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Achtung! 1979 Spitfire 1500 - good news, bad news...

N Dentressangle

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Time for an update!

The aim with this car has always been to make it a reasonably comfortable daily driver, or at least something you could use as one. It's hardly been on the road in the last 12 years or so (maybe more) and this is partly because niggly faults haven't been sorted and jobs haven't been done right. It's also suffered from some shit modifications - to my eyes, anyway - and one of things I couldn't live with was this:


No, not the swingball. The daft exhaust which some people refer to as 'wheelbarrow handle' type. When I was 17 I would have thought it was ace. It's really loud and snarly, but I'm 52 and just feel like even more of twat than normal making a noise like a bomber. Plus it's as boomy as you'd imagine on the motorway.

Now sold on FB and replaced with this much more civilised stainless 'Stag' style jobbie:


Still makes a decent growl but much quieter and uses the original exhaust mountings. I had to weld a bit more 2" pipe to the centre section so that it met my front pipe, but seems like you can MIG stainless perfectly happily. One of the original rear mount straps was still attached and usable. I made the other out of a piece of Land Rover axle check strap I had in stock.

No pics, but the OS front overrider was falling off. Found it was cracked and broken so glued it back together and bolted the bumper, overrider and quarter panel back to the car properly, as it was hanging on by two bolts and a cable tie. Bodging twats. Gotta love em.

The interior was a problem for me with this car from the start. The dash support, tunnel cover and knee pads were missing. The original seats were junked in 1998 for a hideous pair of what looked like cream leather ones, then changed again for vinyl buckets a couple of years ago. The buckets were OK, comfy enough but without much back support. They also wouldn't slide back and forth properly, probably because they'd been badly fitted. I decided to go back to original, and picked up these locally for too much money:


They were as rank as they look. The driver's side frame had rotted through at the front right and the recline mechanism was seized, so I bought another two knackered black vinyl recliners for not much ££.

The base foams were OKish, but the driver's seat had to be stripped completely anyway so I set to it and reduced it to the knackered frame on the left:


Scrap, really. Luckily I had a good drivers' side frame from the black vinyl pair. I cleaned it up and welded the fabric tensioner bar back on:


Meanwhile me and Mrs D set about restoring the houndstooth covers. Yes, those really manky knackered ones. New ones are about £500, so it's a good job Mrs D is handy with a needle and thread. I found a pretty good passenger side houndstooth seat base locally for a fiver, so replaced my own houndstooth base with that one and used the fabric to repair a mess like this:


The seat back foam on the drivers seat was shagged:


so I spent £50 on a new back foam from http://www.parklaneclassics.co.uk/index.htm and we got on with rebuilding the seats. The passenger seat back had been attacked by a cat which had used the base as its bed, but it started to respond to cleaning:


Mrs D used some fabric to match and recover the damaged upper panel, and eventually we had it ready to fit:


Getting the bucket out was a total cunt. It wouldn't slide, so I couldn't get at the bolt heads and had to grip them with moles and gradually loosen the nylocs. Filled the four superfluous holes in the floorpan with rubber grommets and worked out where the original seat would have mounted. Now slides and reclines as Triumph intended. Drivers' side took half the time once I knew what I was wrestling with:


As you can see, they ain't perfect, but they're usable and comfy which is what matters to me. And they didn't cost £500... Here's how things used to look:


Next exciting post - replacing the missing bits of interior :)

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5 minutes ago, Surface Rust said:

Did you manage to source some new houndstooth material, and if so, may I ask where you got it from. 

My Mini City uses similar and it's been on my to do list for some time.

No, we ended up cannibalising the poorer houndstooth seat base for its fabric.

Looks like Newton can find the stuff:


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25 minutes ago, N Dentressangle said:

No, we ended up cannibalising the poorer houndstooth seat base for its fabric.

Looks like Newton can find the stuff:


Thanks! I actually need some navy which narrows down the options, but well done on the recycling, it looks great.

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Newton own most of the classic material production. Unfortunately they won't allow anyone else to buy rolls of the stuff and you can only go through them for new covers. For a long time they didn't do Dolomite covers and so not possible to get new exact replacements. I believe they finally will start to do it soon though. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 14/01/2023 at 12:12, SiC said:

I love that original exhausts and one of my favourite things on a Spitfire!

I'm wondering what my Astra 'rice cannon' Jetex will do to my sober, restrained Swift 🤔

*Swifter? Not A Chance, mister 🤣

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On 11/23/2022 at 1:41 PM, Mrs6C said:

Very nice! I have a couple of Mk2 Spitfires and have always enjoyed the general model.

The colour is very pleasant. As it appears to have been described as a 'Racing Green', it could be the Aston Martin version. IIRC it is around that colour and metallic as well.


I've heard from the owner who did (ie paid for) the restoration in the late 90's that it's Aston Martin metallic green. Which looks to be what they call 'racing green'. Currently mulling over what the exact paint code would be 🤔

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I changed the engine on this for someone I knew probably about 20 years ago now, he reckoned the colour was Aston Martin Green, though I recall the engine bay was Ford Mercury Grey and rust. 



