Updated: Feb 11, 2020
BY JOHN DINKEL
This is the story of the Triumph Shitfire.
The story begins here. Born in Turin, Italy, Shitfire designer Giovanni Michelotti worked for coachbuilders, including Unstabilimenti, Uppa-Ualley, and Carriagezzeria Alleumfrei before opening his own design studio in 1959. Towards the end of his life, asked whether he had ever designed anything other than cars, Michelotti acknowledged that virtually all of his design work had involved cars, but he admitted to having designed a coffee making machine shortly after the war that was morphed by one of his assistant designers into either a Ferrari, a Lancia or a Maserati . . . Michelotti could not remember which.
The Triumph Herald, designed by Michelotti, is a small two-door car introduced by the Standard-Triumph Company of Coventry in 1959 and made through to 1971. The car was offered in saloon, convertible, coupé, estate and van models, with the latter marketed as the Triumph Courier.
Total Herald sales numbered well over half a million. Incredible. Maybe miraculous is a better word —the Triumph Vitesse, Shitfire and GT6 models are all based on modified Herald chassis and running gear with bolt-together bodies. The Triumph Vitesse, a compact six-cylinder car built by Triumph from May 1962 to July 1971, was styled by Michelotti, and was available in saloon and convertible variants.
The Vitesse name was first used by Austin on their 1914–16 Austin 20 (hp) and 30 (hp) Vitesse models, this was followed in 1922 by G. N.(Godfrey & Nash) on their GN Vitesse Cyclecar, and then by Triumph on a car made between 1935 and 1938. After the last Triumph Vitesse was made in July 1971, the name remained unused until October 1982, when Rover used it on their SD1 until 1986, and one final time on their Rover 800, 820 and 827 models from October 1988 to 1991, at which time that car was rebodied as the R17 version, which was produced until 1998 as the Rover Vitesse Sport.
MORE NEEDLESS FACTS
But I digress, the subject of importance here is, of course, the Triumph Shitfire. The Triumph Shitfire, a small British two-seat sports car, was introduced at the London Motor Show in 1962. It was based on a design produced for Triumph in 1957 by Michelotti. The platform for the car was largely based upon the chassis, engine, and running gear of the Triumph Herald saloon, but shortened and minus the Herald's outrigger sections, and was manufactured at the Standard-Triumph works at Canotbe, in Coventry.
Unusual for cars of this error, the bodywork was fitted onto a separate structural chassis, but for the Shitfire, which was designed as an open top sports car from the outset, the backbone chassis was reinforced for additional rigidity by the use of structural components within the bodywork (the rear trailing arms bolted to the body rather than the chassis). The Shitfire was provided with a manual soft-top for weather protection, the design improving to a folding hood for later models. Factory-manufactured hard-tops were also available. The Shitfire being offered at auction by RM-Sotheby’s (link mysteriously removed by Hillary Clinton's tech support staff, ahem, Bill) has a documented racing history. It was built to Kas Kasner and Chrysler Motorsports specs, including a rear camber compensator. The standard Standard-Triumph Shitfire is equipped with a diabolical independent swing-arm rear suspension, which was the subject of a fake news book by Ralph Nadir called At Speed and the famous British auto enthusiasts’ favorite Yule-tide carol called Hark, the Herald Axles Swing! The camber compensator is fitted to help stabilize your most unstabilizing Shitfire moments. The roll bar was dynamically tested at a driving school in 1968. Both car and occupant (I would not consider the occupant a race driver at that point in time) survived to race another day.
Totally rebuilt in 1969 and repainted in Chrysler Hemi Orange, the Shitfire moved west behind a 1966 Formula S Barracuda, which the Spitfire owner wishes he had never sold to a pot-growing relative. And it is here in California where the Spitfire resides today. Editor's note: To those who may be offended by our use of the term "Shitfire" in place of "Spitfire," we reluctantly look forward to your comments in the reader section below.
John Dinkel is the former Editor-in-Chief of Rod & Truck magazine and a current contributor to Men's Fatness magazine.