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dherr
dherr Reader
9/5/17 8:57 a.m.

Okay, so I have been planning this project for many years and am finally getting started on it. After building my Thunderbird Turbocoupe Spitfire Challenge car, I have wanted to build a street version for a long time. Two years ago, I found a 1972 Spitfire MK4 that had sat in a garage for 37 years and knew this was going to be the basis of my street car. Right after finding the Spitfire, I found a kit on ebay where someone had chased down all the parts to put a GT6 Rotoflex rear suspension into a Spitfire but adding a Subie R160 Diff with LSD and MGF bearings and axles with CV joints to replace the Rotoflex "donuts" So basically now I had solid Spitfire body and a strong rear axle solution that did not require cutting or modifying the bodyshell (unlike my challenge car project).

So after selling my challenge car this weekend, the decision has been made to create a "rat rod". The plan is to build a chassis with all the go fast parts including a Turbo Miata drive train, and built suspension/brakes/wheels/tires to build a fast and great handling Spitfire. But I will keep the solid "rat rod" body with just the underside painted with Por-15 and will make the interior nice, but keep the body as it is currently. Would be a great sleeper, with it looking like an old british sports car with some nice wheels and sitting lower than usual but no clue that it is packing 4 times the stock power.

Rolling off the trailer today to power wash and get started in the garage!

I am going to start off trying to see if this can be kept under the Challenge budget as  I got a bunch of Spitfire parts to resell, but no promises as I don't want to compromise on the chassis/engine/drivetrain/suspension. Project starts today!

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
9/5/17 9:50 a.m.

The Thunder Spit was great. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/5/17 10:03 a.m.

Looking forward to this. smiley

dherr
dherr Reader
9/5/17 3:06 p.m.

Took a long lunch break and pulled the car off the trailer, power washed it and cleaned out the interior and made space for it in the garage..... I still can't believe how preserved the body is for being a 1972, this is an excellent car for this project. I called the JDM place and will be picking up a 1.8 and 5 speed with ECU and wiring harness tomorrow, then the fun begins for real!

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
9/5/17 7:51 p.m.

In the after picture above, the car looks like you could move it from rat rod to survivor with just a good buff and polish...

dherr
dherr Reader
9/5/17 8:18 p.m.

Yes, it cleaned up really well and with a good buff and polish will be much nicer than I imagined. I plan on doing a full mechanical restoration but leave the cosmetics for now as they are, but in all reality will probably end up getting the body shell painted in a color I prefer in the future. I have never seen a Spitfire that was not restored that is this solid, the rockers, and fenders are perfect on both sides, just dings and scratches ,but the bodyshell is in super condition.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/6/17 8:00 a.m.

The brown '79 Spit I bought from fujioko/Doc Brown is amazingly clean and rust free.  Bonnet was repainted (badly) due to accident damage prior to his ownership, but otherwise not restored.

Willis
Willis New Reader
9/6/17 8:12 a.m.

Rat Rod?  Unless you plan on welding a 3 foot shaft to the end of your new 5 speed shifter with a skull/eight ball for a shift knob.....that is no rat rod.

Cool Car / Cool Project cool

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UltimaDork
9/6/17 8:25 a.m.

Sleeper survivor build. Awsome!

Billy_Bottle_Caps
Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
9/6/17 10:11 a.m.

Wow that cleaned up nicely

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/6/17 11:19 a.m.

I came here hoping for something kinda like this Toyota Corona

Your car is way too nice to chop up though. (At least IMO) 

I don't think a car with full fenders can qualify as a rat rod. Unless of course the track width is wide enough to have an exposed tread face. 

​​​​

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UltimaDork
9/6/17 11:22 a.m.
Crackers said:

I came here hoping for something kinda like this Toyota Corona

Your car is way too nice to chop up though. (At least IMO) 

I don't think a car with full fenders can qualify as a rat rod. Unless of course the track width is wide enough to have an exposed tread face. 

​​​​

 Uhh.....

 

This makes me sad. I accidentally built a rat rod before the flares.

 

Does the brown on the car have any metalflake? If so, be careful buffing. Flake rises to the top on single stage for some reason.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/6/17 11:46 a.m.

I think a Spirit would look awesome with a treatment similar to the Toyota in my link above. 

A Triumph was one of the cars that immediately came to mind for this. I'll have to see if I can find the MG I found while googling down that particular rabbit hole. 

dherr
dherr Reader
9/6/17 2:27 p.m.

So I guess my definition of a "rat rod" was a hot rodded car where you do all the mechanicals and make it fast, but keep the body stock, intact and don't paint it. I agree with all of you that this ended up being much nicer now that I have it cleaned up and it really is more of a "survivor". I will proceed with that being the plan, so body as it is now, but mechanically the fun is just starting.

Picked up a 1998-2000 BP-4W and 6 speed transmission.... guess this won't be in the challenge as that cost me more than my first estimated, but now I have a much better stock motor and a great transmission for the car. So now I will have 140 HP to start with before we add a turbo. Will get it all out of the truck and on the shop floor tomorrow to start figuring out placement and what I will need to change on the front of the frame to make it all fit. 

