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The Magazine

Does Austin-Healey history need rewriting?

Does Austin-Healey history need rewriting?
In Austin-Healey circles ‘PMO 200’ is a bit of a legendary number. Or maybe we should say in Austin-Healey Sprite circles it is, as the Sprite is hardly taken seriously by the self confessed connoisseurs of ‘big’ Healeys? Ayway: ‘PMO’ is all about one Sprite in particular: the Sebring Sprite prototype. That car - a special bodied racing version built by racer/tuner John Sprinzel – became legendary after winning at Sebring. There is an excellent website about these cars (click here), which shares a lot of information about the original six cars built, plus the many replicas. Naturally there is plenty of attention to ‘PMO'

They write: “The first of these was a black car which was displayed wearing the registration PMO 200 at the 1961 Racing Car Show. It featured a double-curvature windscreen rather like that of the Speedwell GT, and the roof line differed slightly to that on the subsequent 5 examples built. It is not known what happened to this particular car but it did not appear in competition during the ’61 season. Soon after the show the familiar PMO registration was applied to what is now regarded as the first of the alloy-bodied Sprinzel Coupes.” And indeed, after that, the car became very well known in racing circles, doing just about any event thinkable in 1961 and early 1962.

But when you look for old pictures of ‘PMO’ you will always see the car with its signature Sebring nose, with the Frogeye-grille in situ. So, what’s the picture of it that we found in our files? It’s taken at the Racing Car Show of January 1961, but we think not on John Sprinzel’s but on Speedwell’s stand. Fortunately we have a programme book of the show, but it doesn’t help either. It says there is a special Sprite on both Sprinzel’s stand as on Speedwell’s! About Speedwell: “On view for the first time will be the production version of the Speedwell GT, based on the stock Austin Healey Sprite”, while Sprinzel’s page mentions: “John Sprinzel, whose Sprite last year was on exhibition amongst the Champion Cars as the one which gave him the RAC Rally Championship, this year shows the 1961 competition version of the Austin Healey Sprite.” Now, there we go. Healey-fans – what is this version of PMO 200? Was the first Sebring Sprite actually a Speedwell Sprite? Or did they really use the same registration number? And does Austin-Healey history need rewriting?

(text Jeroen Booij, picture Jeroen Booij archive)

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#3 2014-11-12 18:27
My Speedwell GT was at the 1960 Racing Car Show in the Championship winners' display. My later version of the Sebring Sprite was shown in the 1961 show on my own stand as John Sprinzel Racing Limited, after I had bought the Healey Speed Equipment Division from Donald Healey. Two entirely different cars, but both built by Williams and Pritchard, the Speedwell to Frank Costin's design, the Sebring to my own rough sketches.
#2 2014-11-11 18:10
The car shown in the photo is a Speedwell GT(these cars predate the Sebring Sprite)This car was one of the first built (it may even be the first one built) The coupe top and bonnets on these first cars were built by Williams and Pritchard and this car is being shown on the Williams and Pritchrd stand, showing examples of their coachwork.
#1 2014-11-09 22:49
Sprinzel's latest book "lucky John" says that the 1961 show car on his stand was not the "real" car (P106)

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