1961 Le Mans 24 hrs - #42 - John Colegate/Paul Hawkins ~ retired.
1962 Sebring 12 hours - #72 - McQueen/Colegate ~ retired engine failure.
Was Le Mans Sprite sent for scrap?
Back in August (2008) I received the following email from a guy called David:
"I was just wondering if you might be able to put my mind at rest regarding a particular car: In about 1979/80, I saw an ad in the Exchange and Mart advertising a Formula Junior engine. As I had bought the issue late, I assumed it had gone, but when it was still advertised the following week, I rang up to find it had been sold. I asked what the engine was in, and the bloke told me that it was in a Sprite. This was apparently made of aluminium, and shaped something like a little 'E type'....... This was on an old trailer which had been in a council lockup since the late sixties, and was simply being cleared. I was told the car had been cut up for the aluminium, and that the registration number was 1411 WD. I have hoped all these years that this wasn't true, and perhaps you might know that the car still exists. Regards. David ".
I promptly referred to the 'Sebring Bible', i.e. "Spritely Years", to find Tom Coulthard's entry on this car which reads as follows:
"1411WD: (registered 1.5.1961) Healey Ice Blue. Driven at LeMans by John Colgate and Paul Hawkins, this car was later sold to Mike Garton and extensively used by him in National and International events before being sold to David Corderoy for the 1966 club season."
This started me looking at some of the other text books and I was able to find a couple of photos in each of Geoff Healey's "More Healeys" and Chris Harvey's "Spridgets":
I sent emails off to Tom Coulthard, and Joe Armour, to see if any of them had more information. Joe, who lives in Australia and owns one of the later Le Mans cars, was the first to reply. He has amassed a great deal of information on these cars, and sent the following message to myself and to David:
"1411WD was an alloy bodied car built by the Donald Healey Motor Co. for the 1961 Le Mans race and originally had a sloping fastback with rounded under tail and wire wheels. The front panel was streamlined with enclosed headlights over the wheels. The bonnet was unusual in that forward of the wheels it was one piece but behind the wheels it was one full width flat panel with a horizontal opening joint line level with the top of the tyre line and it tilted forward. Race number was 42. It then was used in a number of European events and was crashed with rear end damage. For the 1963 Le Mans (this is incorrect - Ed) the rounded rear end was squared off and shortened with a Kamm ( flat almost vertical tail ) and fitted with magnesium alloy cast Healey wheels. I also have a record of it at the 1965 Nurburgring 500 km race driven by Mike Garton. That is about all I can come up with until I access my books which are in storage. Martin maybe Mike can supply later and further history. David what was your interest in the engine? These were used in the works Cooper FJ cars run by Ken Tyrrell. Some say good for 9000rpm!!!"
The following comes direct from Geoff Healey in his book, "More Healeys" :
For the 1961 Le Mans, we built a new car with fully enclosed bodywork. This was the first of a series of closed Sprites which we were to build for racing, and particularly Le Mans, up till 1968.
Tom Coulthard remembered hearing about an unidentified alloy-bodied car in a lock-up at the back of Battersea power station which was being scrapped. Unfortunately by then it was too late to save the vehicle or discover exactly what it was, so if that car was in fact 1411 WD it could unfortunately have been broken up.
Email reply from David (19 Aug 2008):
"Thanks for your reply Martin - I had hoped all these years that someone would eventually tell me that the car was alive and well, and I still have some hope....I think the car was in South London or north Kent. I was told that it had a Formula Junior engine, and possibly with a dry-sump arrangement. A Castrol oil can was mentioned, being used as a catch tank, I think. Would love to hear better news of it's fate. Regards, David"
From Mike Garton (18 Oct 2008):
" Hi, Ian Granger pointed me to the article on 1411WD. Regrettably [the story] has been guessed at by various authors who have been wrong. The car never competed at Le Mans as a 'bobtail'. Originally for 1961 the car did not have the rear quarter lights, - these were added later for vision. Bill Emerson has most [of the] facts right in his book. When I was offered the car to race in '63, replacing MEG199, it was complete as in all the Le Mans photos with the extended rear to accommodate the large fuel tank. I found it handled much better with the smaller 10 gallon tank especially at the 'Ring. At a Snetterton International sometime later I had the first set of 500L Dunlops replacing the 525 R5s and in practice on cold tyres the rear stepped out going into the 'bomb-hole'. This resulted in the rear making contact with the bank! In the paddock I seemed to be joined by hundreds of fans all wanting to help me to get it tidy for the race in which we finished ahead of the two Jacobs Midgets and Chrissie Carlisle in the alloy-bodied Mk2 from Warwick. When we returned home Mike Treutlein and I checked over the rear body which was a little tired anyway. As a result, with the help of a friend from BRM, 1411WD was taken to Folkingham were I described how I wanted the rear to look. The extended hangers were shortened, the body cut and a single sheet of alloy was superbly welded around the existing body with a small 'aero' lip just below the rear screen. As it extended down low a hole was cut for the exhaust. [The car is pictured, above right, after modification - photo courtesy of Bill Emerson's The Healey Book]. At the Autosport Finals later that year, in the dark, the term 'bobtail' Sprite first appeared. Warwick were not involved though Geoff was interested and looked closely at what we had done. After a very successful 64-65 including 2nd overall at the Guards Double 500 I was looking to upgrade to one of the 65 Le Mans cars and had approached Geoff but a deal for both was done with Richard Groves - however he asked me to drive one of them anyway. I had thought of buying a Cooper FJ and had approached Eddie Maher about an engine but a local company encouraged me to go with a Lotus 23B with their support - another story. At the Double 500 a guy named Dave Corderoy ran a Spitfire and he pestered me for the car (1411 WD). He wanted to buy the car and for me to drive it in the following year's 500 but he didn't want either myself or Mike to do the race prep' as he said he 'had a really good guy'. Big mistake all round and yet another story. Down for the Racing Car Show in January 67 I learned that he had rolled the car down the hill at Brands and he could not afford to rebuild it. It had gone to a Mews under a sheet and by then all trace was lost. I tried but could not find anything, Geoff was not best pleased either. I am still waiting for someone to 'allege' they have found it, - whoever rebuilds it better be good ! Mike Garton"
Finally, another word from David, who started this all off:
Hi Martin, thanks for the info.. it all seems a bit sad about the fate of the car, and it's perhaps looking like it might have been scrapped after all. Initially, I was only interested in the engine that was advertised (for my Mk2 Sprite), but as it was sold, I went the supercharger route instead. That didn't get too far though, as I got my first Lotus.......... I'm back now with a Sprite, but with a 1300 Ford crossflow, to see how that works out. I have always loved the Sebring Sprite, and intend to build at least a look-alike car, preferably on a quarter elliptic shell, as that's what I learnt to drive in, and still prefer to the later cars. Funny that really, after driving such refined cars as Elans and Europas for so long....... guess I just love the more rugged and simple engineering. I'd be very interested in knowing about any events featuring the Sebring cars or replicas. I'm really sorry now that I didn't pursue the 1411 car, even after it had supposedly been stripped of the alloy for scrap - easy to say with hindsight.
I was just looking at the list of Sebring reps., and noticed the registration number of your car.... which reminded me of my own. My car is 949 JGP, and although the original shell was a mark 2, it was first registered in 1964, and there was evidence that the car had been fitted with a different type of engine. Don't suppose anyone has ever seen it before?. Regards David.