Owning a Triumph Spitfire
When You’ve Actually Bought a Spitfire
This page contains some hints and tips for those who already own a Triumph Spitfire.
These suggestions are a mixture of car maintenance ideas and some modifications you can make to your Triumph Spitfire. I’ve also included some general ideas for getting the most out of a Spitfire.
Of course these are just suggestions and I can accept no responsibility for any unforeseen consequences that may follow.
Use these links to jump down to the sections.
- Ensure your cooling system is working properly
- Fit a Kenlowe fan
- Ensure that your car has deflector boards in front of the radiator
- Tweaking the tyre pressures can improve ride and handling
- Watch out for speed bumps
- Learn how to stow the hood properly
- Life with a hard-top
- Fit an electric windscreen washer pump
- Maybe a ‘single wipe’ switch for the wipers
- Resist the temptation to have a luggage rack on the boot lid
Ensure your cooling system is working properly
Triumph Spitfires were built for the open road but unfortunately these days many of us have to drive in slow moving traffic in towns and cites. This gives your engine plenty of opportunity to overheat if the cooling system has any kind of obstruction in it.
Get the system flushed out regularly to remove any deposits that may have built up.
Fit a Kenlowe fan
The original factory fitted fan is driven by the crankshaft and turns quite slowly when the engine is idling so it doesn’t pull much air through the radiator. It’s an uncomfortable sight to see the temperature gauge creeping inexorably upwards on hot days in slow or stationary traffic – even if your cooling system is clear of blockages (see above).
One solution is to fit a Kenlowe fan – an electrically powered fan which is triggered by the temperature of the cooling water and is not mechanically linked to the crankshaft. The fan is attached either to the front or back of the radiator and it can push a lot more air through the radiator than the original fan – cooling the engine down a lot faster.
In my experience the fan will hardly ever come on when you are actually travelling consistently faster than 30 mph – even on warm summer days. And during journeys in the winter it may not come on at all.
Another advantage of not having the fixed fan is that the engine does warm up quicker in the winter. Indeed based purely on looking at the temperature gauge I found that my car ran at a much more constant temperature all the time – something that can’t be bad.
Usually the Kenlowe fan will replace the original mechanical fan so the car will be a lot quieter – except when the Kenlowe kicks in. In the autumn the car can also be used as a leaf blower too since the air is forced out at quite a rate beneath the car.
I also found a slight improvement in fuel consumption after fitting the Kenlowe. I’m guessing that this was as a result of the engine not having to constantly drive air about as well as the car.
Ensure that your car has deflector boards in front of the radiator
These triangular pieces of compressed cardboard go in front of the radiator and attach to the chassis and the radiator frame. Their purpose is to ensure a maximum flow of fresh air through the radiator to help cool the engine. Without them, air entering the engine compartment can just flow round the radiator.
Even with a Kenlowe fitted they are important to make sure that warm air doesn’t just circulate round and round the engine compartment when you are stationary.
As well as cardboard I believe stainless steel versions are available too.
I’ve also seen some Triumph Spitfires with deflector boards either side of the engine – I’m not sure how important they are.
Tweaking the tyre pressures can improve ride and handling
When I first had my Spitfire the handling was very different to a more modern car, and the ride on bumpy roads wasn’t very smooth at all. Whenever I went over a bump or hollow there seemed to be a two-stage suspension with an accompanying ‘bah-dum’ feel. After talking to other owners I realised that things could be better and one of them suggested altering the tyre pressures a bit.
After a series of experiments I found that putting an extra couple of psi (pounds per square inch) in the tyres above the recommended pressure radically improved things – the handling was much more responsive and the ride over bumps was a lot smoother. I’m guessing that the firmer tyres were working with the suspension rather against it.
If you are going to try this, make subtle changes rather than large ones in case the handling gets worse.
Watch out for speed bumps
There’s not much clearance beneath the car and the lowest and most vulnerable point on a Triumph Spitfire is the exhaust pipe in the region of the back axle.
Treat all speed bumps with the utmost respect and never straddle the pillow sort – always put one of the rear wheels on the top of the bump. If you take a bump too fast the rear silencer behind the back axle on a standard exhaust system is vulnerable and can slap down onto the speed bump as the car bobs down.
Learn how to stow the hood properly
It’s very easy to scratch or damage the transparent sections if you don’t do it right, so take it slowly until you’ve worked out what works for your hood. I was also recommended to cover the outside plastic window surface with a piece of sheeting before folding. Apparently this helps to avoid any dust our dirt on the window from scratching other parts of the window.
Life with a hard-top
If you find difficulty getting the bolts at the front to engage when fitting your hard-top then try this:
- Rest the hard-top on the car in the correct location.
- Lift up the rear of the hard top and rest on soft pieces of wood so it is up approximately 2 inches (8cm).
- Try the bolts now.
This made putting my hard-top on a real breeze. You may have to experiment with the height of the blocks as I think the angle of the holes was a little variable.
If you’re worried that your hard-top is scratching the paintwork of your car at the back, or it has a tendency to vibrate then cut up an old mouse mat and glue pieces to the underside of the hard-top. This works best with the thicker, softer mouse mats with a firmer top.
Fit an electric windscreen washer pump
The original manual pump action is rather fiddly and the pumps were apparently prone to leaks. Suitable electrical pumps are relatively inexpensive and they are a lot easier to use. It’s not always easy to find an appropriate switch that fits in with the style of the dashboard or wherever though.
Maybe a ‘single wipe’ switch for the wipers
Whilst you are investigating ‘push-to-make’ switches why not get one to fit onto the windscreen wiper circuit. A sprung paddle switch on the dash behind the steering wheel is a lot easier than switching the wipers on and off again using the switch on the column. Or, if your feeling more adventurous how about fitting an interval timer.
Resist the temptation to have a luggage rack on the boot lid
There are two sorts of luggage rack for your Spitfire boot lid. The one I had with my car had sucker feet on the legs and mountings that gripped the edges of the boot lid. These ones can be removed, but they are less secure and the mountings will scratch and bend your boot lid after a while.
The other sort are more permanently attached to the boot lid by screws, through holes drilled in the boot lid. They are more secure, but think about the rust implications before you use this method.
Both sorts will affect the wind resistance of the car and also, people might nick your stuff.