1961 Austin-Healey "Sebring Sprite" Lightweight Works SpecialSOLD
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Estimate: $65,000-$85,000 US

Sold: $69,300

Est.100bhp, 1,275 cc inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with double trailing links and quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 80"

Following on the success of the Austin-Healey 100, Donald Healey and BMC teamed up to produce yet another sports-car legend, the Sprite. Introduced in 1958 and affectionately known as the “Bugeye” or “Frog-eye” by virtue of its hood-mounted headlamps, the Sprite combined a lightweight steel unit-body structure with a 948 cc BMC A-series four-cylinder engine and other mechanical components from the Morris Minor. The cars were prized for their remarkable steering response and handling, and quickly took the racing world by storm.

Well aware of the correlation between racing and sales success, Healey and BMC campaigned “works” Sprites in the most important American sports car races, particularly the Sebring 12-Hour endurance race. The name “Sebring Sprite” was described by marque experts John Sprinzel and Tom Coulthard in the book Spritely Years as a catch-all term, referring to racing Sprites that were homologated under FIA guidelines with four-wheel disc brakes, as well as other mechanical and engine upgrades. The Healey/BMC works team cars were taken directly from the BMC Abingdon production line and delivered to the Donald Healey Motor Co. in Warwick, where they were race-prepared under the able supervision of Geoff Healey.

In March 1959, the team launched its first assault on Sebring with four standard-bodied Sprites, sweeping the under 1.5-liter class with first, second and third place finishes. The team returned in 1960, with Stirling Moss taking first in class and fourth overall in the four-hour race, while John Sprinzel and John Lumkin took first in class during the grueling 12-hour event. The Sprites returned to Sebring in 1961, taking six of the eight top places in the four-hour race. Ed Leavens, Bruce McLaren, Walt Hansgen, Briggs Cunningham and Dick Thompson, as well as Stirling Moss and his sister Pat, drove the cars with a variety of GRP, alloy and coupe bodies.

For the 12-hour event, two “works” cars were entered, with 8427 UE using an alloy hardtop body by Les Ireland, which finished second in class, while the car offered here, 8426 UE, was fitted with an alloy roadster body that was the work of the Healey Experimental Department, under Roger Menadue. Wearing race number 65 and co-driven by Ed Leavens and John Colgate, the car finished third in class, and 25th overall. Recently, Mr. Leavens described 8426 UE as being “much faster and better handling” than the more standard “Sebring Sprites”, and as “…real race cars, considering their era.”

While little is known of 8426 UE after 1961, it did remain in the U.S.A., and was purchased by Mark Flanders of Weston, Florida in 1986. In 1990, the car received a frame-off restoration by Tsikuris Classics of Lakeland, Florida. In 2008, Eurocoach of Fort Lauderdale freshened the Sprite with new paint and mechanical work, at a cost of $40,000. Continuing its winning ways, 8426 UE returned to Sebring, taking first in the SVRA Spring Fling event, as well as first in the HSR night race. On the show field in 2008, this handsome, alloy-bodied sports racer secured first place awards at both the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance. It is certainly a very rare and desirable Austin-Healey racing car. Beautifully restored, it would be a formidable vintage racer with several impressive awards to boot.

Note this vehicle is sold on a Bill of Sale Only.

Reference Number 38537

as of 2/10/2009

Car 1961 Austin-Healey "Sebring Sprite" Lightweight Works Special
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