Bernard Heydorn & his '72 Spitfire

            As the summer sun pours down, Spitty and I have become inseparable. Spitty is my 1972 Triumph Spitfire Mark 4 sports car. Since its recent make-over and restoration, painted in flashy red with RAF (Royal Air Force) emblem on its sides, reminiscent of my service in the RAF, Spitty has been taking me places, making waves wherever we go.

            This is the car judged “a bucket of bolts” by a judge at a car show years gone by. This is the car that reportedly done most of its traveling on the flatbed of a CAA (AAA) tow truck. This is the car that was found abandoned by the side of a train track by a train engineer (driver) who attempted to fix it up and then sold it to me 25 years ago.

            In those early years, the car was notorious for breaking down every few kilometers. The cost for the upkeep and repairs was astronomical, approximately a buck per kilometer! Parts were hard to come by. In fact it was said that if you wanted Spitfire parts, you should check the railroad crossings where they had a tendency to fall off as you drove over! Mechanics were reluctant to touch it. My mechanic skills hover around sub zero.

            Not surprisingly, my wife nagged me for years to get rid of it, saying, “With the money we spent on that car, we could have taken a holiday to the moon and back.”

            Even now, I can hardly get her into it. On a recent ride, she exclaimed “what’s that ticking I hear?” I replied, “It’s when the ticking stops then I start to worry.”

            I wanted to put the history of my ownership of the car into a little booklet with the repair bills in the appendix and display it at car shows. When I came to put the bills together, I found that they could almost fill a suitcase! The truth is I have spent more money on this car than on any other vehicle (new or used) that I have ever owned. Why?

            The answer is simple—this is a love affair, a long standing affair, and like many affairs, they are not always easy to bring an end to. The car gives a rush to the head, the way a lover does. The car is a passion, the way love is. When the car is going well, I am on top of the world – when it breaks down, I am down in the dumps (just like any relationship). You just don’t dump the object of your affection when things get rocky. My wife says the car is tied to my ego and my addiction for attention…

            My faith in the Spitty is beginning to pay dividends. Fans are increasing – from owners and spectators at car shows to folks we drive past on the roads. Little kids love it and ask their parents to get one for them. The think it is a toy car. A number of passersby could get whiplash as they catch a glimpse of us. When I meet people who have heard or read about the Spitty, they inevitably enquire into the welfare and history of the car, rather than that of me or my family.

            The Spitty is now sporting a new Ontario historic license plate. I have tried the car with a mixture of high octane jet fuel I got from a local airport to see if I could get more bang for my buck. When I told the mechanic about the experiment, he said that the hot combustion could blast a hole in the engine, not to mention my pocket book, and bring us both down in flames.

            I think the high octane mixture may have saved my life when I was overtaking another vehicle on a two lane highway. Just ahead, a vehicle turned right, recklessly onto the highway from a side road, without looking or stopping. That put us on a dead collision course! Spitty and I did not like the prospects, so I urged her on and flooded her, just in time to make a safe, flying pass! In my rear view mirror, I saw the vehicle that I had overtaken pulled over to the side, avoiding the worst. It was a close call.

            Incidentally, the Spitty did not flame out once, years ago, when an electrical fire on board caused my passenger and I to abandon the car, as the cockpit filled with dark, pungent smoke. My passenger who was a student aged about 10 that I was tutoring privately and considered “slow” academically, got out of the car a lot faster than me!

            Man’s love of machines is legendary. The sports car is a symbol of freedom, adventure, daring, youth, romance, style, summer sun and fun. I am still discovering things about my Spitty, like the fact that you have to pull the choke out more than two inches to get it to start from cold. For donkey years I mistakenly only pulled it out about halfway (where it stuck). No wonder I had all those hard starts.

            The car is still not completely reliable, with Lucas (the price of darkness) electrical parts notoriously failing. I can now only get parts from Victoria British Ltd. and other suppliers and a mechanic willing to work on the car. Wearing my racy World War Two, Flying helmet and goggles, I have embraced the summer with my Spitty.

            We have taken to the open air as we make our way to car shows around the province of Ontario, Canada, where I live. Pressing 70 years of age myself, my Spitfire is celebrating 40 years. The path of our relationship, like any marriage, has been rocky at times. However, we both believe that we can make it and stay young forever!