Keep up the good work on the Spitfire!! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update, just because.

I'm aiming for this car to pass an MoT, either real or just going through the motions with my friendly tester. That means a good sort out of the brakes / suspension etc. O/S track rod end was last week's little job, because of a split gaiter. Whilst I was there I noticed the top ball joint one was just notional. New bits ordered from James Paddock, and here's a top ball joint replacement in 20 min:

Old one:


No play in it, and moved well enough but deffo an MoT fail. Ready for the new one:


One of the PO's painted the springs red, badly, coz its faster, innit? And on with the new:


They're cheap enough that I'll do the N/S top joint and track rod end whilst I'm in the mood, then take it down ATS to have the alignment checked. Trunnions have already been cleaned out and pumped full of EP90, and wheelbearings nipped up too.

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  • N Dentressangle changed the title to Achtung! 1979 Spitfire 1500 - fettling n fixing
1 hour ago, SiC said:

But you do have a Midget engined Spitfire 😁🔥

but actually yes, it's one of these:


As everyone knows, Midgets are only really bought by those who can't afford a Spitfire.

As ever, the parts industry understands this and makes sure MG parts are affordable for the impoverished hoi polloi who have to drive them. This leads to some pricing anomalies, meaning that an oil cooler kit for a Midget 1500 is usefully cheaper than the same kit sold for a Spitfire 1500.

Obviously I had to use the right BMC part number, demonstrate an unnatural knowledge of real ale and lie about knowing any real live women, but they eventually  let me order it and here it is.

Fitting as soon as it gets a bit warmer.

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I've been trying to decide how to fit the oil cooler. It was available as an option when the Spit was new, so the official parts look like this:


but obvs I haven't got those fancy dan twisted brackets, so I was thinking of mounting mine something like this:


Wonder what Triumph originally intended.

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Did the MGB need an oil cooler?
I have driven loads of B series engined cars and none of them except an MGB had an oil cooler, (and it was the only one with knackered big-ends).

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12 minutes ago, Asimo said:

Did the MGB need an oil cooler?
I have driven loads of B series engined cars and none of them except an MGB had an oil cooler, (and it was the only one with knackered big-ends).

No.  They had problems with the bottom end on the early 3 main bearing 1800 engine.  5 bearings plus a belt-and- braces oil cooler was the solution, so ever afterwards the B had to have an oil cooler, because sportscar.  Better off without one for road use so that the oil gets up to its proper working temperature.  Tbf oils have improved since the 1960s.  As you say thousands of Marinas, 1800s and Sherpas worked absolutely fine with no oil cooler.

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Chicdoig is a name I've only heard relatively recently but apparently well known in Spitfire circles of doing excellent restorations and good quality panels & remanufactured parts. 

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It's been years since I fitted a rack gaiter - that's what happens when you mostly drive old Land Rover stuff 😉 - so I'd forgotten anything I ever knew about getting the gaiter over the inevitable wide bits it has to squeeze over.

Struggled with it for an hour then resorted to Google. Post #10 on here is the winner:


Cut some plastic out of an old milk bottle and gaiter slid on beautifully:


You can see my plastic cone - actually a cone with a cut all the way up one side so it can be tightened to a smaller diameter. Hope it's a useful tip for someone else.

With that in place, the top balljoint was easy peasy and 20min later job done:


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More bits n bobs.

Some of the interior trim was loose and flappy which always makes a car look scruffy, so I slapped some Evostick in the right places and raided Mrs D's peg bag (don't tell her!) for things to hold in place whilst the glue dried:


Bigger puzzle was why the car seems to use so much oil - a good pint or so in 300 miles. The engine doesn't feel or sound worn, although I haven't had the compression tester on it yet. There's also no obvious blue smoke from oil burning, which I'd have thought would be a good cloud if the pistons were rattling in the bores.

A bit of research suggested that the fancy dan alloy rocker cover might be the culprit. There's no baffle in front of the breather as there is in the original cover, so all the oil mist is being sucked straight into the carbs. Probably not an issue in 'normal' use these days for cars like this - B road bimbling and the like - but maybe more of a problem at a constant 3k revs on the motorway. I rigged up a jar and pipe to catch whatever came out:


60 miles of M5 produced about 1/4" of oil in the jar, so with the suction of the carbs it's not impossible that more being extracted. I'm not keen on aftermarket bling like rocker covers anyway, so I was happy to have an excuse to go back to standard.

Off with the alloy one, and here's the underside, sans baffle:


Badly RTV'd on gasket was giving some seepage too, and I took the opportunity to check and adjust the valve clearances whilst I was in there. 6 fine, 2 slightly wide so I nipped those up and things are now quieter and smoother:


Found a good original rocker cover on Ebay that didn't need paint and hadn't had its securing nuts gibboned down like most of them have. New cap in the latest Paddocks order and job's a good un:


Much prefer the original look!

All done in time for a quick trip down to ATS to re-set the tracking following me replacing the TRE's. Apparently it was miles out, despite me being careful to count the threads etc:


Off to Bristol again tomorrow!


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  • N Dentressangle changed the title to Achtung! 1979 Spitfire 1500 - good news, bad news...

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