I read with some interest the story on Herschel Silverstone’s real Sebring Sprite in the Fall issue of Moss Motoring and started thinking to myself, “Maybe not so real!”
Geoff Healey and I did not actually homologate (the FTA’s technical term for registering the specification of a competition car) until the fall of 1960.The first official Sebring Sprite came in third overall in that year’s Liege-Rome-Liege Rally and the second car we produced came in second overall in the same year’s RAG Rally of Great Britain.
We produced in excess of one hundred Sebrings, with probably six originals having the full alloy coupe body work. Production of the Sebring Sprites, which listed John Sprinzel Limited as the manufacturer, began with car number two as the first prototype was built by Paul Hawkins and myself at the Donald Healey Speed Equipment workshop on Grosvenor Street in London’s West End.
By definition, the Sebrings had a wider track, a 997cc motor with Girling front disc brakes and drum brakes at the rear. The confusion regarding Healey’s own Sprites (which were raced at Seining but were never actually called “Sebrings” by the factory or by the Healeys) was because using the name of a racetrack was not permitted by the contracts between motor manufacturers and their association, the SMMMT, which also registered the various model names to prevent unauthorized use.
This does not mean that Herschel’s and other Sprite racers are not genuine. In fact, Stirling Moss and myself were the drivers of two factory-entered Sprites in 1960, in the 12- and four-hour races! Bruce McLaren and, I think, Walt Hansgen drove the others. Stirling had won the four-hour race in 1959 with a Healey-prepared car and no doubt the car in question was one of those mentioned in Herschel’s story.
I do not think these had four discs to start with, as when I was managing the Healey Speed Equipment Division, we only had the two disc conversions for sale. Future Healey racers did have four discs (Dunlop as I recall), but these could easily have been fitted later. The first appearance at Sebring of the genuine homologated Sebring Sprites was in the 1961 four-hour race, and they were driven by Stirling Moss and his sister Pat Moss together with Paul Hawkins. Paul and Cyril Simson drove one of the cars in the 12-hour race.
Aloha! —John Sprinzel