Piston Slap: The 1967 Triumph Spitfire that isn’t from 1967?

(Hey folks! We need more reader questions to answer for this column. Won’t you send us a question about cars to pistonslap@hagerty.com? – SM)

Hagerty’s own Jeff Peek writes: 

I have two questions for you. I own a 1967 Triumph Spitfire MK3 … or at least that’s the year listed on the title. See the “commission” number below. A few years ago a friend told me that although the FD indicated a Spitfire Mk3, the year isn’t ’67. Do you know what year it really is?

Jeff Peek's Triumph Spitfire MK3
Jeff Peek

The other question has to do with the wiper motor. It died a few years ago, The motor is completely dead—not even a whimper. I thought about taking the easy way out and buying a new one, but they cost way more than I want to spend (that’s if you can find them). I’m not a born-and-bred car guy; I was bitten by the bug much later in life (much to my father’s chagrin), so I ask … Might this simply be a case of the grease getting old and mucking up the mechanism? And most importantly, is it something a novice like me can “fix” himself or shouldn’t I chance it?

Jeff Peek with 1967 Triumph Spitfire
Jeff Peek with his 1967 Triumph Spitfire MK 3. Hagerty

Sajeev answers: 

Interesting questions! I had no idea some (all?) Triumph motor cars had such a vague identification number, but I’m gonna wager your friend is wrong: Yours was built in the first year … but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

After researching and reading this thread, I’ve done my best to sort out your Spitfire’s identification/commission tag.

  • FD = Spitfire Mk3
  • 7737 = The line number of all Mk3s made (from January 1967–December 1970, 65,320 units total)
  • L = Left-hand drive
  • O = Overdrive transmission (?)
  • 32 = Signal Red paint (pull the carpet back one day and verify that!)
  • 11 = Black upholstery

While I’m surprised that nobody’s dug into British Leyland’s archives and given a rough estimation of which units were made in a specific year, this page suggests that “although manufacturing dates are available in some cases, the initial registration date of the vehicle is what is most often used.”

So if a 1967 Spitfire sat on a dealer’s lot long enough to cross calendar years, it would actually be classified as a 1968 model? Well, that’s both a logical and depressing explanation!

I am sure Spitfires are like most vehicles; more units sell in the initial years of production. Combine that with the fact that 7737 is a small fraction of 65,320, and I reckon the odds are good that yours is a 1967. I mean, with less than three years of production, isn’t it likely that no. 7737 rolled out of the factory in 1967?

Now let’s get to the wiper motor. If completely dead, it’s likely that either no power going to the motor or that the motor itself needs to be rebuilt. So check for power first: A voltmeter connected to the power and ground wires in the wiring harness (probably black for ground, green for power) helps determine whether the problem is upstream (like a fuse) or downstream (the motor itself). If downstream, rebuilding a motor is simple: disassembling the case and removing the part that spins the mechanism. Once removed, the repair process is like that of any other electric motor, but I don’t necessarily recommend rebuilding the motor yourself. Most cities still have a local alternator/starter repair shop, so ask local mechanics for a recommendation if the Google “near me” search comes up with nothing.

Moss Motors sells a new assembly for a little more than $100, but I reckon you can get it done for half the price … if a local shop can rebuild your motor. Who knows, you might get lucky and the root cause is a bad fuse or burnt wiring. Best of luck!

Have a question you’d like answered on Piston Slap? Send your queries to pistonslap@hagerty.com and give us as much detail as possible so we can help! If you need an expedited resolution, make a post on the Hagerty Community!

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