Real Wheels: Spitfire a fun, small machine

SPENCERVILLE – There’s something about a Triumph Spitfire that brings out the pure joy of driving, says Jeff Degen, of Spencerville.

“I had a 1969 Spitfire when I was in high school and thought if I ever came across another one that was in good shape, I would buy it,” Degen noted.

He no longer is looking.

A year ago he came across a 1976 Spitfire in Canton, Ohio. “The owner had tore it down to the frame and redone everything,” Degen said.

The two-seat Spitfire is just as he remembered – small and mighty, tricky to get into, but once behind the steering wheel, everything is within arm’s reach. The car was built by British Leyland Motors Inc. to be a fun, inexpensive four-wheel alternative to a motorcycle. It could scoot, reaching a speed of 60 mph in 16.4 seconds.

“I don’t think you could ask for a more fun car to drive,” said Degen, or in the case of his wife, Lori, a more fun car to ride in.

“I cannot drive a stick, so I’m just along for the ride,” she said.

British Leyland Motors found the North American market to be a popular one, building the Spitfire from 1962 to 1980. Buyers liked the fact that not only was the Spitfire inexpensive, it was incredibly easy to work on. Parts were also relatively cheap and easy to find.

Degen appreciates that, but admits that mechanical skills are something he wasn’t blessed with.

“All I know is it runs, it drives, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.


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