Don Byars' 1979 Triumph Spitfire
In 2011 my wife, Shirley, and I were on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. I have a friend, Bill, who lives in Conway, SC and every year while we are on vacation Shirley and I and Bill and his wife Sue get together to reminese about old times and just rekindle our long time friendship. I met Bill in 1957 while we were both serving in the US Air Force in Maryland and we have been close friends for the past 57 years. Bill got out of service and began a career as a civil servant and I continued in the Air Force until I retired in 1974. This brings me to the story of the Spitfire.
At this meeting in 2011 I asked Bill if he still had the Spitfire and if he intended to restore it. He said that he still had the car but would probably never get around to fixing it up and that he may sell it. He said that a relative was interested and that he would let me know. In July of 2011 I received an e-mail and Bill said that if I wanted the car to come and get it. I made arangements to travel to Conway and pick up the car on the following weekend. No price for the car had been mentioned so before I left for Conway I called Bill and asked him. Inquireing minds need to know. He said that the car was mine and there would be no charge (a really true friend). He said that he wanted some one to have the car who would restore it and appreciate it. A friend and I traveled the 200 miles to pick up the car around July 12, 2011.
When we arrived we found the car in the garage behind Bills' camper. The tires were square from sitting and of course the battery was dead from not being run. The car would not start with the help of a boost box but the engine would turn over which was encouraging. Bill had a floor jack so we moved the car around the camper and winched it up on the trailer. It was raining so I decided to put the top up. The top had not been up in about 25 years but was still in pretty good shape. Bill handed me the signed title and my friend and I departed. Got the car back to Spartanburg, SC and into my small garage and began the task of getting it back on the road again.
I had to replace the fuel pump, rebuild the carburator, completely rebuild all the brakes, clean the fuel system, and replace the battery just to get it running again. I rebuilt the front suspension, replaced the front coil springs and shocks. I also had to replace the U-joints on both axels. I forgot to mention the square tires had to be replaced also. The task now became getting the car in condition where it could be shown. There was no rust or dents on the body and ever the floor pans were still the OEM blue. I removed the interior and had the seats recovered. While this was being accomplished, I replaced the dash cover with the fiberglass overlay (fits great), powder coated the ash tray and the defrost vents and any other parts that show in the cockpit. A friend gave me an 8 foot piece of solid Mohogany which I planed down to the proper thickness, cut out and oiled down and made a new dash or instrument panel. The speedometer did not work so I replaced the original with a GPS analog speedometer which does not need a cable but only an antenna and 12 volts. It is slightly smaller but by removing the bezel from the original speedometer, I was able to install it just as the original one was installed. I also set about powder coating the original wheels and all the brackets, valve cover and the two panels which direct air flow over the engine. These pieces were fabrecated out of steel sheets purchased at a local hardware.
The car did not use any oil but had a slight rattle. I replaced the bearings in the motor also. It was now time to have the body taken down to the metal and repainted. I had it repainted with the OEM blue leaving off the dealer installed side stripes. I have also since replaced the original wheels with a set of aluminum ones from Victoria British LTD. A year or so ago I purchased a parts car with a hard top. When the car was painted I also had the top painted. Although I probably will not use the top much at all, it does add to the look of the Spitfire. I have also completely rebuilt the engine out of the parts car and will probably change it out this winter. The only modification I am going to make inside the engine compartment is to install a set of headers.
The car is a fun car to drive and is a daily driver in the summer time and on warm days in the winter. It draws lots of attention at car shows and at the local cruise-ins although it has not yet won a trophy. I purchased a new MGA in 1960, a 1958 TR3 (with overdrive) in 1966 and a 911 in 1991 and I think this car is by far the most fun to drive.