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
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
"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.”