Apr 12, 2016 update to the Triumph 1500 Spitfire project car

Spitfire Bumpers: Smaller is Better

Bumpers from a 1971 Spitfire will fit all the way up to a 1980 car, if you make a few simple modifications. A 1973 bumper just has a badge, and not a license plate light, but we haven’t found that one yet.
A quick steel wool rub gave us a driver quality finish. If we don’t find better bumpers we will eventually get these chromed.
As you can see, the early bumpers are much more attractive. What you can’t see, is how much lighter the early bumpers are. The pair of chrome bumpers weigh roughly 80 pounds less!
You literally have to cut the hood hinge surround (which doubles as the bumper cover mount) to make the old style (1971-1973) plastic bumper cover fit.

When we bought our 1980 Spitfire from Automotive Restorations, owner and fellow Spitfire lover Kent Bain, he admitted that he had bought the car from a local kid that was quickly ruining it. While Kent had started sorting the car, we convinced him that he didn’t have time for such nonsense and we bought the car as is.

One of the things that had been started was a conversion to early chrome bumpers. Late 1979.5 and 1980 model Spitfires came with some tremendously big, ugly bumpers to meet ever tightening, five mile per hour federal crash regulations.

Fortunately with a bit of cutting and grinding, you can replace thee ugly bumpers with early, chrome Spitfire bumpers.

The ones you really want are from a 1973 car, as they don’t have the license plate light mounted on the bumper. While you can take this light off 1971 and 1972 rear bumpers, you will be left with some rather large holes.

We have not been able to find that 1973 bumper, but we did find a pair of bumpers from a 1971 Spitfire. We’ll just live with having multiple license plate lights for now. Fortunately, not many people will notice this anomaly.

The rear bumper is pretty much a straight swap. There is some additional bracing in the trunk you can keep or leave behind depending on how much the weight matters to you. We left the extra bracing off the car.

Up front, you will have to carve the hood hinge surround to fit a 1971-1973 style, black plastic bumper cover. These covers are getting harder and harder to find, but we picked up set on eBay for a couple hundred dollars.

Once you have ground this hinge surround down, you need to weld or screw a bracket on to the bottom to attach the plastic cover.

This modification knocks a foot off the length of your car and nearly 100 pounds, while making it look much more svelte.

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View comments on the CMS forums
spitfirebill UltimaDork
4/13/16 7:29 a.m.

I would have never noticed the duplicate license plate lights. I have been looking of a 71 or 72 rear bumper for a while. Stupid thing is a GAVE one away years ago before I got my 80 Spit.

Dave Reader
4/13/16 9:18 a.m.

Even a 1978 or so rear bumper is usuable. I took the extra bits and pieces off and underneath was a slim early style bumper. There were a couple holes that I covered with chrome carriage bolts but pretty good for a driver level car on a budget. Cost? Less than $10 for six carriage bolts and nuts.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/13/16 9:12 p.m.

Yes, you can also use a later bumper, but you will have to fill the holes either by welding and then rechroming, or by filling in with a couple of extra bumper bolts.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA Dork
4/18/16 11:16 a.m.

So what does it drive like after losing all that weight from each end?

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/21/16 6:43 a.m.

Actually, this car drives pretty darned well. We have been fixing several things at once, so it is hard to measure just the difference the bumper change made. Still, you can definitely feel the difference in handling and straight line performance when you knock a hundred or so pounds off the corners of an 1800 pound Spitfire

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