We’re heading back to The Motorcar Gathering 2012 held at the Queen Alexandra Hospital here in Victoria last year in today’s post, continuing our running photoblog series “The Toads At The Gathering“.  We’re going to learn a little bit more about me on a personal level today as I share a story about a car that meant a lot to me in my early adulthood.  You really have to hand it to Mrs. Toad, she’s got more patience than most women when it comes to my crazy passions in life, so at the bottom of our post here please feel free to leave her any comments you may have of a sympathetic nature.  She will surely appreciate that.

Triumph Spitfire - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Triumph Spitfire – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada –

I love cars of all genres and walks of life.  My prime love is for sports cars, and specifically convertibles.  When I was in my late teens, my grandmother passed away and left me a few thousand dollars…  you can probably guess what I did with that by now.  Yep, I went and found myself a primo 1978 Triumph Spitfire that was partway through a restoration by a local shop teacher who really loved these cars.  It was my first convertible, and a car that I remember very fondly all these years later.

The Triumph Spitfire was known in the 70’s for the successes it had on the SCAA circuit.  I recall a plaque affixed to the dashboard that proudly showcased the years that this car was active and winning.  It was a small car, one that was difficult for me with my 6’3″ frame to get in and out of, and many times I felt like my knees were wrapped up around my ears as I drove around in the car.  Surprisingly, this actually gave me a better connection with the car as I felt like I became a part of it.

It’s a beautiful car.  Low slung and wide, it out-handled many sports cars that were above its class.

Triumph Spitfire - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Triumph Spitfire – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada –

If I had kept mine and finished it, it would have definitely looked a lot like this.  The great gauges that came with it had chrome bezels, really adding to the overall character of the car.  I wish my steering wheel had been so gorgeous as the example we see here, with the chrome spokes and the incredible wood wheel.  Triumph did a lovely job of topping all this off with the woodwork on the dashboard.  This added true British character to the cockpit.

Triumph Spitfire - Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada

Triumph Spitfire – Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, BC, Canada –

The small 4-cylinder engine under the hood was fairly reliable and pretty easy to work on.  The car we saw here at the show was modified to use a 4 carburetor side-draft setup.  As I was working on mine all those years ago, I went with a Weber single barrel side-draft unit and had a complete custom exhaust system made up for it by a local craftsman here in Victoria.  It sounded oh so sweet.

The combination of it being a very lightweight car with a prime focus on handling allowed these cars to really excel on the track.  You could literally be driving down the street at the posted 30MPH speed limit and just turn right.  I mean a 90* right turn that would find most cars spinning on their roofs in the middle of the street.  The car just didn’t lean, and due to the engineering that went into the suspension design it stuck to the road like glue.

Couple all that with the ability to drop the roof and blast around free in the wind.  What a great feeling!

The only real drawback to my car that I recall was found in the Lucas wiring.  Frequently referred to as “The Prince Of Darkness Wiring”, the Lucas harnesses were well-known and highly prone to perplexing failures.  I was lucky in my car, it never stranded me, but the gauges on the dashboard at times really acted completely randomly.  We used to laugh about it and chalk it up to driving a foreign sports car.

I can honestly say that when we visited The Motorcar Gathering and came across this great example of a Triumph, I was very excited to see an enthusiast who had spent a lot of time and money bringing this car up to the level it’s currently at.  It’s a remarkable platform, one with a really storied history, and one that is a pure blast to bomb around in.  It really meant a lot to me to discover this car and to have a chance to spend a few moments with it reliving my own youth.

Thank you ever so kindly for your visit today!  We love to hear from everyone who visits, so do feel free to leave us any comments or thoughts you may have below.  Until next time, my good friends!

  1. avatar ehpem says:

    Condolences to Mrs. Toad for her association with such a car nut. It must be a real trial.

    There, got that out of the way. I was reading this thinking Toad is whitewashing something – no mention of the Lucas electronics. And then, there they were!

