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Historical Enigma

Did this car run Le Mans?

Amidst the stables and green rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe, California, in a garage filled with legendary race cars, brutes from NASCAR’s steep banks, lies a small terror of the race track. A legend at Willow Springs, it’s something of a historical question mark.

The 1965 Triumph Spitfire is raced by Beth Philion. We had a chance to talk with her husband, Jim Philion, about the car. “We have heard that this car was raced at Le Mans,” Jim said. “We have not been able to verify that, however.”

drivin

Completely original, right down to the red and white paint job, the car carries with it a few trick parts and a lot of questions. The first noticeable link to greatness lies under the hood, a massive pair of Weber 40DCOE carburetors. These bolt up to a specially made 11-stud, 8-port Le Mans-spec head, only 20 of which were reportedly manufactured. With such limited numbers, it makes sense that only very select Spitfires were destined to have this works component. The Spitfire also came from the factory with a Salisbury limited slip differential and a GT6 transmission. This Mk II is a rarity since it was never a road-going car. Its destiny was the track and it has been successfully raced at places like the Monterey Histories and Willow Spring. There are documented timesheets with lap times of 1:50 at Willow—not bad for a vehicle so low on horsepower.

engine

The car was originally owned by Steve Fish of Coventry Conversions in Mountain View, California. “It has been a race car all its life,” Jim said. “Even the paint is original. I would have painted it, but everyone tells me not to touch it. We are researching its history. Who knows, maybe it really did race at Le Mans.”

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