By Vern Parker
Hank Seiff ended up with the 1965 Triumph Spitfire 4Mk2 that was purchased for his sons.
In 1990, as older son Josh approached driving age, the plan was to find a fixer-upper car that could become a father/son project. “I figured sweat equity would make him a safer driver,” Seiff says.
A long-idle Spitfire was found about 20 miles away. It didn't run but at $400 the price was right. When new the list price was $2,249.
The tires held air so the Spitfire was towed home to Falls Church where it was parked for the better part of two years while plans were formulated to restore the car.
Seiff says his son discovered marching band, gold and girls in high school which left the father/son team short a son. That's when younger son, Dan, stepped up to assist in the restoration.
Seiff was pleasantly surprised to find practically no rust on the 12-foot, 1-inch-long Spitfire.
The 70-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine was brought back to life in 19993. It was running but oil consumption increased to the point that Seiff rebuilt the engine in 19995. He wasn't satisfied with the result so a second, more successful, rebuild was done in 1997.
Now with two S.U. Carburetors feeding fuel to the engine from the 10.2-gallon gasoline tank a total of what Seiff describes as “67 roaring horsepower” is produced, more than enough to propel the 1,630-pound sports car.
On the instrument-packed dashboard is a 110 mph speedometer and a 6,500 rpm tachometer with a red line of 6,000 rpm. Squeezed into the top of the black dashboard is a small ashtray. At the right end of the dashboard is a grab bar for use by the passenger.
Sprouting from the black-carpeted floor is the four-speed manual transmission shift lever. The door panels, bucket seats and convertible top also are black.
Seiff believes that the Spitfire was initially sold to an American soldier in Germany. Where it went after that until it was discovered in a garage in Virginia remains a mystery.
Working on the engine was easy. “The whole nose of the car opens up,” Seiff says. “You can get at everything back there.”
Both front fenders and engine hood are a single unit that is hinged near the front bumper. A clamp on the side of each front fender secures the unit in place.
When open the four-blade fan is visible where it can pull air through the radiator.
With the engine running smoothly Seiff set about restoring the cosmetic aspect of the car. Taking the car down to bare metal let Seiff know that the Spitfire has always been painted white. With that history the choice of color to repaint the car was simple.
When the restoration of the Spitfire was complete Seiff's wife, Judy, insisted that a a roll bar be installed for the sake of safety. After installing the roll bar Seiff added padding to it and then finished the project with a tidy black covering.
The Spitfire first rolled out the factory door on 5.20x13-inch tires. Seiff has upgraded the tires with slightly larger radial tires for an improved ride and handling.
The original size spare tire is in the 3.7-cubic-foot trunk because the larger new tires won't fit. On top of the trunk lid is a four-bar luggage rack.
Riding on an 83-inch wheelbase makes for nimble handling. The Spitfire can be turned in a 23.5-foot circle. “It corners a lot better than it goes fast,” Seiff reports.
Besides excellent cornering, Seiff has found an unexpected benefit of owning the Spitfire. When he bought a 16-foot-long 2x4 at the lumber yard for a home project he found that with the top down only the Spitfire could carry it home, secured to the windshield frame and the roll bar.
Since completion of the restoration both sons have moved on leaving the Spitfire for their father. He has driven the sports car about 30,000 miles. He says that the car always seems eager to go for some highway exercise.
“It's so nice to work on,” Seiff says enthusiastically. But with a diminutive front bumper and two smaller ones at the rear he admits, “This is not where you want to be in an accident.”