    In my youth, before I met my wife (so no condolences necessary for her) I owned a Triumph too – a TR3B, complete with wire wheels, copper headed hammer for removing the wheel nut, a hand crank in case the battery died, a soft top and hard top, side curtains (not windows) and many other features left over from the 30’s and 40’s, but lingering in a 1960’s car. My version of the TR3 had a new innovation – it had, gasp!, syncromesh in first. Sadly it had Lucas wiring, but you have described what that was like.

    It was great fun, a real joy to take out on the road, handled pretty well. Even though the back end was very light, the weight of the (British Leyland tractor) engine in the front end held the steering wheels frimly in place. The best part was that, in spite of short arms, I was able to put the palms of my hand on the road surface while seated.

    Your post brought back many fond Triumph memories.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You and I share a lot, Ehpem, I just love your comments here! Many many thanks for taking the time to pop by for a visit and for leaving these terrific comments I am quite sure everyone will enjoy! If ever you get another one, please don’t forget your amphibian friends, come pick me up for a ride!

  2. avatar Renee Besta says:

    Beautiful photos of the Spitfire, Toad. Each and every one of us has a passion of some sort that makes us happy and brings us joy and fulfillment. Those are life’s simple pleasures. I wonder had your grandmother passed away today, if you would still choose the Spitfire over some juicy camera equipment and software. Many of my female photographer friends agree: photography-related equipment is a girl’s best friend, not diamonds! Give me that sweet expensive piece of glass any day over jewelry.

    In terms of what friends and partners have to endure, I would say it is when we are on trips together and I constantly insist we pull over so I can get that next great shot. This is why I sometimes travel alone.

    I understand your passion for classic cars, though. I still drive a rare 1984 Peugeot 505 STI sedan, which has served me well for many decades. This great French automobile is no longer available for purchase in the USA since Peugeot pulled out of the US market in the mid-1990s. But it is the most comfortable and agile-handling car I have ever driven. Enjoy, Toad! You deserve whatever makes you happy.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      As do you, my dear friend! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave us these wonderful comments, Renee, it’s always a huge highlight for us when you pop by The Hollow here. I am not sure what I’d do faced with the choice today, you’re probably right, it’d be camera gear. But, the allure of the sports car is great and you just never know!! 😀 Thank you so, so much for your kind comments and visit here, my dear friend!

  3. avatar Mrs. Toad says:

    Ahh, Mr. Toad, not to worry about me at all. I remain a happy Mrs. Toad knowing that when your head suddenly turns, there is a shiny machine with a nasty rumbling sound somewhere nearby!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      A girl who knows my heart! 🙂 I am glad you know how much I love you, Mrs. Toad, you are most certainly the hop in my step, that’s for certain!

  4. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    When I read the title of the blog, I knew that it was the the Spitfire you were

    • avatar Len Saltiel says:

      were referring to Toad. Most people have a one track mind but you have a mind that wants to be at a track. Nice post and great images.

      • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

        HA! 🙂 What awesome comments, Len, really terrific!!!! Thank you so much for taking the time, my good friend, that really means an awful lot!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    You know what they say…”behind every Toad there’s a great She-Toad”, at least I think that’s what they say and if they don’t they should. Wonderful post and images.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I think your saying should become part of the common vernacular, Edith! I really really do! What wonderful thoughts, my dear friend, thank you for visiting and leaving these behind!

  6. avatar LensScaper says:

    Somehow I would never have thought that a little sportscar like the Triumph would have made it big in North America. Shows how little I know! These little beauties were part of my youth too. Didn’t own one but for a wedding present my Dad bought us a Austin Healey Sprite. Not the frog-eye version (or maybe I should say Toad-eye), but the MG Midget badged version. In Mustard Yellow. it was a fun little car. I saw one just the other day and thought how tiny they were in comparison to today’s cars. Those were happy days!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, Andy, what a great great story!! I particularly like the mention of the Toad-eye Healey. LOL 🙂 Those classic little roadsters were all wonderful, and it sounds like you’ve got a ton of great memories of riding around in your MG Midget badged Austin, as I do with my Triumph! We really appreciate your kind visit, my friend!