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Detroit Region SCCA

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This is currently my personal website which I am using for the promotion of my hobbies and talents. Feel free to look around. In order to participate in my site you will need to register. I am currently monitoring and approving all new users. If I sent you an invitation, please login in the Login Block on the left.

The Ultimate Tech Session

On April 28-30, 2006 I hosted a club tech session to beat all tech sessions. .  This tech session focused on all aspects of the Mk3 Triumph Spitfire.  In the same vein as “Overhaulin”, “Pimp My Ride”, and “American Hot Rod”, Our team of 10 Triumph enthusiasts completely rebuilt my 1970 Triumph Spitfire from the ground up.  I had  all the parts and tools to completely build a Spitfire from a bare body tub.  The goal was to begin building on a Friday afternoon and have a completed, drivable Spitfire by Sunday night.  The work is clearly not trivial as the amount of work is formidable. 

Time lapse video of the rebuild. Click Here.

I have two 1970 Triumph Spitfires. The blue Spit is the one I have been driving around for the last 6 years.  The Red Spit was purchased about 5 years ago and has been a parts donor for the blue car.  The Blue Spit has such an extreme amount of rust in critical areas. So much rust in fact  that I was no longer comfortable driving it.  I was actually not comfortable selling it either so I was left with tearing it down and recycling it.  Rather than putting the parts on the shelf, I have decided to resurrect the Red Spit.

During the March 2006 membership meeting of the Detroit Triumph Sportscar Club I was approached by fellow DTSC’r Richard Truett. Richard who volunteered to stop by my house help with the many and varied tasks which needed to performed on our 73 Stag.  His offer got me thinking.  Wouldn’t it be great to ask others to assist me with tearing down my Spitfire. On my long ride home after the meeting it struck me that wouldn’t be cool to teardown the old Spitfire and rebuild the Red Spitfire at the same time!  The trick was to get a commitment out of enough people who were capable of doing the work semi independently while not getting so many people that we would be stepping all over each other.

I decided that in order to make this happen in a timely manner, I needed to set a date, send the invitations, and get everything in order before that date. I sent the initial request on March 19, 2006. Given the overwhelming positive response from the people I invited, I decided to schedule the rebuild for April 28, just less than 6 weeks from the initial invitation.  

The Red Spitfire

The Red Spitfire was purchased new in the Detroit area sometime around 1970.  The original owner lived in Detroit and ended up parking the car sometime around 1980.  The car was then sold to a fellow from Lake Orion, Michigan who purchased the vehicle with the intent to convert it to a vintage racer.  This fellow had spent several months disassembling the car and making modifications to prep the car for racing.  At one point, previous owner assessed his project and decided that building a vintage racer was not within his means and decided to sell the car and use the proceeds toward purchasing an already built race car.  I found the car for sale on the VTR Classifieds and decided to purchase the car for the parts.

This car was an un molested original 1970 Spitfire with all the original bits including the original bias ply spare,  a hard top, a straight bonnet and zero rust.  The car had all the original emblems, tail lamps, and other bits included.  I have catalogued and stored all the parts which came from this vehicle. 

As part of the conversion to a vintage racer the new owner made several extreme modifications all of which needed to be fixed.  The heater air box which is welded to the cowl was hacked out with a drill and a chisel. The same fate was had by the battery box and brake pedal gussets . I purchased the car without the doors as previous owner  had cut the inner door panels out to lighten the car and make room for the roll bars.   Fortunately, I have a set of NOS spitfire doors for a mk2-3 which should work well. 

It's was a bit of a Crap Shoot

Given my abilities and my lack of patience, I had chosen to have the car painted in a body shop. I also decided to have this shop complete the moderate amount of body work needed prior to painting.  I know that if I painted this car myself, I would regret it later.  The body filler dust ,paint overspray, and runs in the paint would  not then be a problem in my garage or on my car.  I also decided to have sent the car off to a local media blasting shop to have all the old paint removed from the body and from the frame. 

Why, you may ask, was this a crap shoot.  The issue was timing. The car was scheduled to be completed at the painter on April 28, leaving very little wiggle room if something went awry while painting.  I estimated a 20% chance that the car will not be done by the 28th of April.  The painter will not rush his work and will not guarantee the completion date until the car was done. It was frustrating in some ways but I know, in the end, I would end up with a better car than if I were to do it myself. This meant that a “rain” date of the event was scheduled for  May 5 (Cinco de Mayo). This meant tacos for dinner I guess.

As it turned out, the car was completed at the painter on April 28th as planed.  I was amazed and happy that we got all the pieces painted. I was also happy that the body shop also painted the bottom of the floor pan even though that was not part of  his quote.  I am glad he did.

