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A Smart Aleck’s Guide to Buying a Spitfire

By Sid Bridge

I recently bought my first British Roadster—a 1980 Triumph Spitfire. I wanted an MG or a Triumph ever since I was 12, but I never had the guts to buy one given all the warnings I would get from responsible adults.

I’m an adult now. Responsible? That would depend on your definition. I’ve got five kids, I moonlight as a stand-up comic, I have a 1968 Cutlass in my garage that I have fiddled with since I bought it in 1995, and a pretty patient family.

So… how did I pull off buying a Spitfire?

We were getting ready to move to a new house and for the first time I was finally going to have a two-car garage. I started to feel a sense of “now or never” if I wanted a Spitfire because I could see prices going up for every other Triumph. Plus, I was just plain in love with the Spitfire’s style.

Even with the big rubber bumpers, the Spitfire has lines that just pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. When the bonnet tips forward to reveal the engine, I’m a kid again, knee-deep in matchbox cars.
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My kids, on the other hand, wanted something else—a kitten. It wasn’t an unreasonable ask, except that we already have two cats. This would mean three cats, which is a lot of cats. One of our cats had a litter of kittens and they had their eye on Cookie, who looked like a ball of chocolate chip cookie dough with fur.

I didn’t really want another cat—even one as adorable as Cookie—but at least I found an opportunity to weaponize the kids and win my wife over. Half joking, I declared, “They can have the cat if I can have a Triumph Spitfire!”

Immediately my kids became a powerhouse lobbying team for Spitfire ownership. It only took a little time before my wife finally pulled me aside and said the best words an unrepentant car nut can hear from a spouse: “I really don’t care if you get another car.”

The next line of this article was originally going to be “within minutes I was online searching for Spitfires,” but that would be a complete lie. I had been searching for Spitfires well before I got spousal approval. Within minutes I was on to the follow-up call stage.

The first candidate was an abandoned restoration project being sold by a next-of-kin. Sadly, she couldn’t get a title, so what appeared to be a half-assembled car with brand new paint and a freshly rebuilt engine may never see the road again.

Candidate number two was the winner. Previously owned by a mechanic who had a thing for Triumphs (he dailies a Herald!), it was already running with a new carburetor, intake and header. Sure, it needed other work, but “running” wasn’t actually one of my main criteria since I now had a second garage bay.

After a road-trip where I checked it out, test drove it, and inspected it on a lift, we agreed to a fair price and I had it shipped home.

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In honor of Cookie the kitten, I’ve been calling the car “Project Kittenfire.” I’m afraid to start taking stuff apart because I’m a little shocked at how well it runs. It starts every single time. It drives fine. It has a few fluid leaks and the gearbox has a couple of issues (whining in third gear and popping out of reverse), but it’s a blast to drive.

Oh, and my wife loves driving it. I don’t blame her. I’m not sure if there’s a scientist who’s looked into this yet, but in my limited Triumph Spitfire ownership experience I’ve noticed that you can’t so much as look at the car without smiling like an idiot. And believe me, I’m the biggest idiot in the room.

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