I will do my best to not cut up the body, it is too nice.

Two_Tools_In_a_Tent
Two_Tools_In_a_Tent Reader
9/6/17 2:33 p.m.

Yup, that whole Rat Rod thing has gone right out the window, if it ever REALLY applied at all here. Nice choice on the engine swap, are you going to address all of the weaknesses in the Spitfire itself? This was a bottom rung sports car when new, an old one like this, in any condition, is going to need some very serious up-grading through out. Could be a neat build thread or could be just a whole lot of excuses why things won't be done properly. Cautiously looking forward.

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 HalfDork
9/6/17 2:40 p.m.

Some tasteful fender flares in order to fit wider tires wouldn't hurt.  But yeah, that is a clean survivor Spitfire.  It would be a shame to cut it up.  It'll be fun to see where this goes.

dherr
dherr Reader
9/6/17 3:54 p.m.

Pulled the power steering and AC compressor so now it ready to start test fitting tomorrow.

 

dherr
dherr Reader
9/6/17 4:07 p.m.

This has been a project I have been planning for many years having owned three Spitfires, I know them inside and out and agree with the assessment that they were a beginner car and had many weaknesses. The biggest issue by far is the rear axle in dealing with more power and also keeping the wheels on the ground. The first issue will be fixed by the R160 sitting on my workbench with all the pieces necessary to fit it into the Spitfire frame without modification. The second issue will be fixed by the GT6+ Rotoflex suspension I acquired as the lower wishbone and forward link are effectively a lower A-arm that keeps the wheels from the positive camber issue that the swing axle cars display. Combined with CV joints to replace the Rotoflex "donuts" and upgraded rear hubs with MGF bearings, this should effectively fix the rear suspension issues. The Spitfire front suspension is quite effective and I have a set of Koni shocks for all four corners of the car with 1 inch lowering springs for the front and a lowering block for the rear leaf spring.  So suspension wise and rear axle wise, I am quite confident that this will be a complete car when done. The Miata engine and transmission are excellent and I will do the modifications to the frame to get it to fit properly, lowering the steering rack and some other required trimming and reinforcements. 

So the answer is "yes" this will have plenty of modifications in the mix to hopefully build a better car with the character of the Spitfire and the good qualities of the Miata combined into something unique, fast and fun to drive!

Two_Tools_In_a_Tent
Two_Tools_In_a_Tent Reader
9/6/17 6:57 p.m.

Damn ! This is going to be a whole lot of fun to watch ! ! Since this is going to be your second trip into the Eye of Darkness that we all know of, it would seem to be your privilege to give a name to what your building. If you've looked at past magazine articles, these days now around the internet, heavily mechanically modified (involving an engine transplant) cars of certain makes that largely keep their stock appearance all have a neat, defining, name that they fall under. 

 

Porsche 356s are called "Outlaws." Porsche 914s/911s are called "Renegades." The "big" Austin Healeys are called "Nasty Boys." Triumphs—Spits and TRs—have no moniker, but certainly deserve one. Nobody seems to have bothered with this, but it sure would be great if you did. Everything begins somewhere, why not on a great site like this one. Be REALLY cool if you started something here by naming the beast. What would YOU call a heavily mechanically modified (engine transplanted) Triumph?

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
9/6/17 7:33 p.m.
dherr said:

Picked up a 1998-2000 BP-4W and 6 speed transmission...

Is that a Miata engine?

dherr
dherr Reader
9/6/17 10:10 p.m.

Yes, 1.8 Miata engine but the version from the first NB cars, so has higher compression, forged pistons and connecting rods, solid lifters and 140 HP

 

stafford1500
stafford1500 HalfDork
9/7/17 9:11 a.m.

In reply to Two_Tools_In_a_Tent :

I have seen the phrase ODD ROD used in Australia regarding non-typical builds or ones that don't fit the usual mix-n-match of parts.

That is what I consider the Spitfire build I have been working on for nearly 20 years...

Recon1342
Recon1342 Reader
9/7/17 9:27 a.m.

I think you should call it Riced Tea...

dherr
dherr Reader
9/7/17 2:48 p.m.

So some more progress today.... cleaned out the engine compartment so I could test fit the engine.... pretty happy with the results! Looks like I will need to move it back three more inches so the front pulley is just above the steering rack. This leaves me about 1/2 inch of space away from the battery box and also means it looks like I will  not have to cut the body or firewall to fit the engine. Transmission wise, it looks like I will be moving the emergency brake handle back and the shifter position will be much further back than stock, but that is fine as I will be making a custom transmission tunnel anyways. The entire engine and transmission will be lowered by 1.5 inches in the front and 2 inches at the rear, so once I trim the rear transmission tunnel sheet metal and get the original mounts out of the way, we can drop it in place and see if the hood clears everything. 

mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
9/7/17 2:57 p.m.

The level of not rusty that you've exposed is amazing. This has potential to be a super cool and much cleaner build than you alluded to in your opening statement. I like it. 

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