The Car was bought from Sports Car Supplies near Newcastle in the North of England, with 12 months MOT and Tax. The intention was always to restore the car, as having an MGBGT in fairly good order which only requires servicing and maintenance, a project car would give me the chance to explore new avenues of the hobby. The fact the at project car was tax exempt and came with 12 months MOT was a bonus, as I could run the car for a while to check the condition of main mechanical components, i.e. Engine, Gearbox, Back axle , Suspension and Steering.
When you buy a car you should always take it for a test drive, unfortunately it was February and we still had snow on the ground, and as the car was destined for restoration I felt that it was not too important, anyway it came with 12 months mot, so at least it was road worthy.
The day came to collect the car, fortunately the snow had gone, although it was still bitterly cold but at least the heater worked well (in fact I was unable to turn it off). We managed the 30 or so miles home without any problems deciding to keep off the motorway and go cross country. One thing that became apparent on the way home was that driving at anything over 55 miles per hour was out of the question, as anything above was accompanied by severe vibrations in the car (most likely the universal joints on the prop-shaft).
Over the next few weeks the car was very reliable and great fun to drive as long as the speed was kept below 55. All the mechanical components were working fine, all the gears could be selected without any crunching, the engine was running smooth (as can be expected from this type of engine) and no oil was being burnt or dropped ( yes there was oil in the sump).
It what then that a new plan was formulated, instead of starting on the restoration straight away I would use the car over the summer and start the project when the weather started to turn for the worse.
I decided to do a few jobs to ensure smooth running over the summer, the first of which was the troublesome prop-shaft. I jacked up the car, put it on axle stands (safety first) to check for play in the prop but couldn't feel any movement. I decided it was best to change the universal joints anyway, just to be on the safe side, as a disintegrating prop-shaft can be very dangerous.
I had changed the universal joints on my MGBGT a couple of years ago so I was sure of the procedure, the only difference being that on the MGBGT the prop-shaft is removed completely from below, where as on the spitfire the connections to the axle are removed from below and the gearbox end is disconnected from inside the car.This does mean having to remove part of the interior trim and the transmission cover. Once the prop-shaft was out it was clear that the universal joints were long past their best, in fact in one of the universal joints most of the needle bearings were missing.
Once the propshaft was refitted and the interior put back together,, it was time for a test drive. What a difference, the whole car felt much smoother at all speeds and could cruise at 65 MPH without any problems.
One job I have always been compelled to do on all the classics I have owned is to change the rubber water hoses. It does not cost much to do and can really help with reliability especially over a hot summer. I bought the hose kit from Moss for about £25 including the hose clips. Not only does changing the hoses improving reliability but it gives you chance to flush out the cooling system. After removing the hoses I left a hose pipe running through the radiator, heater matrix and the engine block until the water ran through clear. An engine flush could have been used at this point to further clean the engine, but as a full restoration is in the pipeline this was not deemed necessary.
I put on the new hoses and tightened up the hose clips.(TIP: if hoses are too tight a fit, try running them under a hot tap to soften the ends.)
The system was then filled with water and antifreeze / summer coolant mixed in the correct ratio. I ran the engine until hot, and checked for leaks and airlocks before stopping the engine and rechecking the level. I ran the car for a few days and checked the level once more and further tightened the hose clips.
Over the summer I did around 2000 miles without any problems, I was enjoying driving so much the date of the restoration kept getting put further and further back.
I had a week and a half of holidays at Christmas and I decided it was time to make a start, but as always my best laid plans didn't come off. My wife's "modern car" died on Christmas Eve and was towed to the garage to be repaired. but as it was Christmas Eve there was no chance of it being repaired before the new year, so the Spitfire was called into service once again (see pcture below of Spitfire between Christmas and New Year), delaying my restoration plans even further. On the plus side I can say I have driven the car for two years.