A car that GRR was recently smitten by when we came across it in the wilds of East Sussex turns out to have several claims to fame, one of which is that it raced in the very last period meeting at Goodwood in 1966!
Now it could just be time for a comeback since it also turns out this car is up for sale – for the first time since 1967 – and, we are led to believe, be potentially a very welcome entrant again at Goodwood in the Fordwater Trophy. It’s a little late for Revival this year but there’s always 2016…
The car is a Sebring Sprite, one of just six rebodied Austin-Healey Sprites made by London car tuner John Sprinzel in 1961. The Sprite was already a successful competition car in Frogeye form – the car now for sale, reg WJB 707, was originally driven by Pat Moss in several continental rallies, including the 1960 Tour de Corse, when it was run by the BMC Competitions department. Sprites also ran at Sebring in long distance races.
By 1961 however the Frogeye needed to be lighter and more aerodynamic to be competitive and that’s where Sprinzel came in. He got coachbuilders Williams & Pritchard to fashion a flowing new coupe body, complete with curved windscreen.
The conversion of this particular car from frog to swan was commissioned in 1961 by its then owner, Ian Walker, noted Lotus driver (and soon to be team owner with drivers such as Graham Hill and Jim Clark). According to the excellent website sebringsprite.com, Walker had the car for just one season but achieved class records at all the circuits at which it appeared, and won 15 races. It is said the car raced at the Nurburgring 500km and finished fifth, ensuring the team of three Sprites took the team prize ahead of Abarth.
With its lightweight alloy body and superior aerodynamics, the 1.0-litre Sebring Sprite coupe was not just notably pretty but pretty effective too, fulfilling Sprinzel’s dream for it. This particular car, boasting a lightened aluminium floor and the Girling disc brake/wire wheel conversion, went on to compete through the ‘60s before racing for the last time in the UK at Goodwood in 1966. It was then bought by the current owner, Stephen Bowen, who continued to race it until 1987 when it was taken off the road, awaiting restoration.
That’s all now complete and the result sits in the entrance to CCK Historic in High Hurstwood, East Sussex, where the car is for sale with an asking price of £85,000.
And very neat and tidy it looks too – it certainly had us thinking ‘if only…’
Photography by Tom Shaxson