It’s a common saying not to judge a book by its cover–or, in the case of Dawson County resident Timothy Blythe, to judge his 1964 Triumph Spitfire car by its body.
Though newer parts can be seen gleaming through the hood, much of the vintage vehicle is, at first glance, an eclectic assemblage of body panels in different stages of rust and a repurposed red-orange-and-black “Trucks Entering/Leaving Highway” sign for the roof.
“It looks like a pile of junk, but it’s got some good stuff in it, and it takes a keen eye to kind of see what’s actually going on here,” Blythe said.
Ever since last year’s Florida-based Sick Week street car competition, Blythe’s been hard at work preparing the Triumph Spitfire, his second such vehicle, for the 2023 races.
His efforts have paid off, with him earning a spot for this year’s Sick Week, amongst over 1,000 people from around the world who applied for the event, said his wife, Kaitlyn.
Similar to past competitions, the 2023 Sick Week will be hosted from Feb. 12-17 across four racetracks in Georgia and Florida.
It’s taken a lot of work for Blythe to get to this point, with much of his efforts showcased on his “BlytheLife Racing” Facebook and YouTube pages and previous DCN articles.
Blythe explained that considering all the work he’s done in the past year, it might be better to point out what’s the same on his Triumph Spitfire.
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The car’s body, transmission, platform and part of the stock frame underneath the vehicle from the firewall forward are about where the similarities end as compared to the earlier version.
Blythe mentioned he completed much of the upgrades at his boss’s personal garage.
Now, the street car boasts a 383 LS engine, twin turbos instead of one and a bigger radiator, Blythe said.
“There’s not a lot of real estate,” he said about space for the radiator, “so I have to make sure what is there performs the best it can.”
He also elongated the wheelbase and installed a flat spoiler to help stabilize the car for its high-speed runs on the track.
Blythe likewise stretched the hood about 10 inches in order to meet the National Hot Rod Association’s safety standards.
His most arduous undertaking, though, was retrofitting a tube chassis cage for the street car, he said. Blythe did all of the upgrades in past months himself, often working 12-hour stints to get what’s known as TIG welding done for the chassis frame.
“Whenever you build a chassis like this, you have to take the body and cut everything out of it,” Blythe said. “Then, you build a go-kart frame with a whole lot more tubes…and you have to get everything tight and spend time welding it.”
Fortunately after all of that elbow grease, the chassis passed certification with the NHRA. The speed contestants are allowed to go in the quarter-mile competitions depends on the type of cage in their cars, Blythe said.
While he’s only allowed to go about 8.5 seconds in that kind of race; his cage could allow him to go as fast as 6.9 seconds or over 200 mph, he added.
So, Blythe said he’s happy now that his Triumph Spitfire is “certified to hang with some of the bigger cars.”
With the scope of improvements he’s done, a sponsorship from Flowery Branch-based company Brightside IT Solutions has helped make the Spitfire’s second iteration possible.
Kaitlyn said that last year, she was looking for a sponsor in a separate half-marathon she’s participating in when she came across the IT company.
Then after learning about the Spitfire in July, the company’s CEO, Rich Hervig, pitched helping Blythe with the chassis build, in the hopes that the additional cash would help make Blythe's dream of getting the street car back into Sick Week a reality, she added.
“He had had a Triumph [Spitfire] in earlier years,” Blythe said. “That’s one of the big reasons he really liked the car…that’s usually how it goes. Usually, you or somebody you know had something like that when you were younger.”
Considering the money he could’ve had to spend on upgrades without a sponsorship, Blythe is especially grateful for the support.
Upgrade costs have tallied about $20,000, which Blythe considers “extremely cheap” for all that he was aiming to get done.
“For the caliber of what this thing will be racing at, it’s not unusual to spend at least $50,000 or $100,000…it gets pretty expensive, because the faster you go, the more money you’ve got to spend,” he said.
After months of labor, Blythe has finally got the Spitfire to the condition at which he originally wanted it to be.
While many hot rods are present at drag racing strips, Blythe said they’re mostly different than
what his wife called the Spitfire’s “Mad Max feel,” with many owners favoring more prevalent, well-known domestic car models.
“There’s not a lot of people who’d take an import and try to do this,” Blythe added. “While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it's fun, especially with this engine combination. It’s reliable and easy.”
As he looks forward to Sick Week in February, Blythe hopes to get seven seconds out of it but is expecting an eight-second average out of it for the week, compared to the 11 seconds he averaged last year.
He’s eager to meet people from as far away as Australia or the United Kingdom, and he even has plans to attend later competitions this summer.
“I still want to just finish,” Blythe said about being a part of Sick Week. “The more power you make or the more expectations you have, the easier it is to forget than in order to complete it, you actually have to finish.”