drums removed and the wheels back on, the car now easily rolls in the shop. I then pulled the interior and roof  out/off the car. This was 3 hours work.

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The owner had told me that he believes the timing chain is bad because it made a sound he had experienced once before and it was a bad chain. It’s the reason why the car got parked. So yesterday I decided to start the mechanical pull down and to investigate the engine. The clutch and brake masters were removed and both are bad with the usual green/white crystals all inside the plunger and rubber boots. Put together an initial shopping list of parts to get the mechanicals done including all brake hoses, calipers, wheel cylinders shoes, pads, master cylinder, clutch master,clutch slave, and a full clutch kit with pressure plate, clutch disk, and throw out. Got the parts ordered and then pulled the rocker cover where I immediately saw the problem. The #1. Cylinder intake valve spring was broken and the valve had dropped right down with the top even with the top of the guide. The engine was going to have to come out. I started the process of removing everything needed to pull the engine.

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Today was day three on the spitfire. Because of the US required rubber bumpers, there is a fair amount of fascia that needs to be removed to access the hood hinge pivot bolts and removing the hood is best when pulling the engine. This car is the first car I’ve been able to stand up underneath when on my lift. My garage ceilings are not that high so I have a Rotary brand, low ceiling lift. Designed for old garages like mine.Because the car is so small and low, I can go all the way up to the stop on the lift. I’m liking this car even more! 
 

With the engine/trans pulled, then separated, the engine got set up on the stand. Pulled the components off the engine then got all the studs removed. A couple whacks on a piece of hardwood freed up the head and i lifted it off. I was expecting to see a shattered #1 piston and a bent, stuck valve. To my amazement I saw neither. The piston does show some contact with the valve but it’s minimal and the valve slides freely in the guide! This is a pleasant surprise and a good thing for the owner. The motor was stuck and showed very light rusting of #2 and #3 cylinder walls. I poured Kroil into the cylinder and put a socket on the harmonic balancer nut. With about 25# pressure on the 3/4” ratchet, the motor broke free. With me to this point, I shutdown the lights and fans calling it a day. Making good progress so far.

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Those Sprites are still an inexpensive way to get into British sports cars, but one has to be careful to look for rust. It's such a shame Triumph had to put those big ungainly rubber bumpers on the late model Sprites. 

 

But they are small! Even compared to my TR3 they are small, a little too small for me. 

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13 minutes ago, r1lark said:

Those Sprites are still an inexpensive way to get into British sports cars, but one has to be careful to look for rust. It's such a shame Triumph had to put those big ungainly rubber bumpers on the late model Sprites. 

 

But they are small! Even compared to my TR3 they are small, a little too small for me. 

That’s what really surprises me is that there s no rust through anywhere. For a car up here in the N East it is in exceptional original condition as far as the sheet metal goes. I have a friend who’s worked on these cars for years and when i told him I would be working on a Spitfire he immediately started telling me where the bodies are usually rotted out.

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More work today on the Spitfire. Stripped all brackets from the block and wire wheeled the top of the block to remove any remnants of the head gasket. Sandblasted and etch primed the brackets. Wire wheeled a heavy rusted starter to bare metal, cleaned up and checked the bendix assembly, then primed and painted it. Removed the intake from the exhaust manifold and found a long crack in the exhaust manifold. Looking into getting another if possible. Blasted the aluminum intake then clear coated it. Freed up the compression nut that was rusted to the water pipe, blasted primed, then painted the pipe. 
     I’ve had many people ask why restoration work cost so much. It really comes down to the time spent on many things. If anyone has ever stood at a sandblast cabinet for hours while removing decades of rust and corrosion to bring a piece back to raw metal so it can then have a finish applied will know. Anyone who’s removed broken studs in blocks and manifolds with each bolt taking at least half and hour will know. Then all fasteners are blasted and finished along with all threaded holes getting the proper size tap ran through them to clean the threads. It’s all time but it’s being done right. 

The block is ready to be degreased aand power washed. Once that is done, the timing cover, front engine mount plate, and the oil pan will be removed for more blasting and more painting! You can see the #1 cylinder intake lift has the top 1/4” broken off most likely from the pushrod flapping around. The pushrod itself is straight and shows no damage. I did notice a white X painted on the side of the block. Not sure if this was some sort of factory marking put on at the time. The engine is original to the car so it got there some how and it’s not likely someone reached down with a paint brush. Has anyone ever seen this?

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Wow you cover a lot of ground each day!  I never thought this way about my TR-6 but I read a period review on a handful of small roadsters- mostly LBCs and a Fiat - maybe Porsche 914 .  Bottom line on the MG midget & Spitfire, testor said only cars he ever felt he was wearing more so than driving.

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My brother bought one of these new. It was the last model year, maybe a '79? WHEN the car ran it ran great. Def everything a British sports car should be. But it would overheat and the cure was to pull over, let it sit, start back up and move along. As much of a stereotype that it has become, it also had its share of electrical demons. He had it for about a year and could not take the punishment any more. Traded on a new Cutlass. Literally on the way to the dealer to pick up his new car the electrics under the hood caught fire. He was about a mile from home and stopped in front of a small fish pond. Used that water to put the fire out. Called the dealer and let him know what happened, very disappointed that he would not be getting his new car. The dealers response was that he did not care how he got the car to the lot. He had already sold it to someone sight unseen!! I sure would have hated to be that person.

 

Looks like you are moving right along with this job. I will be following along. Thanks for the updates.

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Wasn’t able to work on the car today other than drop the head off at the machine shop and do a little parts research. A friend from out of state owns a machine shop and has a great source of parts for the spitfires, both new and old so he sent me their contact info. He also educated me some on what new parts to use and what parts to stay away from. The rest of my day was spent working on the other side of my business, packaging machine repair and sales. Sold a machine and delivered it then repaired another. Tomorrow more of the same with a fair amount of travel so probably no work on the spitfire till next Monday. Hope to degrease and power wash the block so I can continue further disassembly. Not pulling the crank, pistons or cam, but will be installing a new timing chain and possibly the oil pump. 

Edited by chistech (see edit history)
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On 7/12/2024 at 6:09 AM, chistech said:

Wasn’t able to work on the car today other than drop the head off at the machine shop and do a little parts research. A friend from out of state owns a machine shop and has a great source of parts for the spitfires, both new and old so he sent me their contact info. He also educated me some on what new parts to use and what parts to stay away from. The rest of my day was spent working on the other side of my business, packaging machine repair and sales. Sold a machine and delivered it then repaired another. Tomorrow more of the same with a fair amount of travel so probably no work on the spitfire till next Monday. Hope to degrease and power wash the block so I can continue further disassembly. Not pulling the crank, pistons or cam, but will be installing a new timing chain and possibly the oil pump. 

https://rimmerbros.com/Category--Triumph-Car-Parts--m-602?selectedcurrency=2&gad_source=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMItfCnyrujhwMVKTkGAB3aWAT-EAAYASAAEgKK3vD_BwE

They have good parts, Ted.

I did body work on one and order all new parts from them.

 

 

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