A garage sale introduced Stan Geisel to his 1977 Triumph Spitfire in 2001. The British-made car had a ‘For Sale’ sign propped in its windshield. Geisel was shopping for a motorcycle. When he saw the 2-seater in a friend’s yard, he noticed it needed new brakes, interior, and convertible top. The body was clean and Geisel decided to purchase it and try to get it in running condition.
Over the next few years Geisel worked on it, having learned much about car engines from his father while growing up and later at his job as a mechanic in a Ford dealership. Geisel had owned other classic cars, but this was the first foreign car. “I knew it would be a challenge,” he said.
Geisel did research on the Internet to find companies that sold original parts for this type of car. Although the Triumph stopped being produced in 1980, certain companies still made parts for it. Geisel added several custom applications. He rebuilt 4-wheel disc brakes. He changed the powertrain by installing the engine from a totaled Camaro into the Spitfire, thus converting the original 1.5 liter engine to four times the horsepower. A son-in-law fabricated a wooden dash for the car. As the car only had two gauges (speedometer and tachometer), Geisel relocated them and added others. The transmission is a 5-speed manual. He installed devices to prevent theft. He also added new tires.
One thing Geisel had to adjust to was the difference in terms used by the British for parts of the car as compared to American usage. The trunk is a ‘boot’. The hood of the car is the ‘bonnet’; the top of the car is the ‘hood’. The car’s left rear quarter panel was called a ‘wing’. Geisel referred to the owner’s manual printed online to keep him straight. “It provided the English translations,” he said.
Ironically, when Geisel got out his metric wrenches to work on the car, he found the standard American system of measures still applied. “Apparently, the British changed to metric around 1980,” he said.
Geisel painted the car British racing green (sometimes known as hunter). Although Geisel had never added new upholstery, he followed directions on a kit and the biscuit-colored vinyl and cloth upholstery looks appropriate for the car’s flashy style.
By 2008, Geisel had the car ready for action. Geisel has driven it 2,400 miles, mostly giving rides to his wife, Cindy, and their seven grandchildren around his home in Bluffton. He has another vehicle for daily use.
The Spitfire holds six gallons and gets around 22 miles per gallon. “After about 150 miles, I’m looking for a gas station to fill it up,” said Geisel. During trips to Bloomington, Indiana and eastern Ohio where the terrains are hilly, Geisel said the Spitfire did fine. Geisel is careful to go the speed limit, though he admits he’d like to get the Triumph on a race track to test its maximum speed performance. “I’ve never been able to let it stretch its legs,” he said. “I’d like to add a turbo charger.”
Geisel enjoyed working on his Spitfire, but qualified his enthusiasm. “There’s times when you wonder if you should have undertaken the task of fixing a car,” he said. “If you have a mechanical aptitude, it can be OK.”