Iain MacPherson

Triumph Vitesse 2.5Ltr

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My 1966 Triumph Vitesse was originally a white 2 litre saloon with a black interior & overdrive. It was first registered on 1 January 1967 to a company called Froom-Wimbledon Ltd. It had 2 further owners. Morris Williams (from Northumberland who upgraded from a 1600 Vitesse saloon in 1968 and kept it for three years before selling it to his friend) and William (Bill) Strassheim (who at that time lived near Morris. Bill used the car a daily driver for many years and moved to Lennoxtown near Glasgow before putting it off the road for restoration). I bought in August 2000 when it was running but in need of a lot of work to bring it up to a roadworthy standard. I did a quick renovation and got it on the road in December that year. I ran it for about a year before taking it off the road. I then started gathering parts to restore it and to make it into a convertible. I started in earnest in November 2004. My target was to drive it to the Le Mans Classic in July 2006. I stripped it right down it’s amazing how much more space a car takes up when it’s in bits!!

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The main chassis rails had been crudely patched over very rusty metal and elsewhere it had rusted through in quite a few areas. When I stood it up a few pounds of rust shale fell out of it. I cut out all the rusty areas and fabricated new plates to repair the main rails and to strengthen the inner box section of the chassis which in some places was in very poor condition. I used good quality 1/16” gauge steel plate for these jobs, which I cut out from shop shelving I had acquired when our local Safeway store went through a refit. I bought a Clarke spot welder from Machine Mart in Glasgow so I could spot weld in the places originally welded in this way. When I got the spot welder home I discovered that instead of being able to fit a 13 amp plug it had to be hard wired into my garage through a separate fuse to the mains as it drew 26 amps! My neighbour who is a commissioning electrical engineer installed it for me. It was very useful and made good strong joints. I bought heavy-duty 14-gauge steel outriggers and side rails from Chic Doig in Kirkcaldy. I also had to repair the front cross tube ends and around the front anti-roll bar mountings. I considered having the chassis galvanised but decided to paint it body colour for the car. The inside of the chassis and outriggers I treated by pouring in a couple of gallons of Waxoyl and turning it all ways to cover all the surfaces. 
 I grit blast blasted all the suspension parts and painted them with black smooth hammerite. I had to repair the front lower wishbones which had elongated holes where the trunnion attaches. I welded a thick washer on either side of the outer face then welded up the worn area and drilled through the wishbones to make good the hole. A longer bolt was then used. I fitted poly bushes, new dampers and uprated front springs. I also fitted an uprated front anti-roll bar. I retained the swing axle spring which had been uprated. 
I renewed the brakes including; master cylinder, front discs, rear drums, rear wheel cylinders, Goodrich hoses, Kunifer brake lines, handbrake cables, shoes and pads. I overhauled the front callipers. The wheels are Cobra alloys with 175/70 x 13 tyres. 
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 I fitted new carpets and high back, Corbeau GTB reclining seats, which were specially made for me in light tan Ambla to match the rest of the interior. I had to modify the transmission tunnel and make new seat frames to enable the seats to be moved inboard so they would recline. I also had to realign the handbrake as space is now tight between the seats. I bought a new navy blue mohair hood from the Triumph Sorts-Six Club which looks really good with the light blue paintwork. 
The bulkhead was in reasonable condition but I had to modify the top rail to accommodate the change from saloon to convertible by replacing part of the top rail above the windscreen where the hood catches are situated. The body tub also had to be modified to accommodate the conversion to a convertible, the rear deck, wing tops and inner B posts were cut off both the Vitesse and a scrapped Herald convertible tub.  The convertible parts were then welded to the saloon lower panels. The doorstep / body mounting areas along both sides of the car were badly rusted from the front of the bulkhead, underneath the A and B-posts to the front of the rear wheel arches. I had read a Practical Classics article where Andy Gough, (who was restoring a Herald for them) had made repair sections for this area in 16 gauge steel. 
