Triumph Spitfire – An Icon That Was Almost Nipped in the Bud

Spitfire is among Triumph’s most popular and successful vehicles. It managed to outsell its main competitor, MG Midgets, every single year it was on the market with the exception of 1974 due to an industry strike. Even though its price was rather high, both US and UK consumers were so charmed by Triumph’s sports car that it brought a record sales number for the company.

The history behind the Spitfire

The concept model of Triumph Spitfire was known as ‘Bomb’ and its development began in 1960. Just a few months later, after a long period of financial troubles, Standard-Triumph was acquired by Leyland Motors. That almost laid the ‘Bomb’ to rest as the work on model was discontinued. Luckily, on the of the company’s executives saw the vehicle and gave the project a green light. In 1962, the car was released on the market with a new name Spitfire and it marked the beginning of one of the most loved sports cars that were ever created. Between 1962 and 1974, five different models of the vehicle were developed:

  • Triumph Spitfire 4 (Mk1) (1962 – 1964)
  • Triumph Spitfire 4 Mk2 (1964 – 1967)
  • Triumph Spitfire Mk3 (1967 – 1970)
  • Triumph Spitfire Mk4 (1970 – 1974)
  • Triumph Spitfire 1500 (1974 – 1980)

Although the Spitfire scored nearly 320,000 sales during its lifetime, it production was stopped forever in 1980, 20 years after work on its prototype began. The cause was again financial struggles.

Pictured: 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500 & Spitfire Plane Ad

How did it become so popular

Triump SpitfireThere are many reasons behind Spitfire’s success. As a start, it was designed by Giovanni Michelotti, who was one of the most prominent sports car designers. During his long career, Michelotti worked with some of the biggest automakers in Europe and was responsible for the looks of rides like Ferrari 166 MM, Maserati Sebring, BMW 2002, Lancia Aurelia, Alfa Romeo Guiliettta Sprint Veloce and other Triumph vehicles like TR4 and the Stag. For Spitfire, the prolific designer choose to make the car lower, shorter and much more flexible compared to Herald, which Triumph released in 1959. The entire body of the vehicle was welded and it was connected to the main frame only with a dozen of bolts. That, however, gave the Spitfire a very desirable appearance.

But it was not only good looks that made Triumph Spitfire to stand out on the road. With a top speed of 147 km/h, Spitfire 4 was a true beast on the road. Although for the modern standards that is not a very fast speed, it was a great achievement in the 1960s. With every new Spitfire model, the top speed reached new heights, making its competition gasp for air.

Pictured: Triumph Spitfire 4

The Spitfire was also known for its difficult handling. It was caused by its rear suspension which was seen in the earlier models of vehicle. Nevertheless, namely that and made Spitfire an amazing racing car as it combined speed with an adrenaline-boosting driving experience. Triumph’s iconic ride even stole the show during the 1965 Le Mans when the race was headed by two Spits.

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