I ended up tricking my team on the new color of the car.  In many of my emails to the team I kept referring to the car as the Red Spitfire.  However I decided to change the color to Valencia Blue.  I was going for the same color as the MK3 Spitfire in John Thomason’s Triumph Spitfire and GT6-A Guide to Originality.  In the color examples section John features a Valencia blue MK3 which caught my eye.  Wow what a great color.

Prior to the event, I had completed many tasks including rebuilding the original 1300 MK3 engine, re-trimming the vinyl on the windscreen frame and installing the windscreen into the frame.  I had also prepped the garage by sending all my other Triumphs to John Gray’s house for secure storage. 

Friday, April 28.

Although the event was slated for 48 hours, much of the work in my garage started around 1:00 when we began to bring the car home from the painter.  By 5:00 we had the frame on jack stands in one part of the garage, the body tub on a cart in center of the garage and the Blue Spitfire on the other side of the garage ready for teardown.   The primary focus for Friday was to get Blue Spitfire body tub off the frame to expose the driveline, powerplant  and suspension for easy removal. This turned out to be more difficult that we had anticipated. Most of the bolts were severely rusted and several of the bolt heads sheared off during removal.  By 10:00 Friday night, we were successful in getting the body tub off the frame and exposing the bits which were needed on the new Spit including the rear differential, the overdrive transmission and the front and rear suspension. 

There was little attention given to the new car on Friday. The work that was done was completed by Matt Royal who bolted the front suspension turret’s in place and began to bend and fit all new brake lines to the chassis.  It was meticulous work.  Matt also fussed over cleaning all the paint from all the threaded weld nuts and backing plates on the frame. This made much of the assembly easier later on as we just ran the bolts down and tightened normally.  

Saturday, April 29.

The events on Saturday started at around 8:00.  Geof Bush, our local NASS officer had been waiting patiently outside my door since 6:00 a.m. After some breakfast and some much needed coffee, we started on a very long day. The list of accomplishments seems almost too long to list.  To ensure that we had somebody working on something, I developed a 150 point check list for people to follow. I think we got through about 30 of them on Saturday.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of work was accomplished, but many of the tasks were only partially complete.  Basically we were able to install the powerplant (with new engine), new driveshaft, the rear differential, and axle shafts, the rear spring and shocks, the front suspension, and steering gear.  On the body side we installed a new wire harness, heater core, windshield wiper system, heater controls, brake and clutch pedals, brake and clutch master cylinders, PDWA, windshield frame.

Around 8:00 p.m. we decked the body to the frame and everything seemed to fit.  I was surprised that we were able to deck the body in the first attempt. We didn’t have to put it on, take it off, adjust something and try it again.  After the body was decked, many of the participants headed out for the evening.  The few who stayed late worked on trimming out the dash,  installing the parking brake lever and cleaning the unbelievable mess of parts and tools spread all over the garage. . 

Sunday, April 30

On Sunday we began in the garage around 7:00 a.m. Many of the wiring details need to be sorted out as we began to install the instruments and controls.  Much time was spent installing and adjusting the steering column as the original column was bent and the bushings were worn to the point where the steering wheel would move side to side 3/8”

One of the biggest issues we ran into was now that the body was decked, the amount of available room around the car was greatly diminished.  The ability to actually get in and work on the car was limited.  There were some items which could be completed offline. Mike Seesan was able to disassemble the doors from the Blue Spit and properly install the door locks and latches in the new doors.  Other off line activity included trimming out the bonnet with headlights, turn signals, marker lights, latches and trim.  Other notable offline activity included painting the wire wheels, getting the carpet ready for installation and I had Linda Gray and Lori Day sew up a fantastic white headliner for the inside of the hard top. 

I came up with one of the unplanned additions to the car on Sunday morning.  In the same spirit as artists signing their paintings and master engine builders signing their name to their engines, I asked all who participated to sign their name to the inside of the boot lid.  I had Blake Discher make up a decal to detail the accomplishment and each available participant signed the boot lid with a gold paint pen. 

At the end of the day on Sunday, we were able to get all the panels on the car and take the car off the jack stands and supporting its own weight on wheels. Although the car was not fully complete, it was complete enough to declare success. 

I would like to thank the following people for their participation and support

Mike Seesan
Bob Owsinski
Geoff Bush
John Gray
Linda Gray
Lori Day
Blake Discher
Matt Royal
Bill Goin
Ken Danek
Larry Tomaszycki
Richard Truett
Chris Holbrook

Supporting Clubs
The Detroit Triumph Sports Car Club

North American Spitfire Squadron

Finally I would like to recognize my loving wife, Tamara, for supporting me and all my crazy ideas.  I promise we will install that deck on the house next year.