Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling -


Over­drive can give prob­lems, usu­ally be­cause of dodgy electrics or low oil. Re­pairs of­ten cen­tre on sort­ing con­nec­tions, re­plac­ing the re­lay or top­ping up with EP90. A re­built unit is avail­able for £450. Uni­ver­sal joints wear and prop­shafts go out of bal­ance, but they’re eas­ily fixed. The dif­fer­en­tial wears, lead­ing to whin­ing. A re­built axle costs about £500.


The first three gen­er­a­tions of Spit­fire use the same four-speed man­ual gear­box, with syn­chro­mesh on all gears ex­cept first. The MkIV’s is an all-syn­chro ver­sion of the same gear­box, while the 1500’s is Mari­naderived. Syn­chro­mesh even­tu­ally fails, so check for baulk­ing. Also lis­ten for whin­ing (worn gears), or rum­bling (duff bear­ings); a re­built gear­box costs £450 or so. Re­plac­ing a gear­box is an easy DIY job.


The Spit­fire MkI and MkII have an 1147cc en­gine, while the MkIII and MkIV fea­ture a 1296cc pow­er­plant. Rat­tling at start-up sig­ni­fies worn crank­shaft big-ends – and an im­mi­nent bot­tom-end re­build. The first sign of wear is usu­ally a chat­ter­ing top end be­cause of ero­sion of the rocker shaft and rock­ers. The en­gine will con­tinue to run for thou­sands of miles, but it’s best to bud­get for a top end re­build sooner rather than later.


Ex­ces­sive fore-aft move­ment of the 1296cc en­gine’s crank­shaft sig­ni­fies worn thrust wash­ers. The crank­shaft and block can be wrecked if the wash­ers fall out. Spit­fire MkIVs suf­fer most as their larger crankshafts place greater load on the wash­ers – lis­ten for bot­tom end rum­bling at tick­over. The 1500’s 1493cc en­gine suf­fers from crank­shaft, pis­ton and ring wear, given away by rat­tling at startup and blue smoke un­der load. An ex­change re­built unit is around £1100.


Floor­pans, the area be­hind the seats and the front footwells cor­rode. Badly re­stored cars can have a twisted bodyshell, caus­ing a door that sticks out and ter­ri­ble shut lines. Putting this right is a huge job as the whole struc­ture needs to be re­aligned. Ac­ci­dent dam­age is also pos­si­ble; small knocks cause the most prob­lems be­cause they’re hard to spot; a wonky front valance means that the front chas­sis rail has prob­a­bly been knocked out of true.


The front sus­pen­sion can give trou­ble, but it’s cheap and easy to fix. The ny­lon bushes in the brass trun­nions wear, along with the trun­nions them­selves, the rub­ber sus­pen­sion bushes, wheel bear­ings and track rod ends. Anti-roll bar links can break (new ones are £8) and the steer­ing rack and up­per ball joints that lo­cate the top wish­bone wear out. The rub­ber steer­ing rack mounts per­ish af­ter be­ing soaked in leaked en­gine oil; vague han­dling is the re­sult.


Cor­ro­sion strikes the bodyshell and chas­sis. There’s no mono­coque con­struc­tion, but the sills pro­vide essen­tial strength. The most rot­prone area is where the sills meet the rear wings, but check the rear quar­ter pan­els, door bot­toms, boot floor, wind­screen frame, A-posts, in­ner and outer whee­larches, head­lamp sur­rounds and front valance. The lat­ter is dou­ble­skinned, so cor­ro­sion tends to spread from the in­side out.


The rear wheel­bear­ings wear out and are a bit of a night­mare to re­move; they act di­rectly on the drive­shaft, so if worn bear­ings are left un­touched, they can wreck the half-shaft. If the top of the rear wheels have dis­ap­peared above the whee­larch, the trans­verse leaf spring needs re­new­ing. Re­place­ments are £100, but with­out the cor­rect spring lifter, fit­ting it is a pain.

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