WHAT TO LOOK FOR
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.
SOME THREE THINKING
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.
MORE THREE THINKING
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.
BEAR WITH ME…
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.