After the demise of my very first sports car, (a beautiful TR250 I totaled on the night before Christmas), the urge to get another sports car was undeniable. One day white passing by a Sunoco gas station near exit 75 off I80 in Pennsylvania, I spotted a green Triumph Spitfire parked in the abandon/wrecked car lot next to the building, I stopped immediately and inquired. The mechanic on duty said the car had broken down on the interstate, (a Triumph broken down?) and was towed in. He said the driver couldn’t afford to have the car repaired so he sold it to the owner of the gas station. I asked if it was for sale and the mechanic said that I’d have to ask his boss. He said his boss would be in at 7:00 am tomorrow.
The next day found me standing by the car at 7:00 am waiting for the owner to arrive. The owner was pointing out the pristine condition of the car “she’s from North Carolina,” he exclaimed, “only 19K miles”. I inquired as to the price and got “she’s yours for a $ l000”. The year was 1977, the car was a 1975 and was the most beautifully shaped car I’d ever seen, (save for that of my TR250). I’d asked what’s wrong with it? He said “I don’t know but it won’t turn over, look under the hood”, so I did.
This beautiful car had a connecting rod protruding through the engine block. I bought it on the spot.
For the next several weeks I called salvage yards about a used engine. While waiting for a reply from the salvage yards, I explored the car and dreamed what it would be like to drive it; I read the owners manual over and over, opened and closed the “bonnet”, (at least five times a day), played with the map light etc. I removed the engine and cleaned the engine bay preparing it for the new/used engine.
Finally I got the call, but I’d already spent all my money on the car. The salvage yard wanted $500 for the motor and they only would guarantee that it wouldn’t burn oil “excessively”. I went to the closest loan office and borrowed $1000; (you always need a little extra for those odds and ends).
I bought the engine and installed it. Life was good, driving the Spitfire was even better than I had dreamed. My friends liked it too. I taught my girlfriend how to drive a stick and left her use it from time to time.
Then darkness fell one dreadful evening while visiting some friends at an informal party. As the evening grew late people started to leave. One fellow, driving a jacked up 1969 GTO, (AKA Goat), backed into the Spitfire’s left rear fender. It was an accident but I was livid. I insisted that he pay for the damage and there will be no body filler on this car. The rear fender was replaced and repainted.
Soon came the final payment on my thousand dollar loan. What a great feeling it was to drop by the loan office and hand them the last payment. The feeling wasn’t to last. As I came out of the load office, my heart nearly stopped. My beautiful Spit had been pushed backward about two feet, coolant was pouring out of the radiator and there was a huge gash in the front of the bonnet. There had been a red Ford F 350 4×4 parked in front of my car when I went into the loan office, it wasn’t there when I returned but it’s bumper hitch left it’s mark. Back into the loan office I went to borrow some needed cash so I could repair my Spit. In an attempted to find the owner of the Ford, I posed myself as a tele-marketer and made about a thousand calls, no luck.
Months later after my Spit was back in its shinny BRG condition, and the recently acquired $500 loan was paid off disaster struck again, this time from above. On a cold sunny winter day, I was dropping by a friend’s apartment. She resided in a building that was accessed from the main street via an alleyway between two five-story buildings. Immediately after making the turn into the alley, a teenage boy standing in the middle of the alley and waving his arms yelled for me to stop so I lid. Seconds later the trunk of a well-seasoned six foot blue spruce, (formerly a Christmas tree) fell from the sky and planted itself on the top of the Spit’s bonnet. The plastic fan blade went thuda, thuda, thuda in response. The boy took off!
I got out of the car and looked up. A woman was looking down and screaming at the boy, “I told you to stop the traffic you dumb shit.” I don’t think he was listening since he was by now on the other side of town. The woman had six kids, her husband was in jail and she was on public assistance, she gave me $75.00. I headed back to the loan office for more money.
I landed a new job in Gettysburg PA and the Spitfire came with me. I lived close to my job and found it refreshing to walk to work. I found a small garage to rent to house the Spitfire. By this time the engine was getting short on breath, so I decided to overhaul the engine, fix the bonnet and repaint the whole car. It all started out simply enough but one thing led to another and before I knew it I had completely stripped the Spit to the frame. I rented a BIG sand blaster, (this thing was on a trailer and had an engine bigger than the Spit’s) blasted almost everything, undercoated, rebuilt and repainted the Spitfire until it was better than new. But, as you could guess, it was not to last.
Remember the movie starring Clint Eastwood, Play Misty for Me. Well instead of trying to kill me, she did something far worse. She went to my rented garage, broke the windows and threw a pile of bricks onto my freshly painted Spitfire. Instead of throwing her over a cliff, I reported her to the police. She admitted liability but I never saw her again or any money.
I drove the poor cosmetically challenged Spitfire for several years until one day the thrust washers spun out of the crankshaft center flange. I managed to get the limping Spitfire home and was considering another engine re-build when I got word of another job opportunity in New York. So me and my other means of transportation, (a pink MG Midget) went to the “Big Apple”. Having no garage in NY, the poor Spitfire was forced into hibernation in central Pennsylvania in my mother’s back yard. One day, I vowed, the Spitfire will return. The “one day” was to be 12 years long.
After establishing a foothold, (house, family and garage) in the “Big Apple” it was finally time to bring the Spit back to life. It had been parked outdoors on blocks for over 12 years and on the worst possible winter night, through salt, snow and icy conditions, I towed it 240 miles to it’s new home.
Never being quite satisfied with the engine’s performance, I decided when I rebuilt the Spitfire this time, it was going to have some real fire,
The Spitfire has come full circle and gone through a complete transformation. Again the body was removed, sand blasting, epoxy coatings, new springs, rubbers and things etc, etc. But the fire under the bonnet now comes from a GM source, a 1963 Olds 215 CID aluminum V8 with, (believe it or not), a factory turbo charger and “Turbo Rocket fluid injection”. The transmission is a Borg Warner T5, the wheels are American racing and the paint is DuPont’s Chrome Illusion, (Jade Perfection).
The Spitfire is once again finished, but dare I drive it? Although I’m happily married and don’t think I’ll ever see Misty again, many people here drive monster SUV’s, celebrate Christmas, (with live trees), and the buildings; they’re much much taller.