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In the market for a Spit, what engine mods?


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Hi, i'm in the process of looking for a spitfire and trying to decide what i want to do in the way of making one a bit nippier once i find one.

I am a motorcycle race engineer by trade and have full machine shop/facilities for doing pretty much anything.

One option is to tune the original engine but i was thinking more along the lines of either dropping a GT6 engine in (is this feasible? all the GT6 conversions i have seen have been putting a Spit body on a GT6 chassis) or putting something modern like a zetec or 16V red top lump in running on carbs?

Whats your views guys? Any help, pointers in the right direction of conversions already done would be very much appreciated.


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Do a search on this site; various discussions about this. A GT6 setup will fit a Spitfire quite easily but you need a lot of minor GT6 items to do it properly (and the brakes/suspension/bonnet).

One popular conversion is to move the GT6 engine back by 6'' using a Spitfire Front Plate. This gives a more balanced car.

Or you can tune the 1300 / 1500 to give another 20-305 bhp depending on work making it nearer the standard GT6 power (but a bit more fragile). I personally like the smooth torque of the Triumph 6 pot. But then with injection etc your looking at 150+bhp.

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I like my zetec spit. Easy to get 150 bhp, mostly cheap and parts from the kitcar brigade. Type 9 gearbox straight fit, whole lot similar weight to std spit so handles in the same way (can be quite good).
Fit is a bit hit and miss, needs bulkhead cutting to fit, and bigger front brakes (GT6 perfect) but no hard and fast rules. With machine shop available, some porting/flowing etc some of he zetecs are over 200bhp with throttle bodies/injection.
Sparks from custom ecu (megasquirt/emerald or megajolt easiest if you run carbs)


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I like the idea of the Mk3 as the 1500 motor seems like its a bit fragile crank wise from what i have read.

If i was going to use the stock motor i think the mk3 would be a better bet? I have read that the issue with the 1500 was the fact it only has 3 main bearings, does the 1300 have more than 3 or is it just with the smaller pistons etc it doesn't give the crank such a hard time?

My last "fun" car was a mk2 XR2 Fiesta which i built and tuned a 1.6CVH motor for, that thing went like a rocket and pulled to 7000rpm like crazy, i would like to do a similar thing with the Spitfire as the XR2 was a real sleeper in that people didn't think it would be as quick as it was.

So, mk3 engine, ported, cammed, exhaust/manifold, fit a set of bike carbs (funnily enough i have a few spare sets knocking around) and electronic ignition and i should be in for some fun?

Got to be easier than doing an engine swap and all the hassle that entails? And simpler to insure!

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Agreed on the handling.

The XR2 was soo much fun because it was so light and nimble, after i had that i went for an early Toyota MR2 mk2 which i loved, it had adjustable shocks all round, uprated anti-roll bars and various other bits and pieces, loved the car to bits as it was amazing to drive but unfortunately a member of the opposite sex decided to pull out on me and write it off!

In my foolishness i went out and bought a Vectra SRI 2.5V6 estate, great car, fast in straight line and practical (as i have 2 dogs) but the thing wallows soo much i don't enjoy driving it. Mentioned that to the missus the other week and she said "tell you what, why don't we sell my ford focus, i'll have the vectra because its so practical and good for long journeys and you can get something sporty again"......i didn't need telling twice! lol!

I decided i want a Spitfire as i nearly bought one a couple of years back and my dad and i restored a Triumph TR4 which i loved to bits but he sold it after 7 years of ownership for various reasons......i was not impressed! I can't stretch to another TR4 so decided a Spitfire would be ideal and i love the look of them.

With regards to the engine tuning i have this persistent problem of whatever vehicle i buy i MUST make it faster! Its a disease common amongst people in the tuning world....lol!

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There many different engine combination that have been fitted to Spitfire over the years.

From V8?s. V6?s, Fiats, Vauxhall, Ford what ever.

It really depends how much you want to upset the purists,

At the end of the day the Triumph 1300/1500 lump of iron does runs out of breath somewhere around the 130 bhp and it is going to cost you mega bucks to get it.

Although you can gain a fair amount of BHP quite cheaply.

My 1300 Toledo powered Spitty was throwing out 110 bhp when she was running Mikuni/Solex 40?s, mod head, cam, lighten and balanced with a 4 branch and a few little Tweaks .

At the moment she back on SU?s and is probably producing about 90 bhp and is still quite nippy but getting a bit Smokey.

The next motor is going to be a MK3 engine because they have lighter internals to start with and lend them better for tuning.

As Cliftyhanger says he followed the kit car route with the Zetec, which sound quite a nice conversion and would not cost as much as tuning a Triumph engine to its max.

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The nice thing about tuning the stock engine is that it actually won't cost me much other than time.

Because i tune engines (mainly motorbike) for a living i've got all the tools and know how so it will only really cost me for parts....which again i should be able to get cheap as i have trade accounts with various people.

Bike carbs will be a cheap way (for me) of making the intake side breath better and i have the facilities for making manifolds for them too.

I reckon mk3 engine and lots of tuning has got to be the way to go!

It would be nicer to keep the original motor in too.

100bhp would be enough i reckon in a 800kg car.......will have to see how it goes once i get one!

Thanks for all the input guys!

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billspit wrote:
Isn't the Rover K motor a pretty easy conversion?  We can't get them here without some real expensive shipping.    

I really do not think so!
the sideways conversion is lucky because he has a large buge in the bonnet already, it wouldn't fit under a std one. Thats just for starters, but very important. I doubt a GT6 bonnet would have a wide enough bulge either.
Add to that the side exhaust etc it really is not as straightforward (if any are) as some of the other options.
Plus , and I really do not want to start a massive argument, the K series does have a reputation for head gasket problems, which can be very nasty. I am sure if they are built with all the super modified gaskets, carefull assembled etc they may well be fine, but it would worry me. (just bought a hardtop for my spit from an elise owner, he was seriously getting fed up with the repair bills from specialists)

And I like my Zetec!

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sambdk wrote:

I have read that the issue with the 1500 was the fact it only has 3 main bearings, does the 1300 have more than 3 or is it just with the smaller pistons etc it doesn't give the crank such a hard time?

The 1500 has a bigger throw than the 1300. It's the middle two con-rods/pistons quietly beating the shit out of the middle bearing that causes the grief on the 1500.  :'(

The 1500 is a stroked version of the 1300.

Also the Mk III 1300 crank has smaller diameter mains than the MkIV 1300 and 1500 engines. So the MkIII revs nicer due to less drag when compared to the MkIV.

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