I contacted him and convinced him that I had the necessary skill and equipment to fit them and he agreed to make them for me. They fitted really well and with them and the heavy duty side rails have made the sides of the car more rigid. The worst part of the restoration was grit blasting the surface corrosion from the body sections. I made a polythene tent and after spraying the grit I then had to sweep it up and filter it before reusing it.  Where I had welded in repair sections on the outer panels I lead loaded then skimmed with filler. The undersides I seam sealed the repair sections and applied Bondaprimer before painting them with two pack paint. On the bonnet I replaced both of the front wings and repaired some other areas at the front which were rusted through. I bought a pattern, nearside wing for a 13/60 at the Triumph Sports-Six Club’s International Show at Stafford in the early Nineties, which cost just £15. I had to buy a Vitesse offside wing though. I got one from T.D. Fitchett Ltd, which was a really good pressing, benefiting from the reinforcing strip at the rear already being in place but was considerably more than £15!  When fitting the new wings to the bonnet top it’s very important to get the positioning just right so the swage lines then match the doors. I came across a problem when I attempted to spot weld the wings to the bonnet top I couldn’t get the copper electrodes anywhere near the join line as access was so tight. I could have bought a suitable set of electrodes for my spot welder to get round this problem, but they cost £60 a pair, so I bought a length of ½" copper rod and made my own set.  I fitted repair sections to the rear wings where required. I also repaired the front valence and the centre section of the rear valence. The two rear side valences were renewed. The petrol tank was very rusty so I used Frost tank sealer. The spare wheel-well was beyond saving, so I replaced it. The sills were missing so I bought new ones. I started running out of time so I got my friend Dougie McIntyre to help out with the finishing jobs on the body. He fitted new door skins, repaired the lower section of one of the doors and sprayed the car in two-pack paint Wedgwood Blue  
Although I had the 2 litre engine I got offered a 2.5 litre engine by a friend (Norman McIntosh) who was a lecturer at Springburn Technical College in Glasgow. The engine had been donated by Triumph many years ago for demonstration and instruction purposes. Norman acquired the engine after it became surplus on account of it being out of date for the apprentice motor mechanics of the time. His intention had been to fit it into his Spitfire, but it never happened.  
There was some serious internal water damage to the block because the spark plugs had not been fully tightened. The pistons were seized and the crankshaft journals damaged. I stripped the engine and honed the bores. This revealed how deeply the corrosion had set in. I took the engine to West of Scotland Engineering in Glasgow. They carried out a 30 thou’ rebore, reground crankshaft by 20 thou’ and dynamically balanced the crankshaft, front damper, flywheel and clutch cover. I fitted new oversized pistons and used the Vitesse con-rods, as they are lighter which I balanced at home. As the 2.5 engine has a longer throw on the crankshaft than the 2 litre, I had to modify the Vitesse sump to allow extra clearance. This was achieved by bolting the sump onto the engine, then turning the engine over by hand, this left marks where the con-rod bolts had touched the bottom of the sump pan under the front 3 big ends. I then created extra clearance by hammering the bottom of the sump out to allow 3/16” clearance, plus the thickness of the sump gasket. I double checked this by applying plasticene to the bottom of the sump and turning the engine over and seeing the result. I sent the cylinder head to be gas flowed and converted for unleaded fuel by Tony Lindsay–Dean of Kingston Sports Cars. I used the Vitesse camshaft as I felt this would be best option. The rest of the engine was in very good condition and required no work. I had the twin 1 ¾” S.U. carburettors rebuilt by Andrew Turner and fitted them on a ‘long branch’, Triumph 2500S, inlet manifold. The exhaust system is a straight through custom made from stainless steel. The manifold is a Phoenix 6-3-2-1. There is a small expansion box and rear silencer with twin tail pipes. It has a lovely purposeful note without being too loud. Thanks to Simons Customs Exhaust in East Kilbride. 
I was well chuffed when it started up for the first time. I used the car and got the engine fully run in before taking it to Peter Baldwin in Cambridge for a rolling road tune up as I felt it was running too rich and using more fuel than necessary. When I arrived he said “Is it warmed up?” I said “It should be as I have just driven down from the other side of Glasgow.” Peter was quite complimentary about the car and remarked it made a nice change to be working on something which was well built with all the components in good condition. He did a before and after reading on the dynometer. The final reading after tuning had not improved from the 137 bhp at maximum but the car was running more smoothly and using a lot less fuel. I fitted a new Borg and Beck clutch and had the gearbox and D type overdrive overhauled by Mike Papworth who did a great job in quick time. The final drive is a reconditioned diff with a GT6 ratio of 3.27. I have retained the standard swing axle rear suspension.  
.I am very pleased with its performance. I have driven it on the track at Le Mans and Spa. The Le Mans track suits the car better than Spa because the longer straights allow the car to wind itself up.