Junkyard Gem: 1976 Triumph Spitfire 1500


Triumph ceased selling new cars in the United States after the final TR7s and TR8s were sold as 1981 models, with the operation shutting down completely after the last (Honda Civic-derived) 1984 Triumph Acclaim was built. BMW is the current owner of the Triumph brand and there have been hints of a Triumph revival lately, but the glory days of Triumph in the United States were the 1960s and 1970s. One of the most beloved Triumph models here was the Spitfire, which hit American dealerships in 1963 and remained available through 1980, and today’s Junkyard Gem is a Malaise Era example found in a Denver self-service car graveyard.

51 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The Spitfire was developed from the chassis of the Triumph Herald sedan. We saw a 1962 Herald in the very same junkyard last summer, and I suspect that both that car and today’s Spitfire came from the collection of the same local Triumph enthusiast. Perhaps the Herald was a parts car for a fleet of Spitfires.

59 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

There’s a receipt from 2018 for quite a bit of emissions-related work on this car from a nearby British car repair shop, as well as paperwork indicating that the car passed a Colorado emissions test a few months later.

63 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The body isn’t rusty, but the paint is bad and the interior is on the rough side. Nice Spitfire 1500s are worth good but not huge money these days, so my guess is that this car’s last owner needed to clear driveway space and couldn’t find a buyer willing to take on this project. I still find discarded Spitfires on a regular basis, though TR7s are more common in junkyards.

19 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The engine is a 1.5-liter Standard pushrod straight-four, rated at 52.5 horsepower in U.S.-market form.

11 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The transmission is a four-on-the-floor manual. An optional overdrive was available.

34 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

Federal bumper regulations that went into effect for the 1974 model year forced British Leyland to add these huge bumper extensions to Spitfires (this car is missing the one for the left side).

64 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The MSRP for this car was $4,250, or about $23,447 in 2024 dollars. That made it the cheapest new Triumph car model available in the United States (Triumph motorcycles were made by a company that went its own way in 1936), with the TR6 priced at $5,995 and the TR7 at $5,595 ($33,075 and $30,868 after inflation).

45 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

Meanwhile, Fiat listed the 1976 124 Sport Spider at $5,759 ($31,772 in today’s dollars). MG competed against Triumph (both owned by British Leyland and hence the British government) by offering the Midget for $3,895 and the MGB for $4,750 ($21,489 and $26,206 after inflation).

13 1976 Triumph Spitfire in Colorado wrecking yard photo by Murilee Martin

The odometer shows 71,388 miles, which has a good chance of being the genuine total.

This white-knuckle run to the emergency room hit speeds well above 50 miles per hour, according to the shot of the speedometer.

You not only get a car and a girl, but a piece of history.

Right, Champ? Champ? Hey, Champ!

Save this endangered species by buying one today.

 



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