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Dedicated to the memory of the late Brian Archer who fulfilled his dream to re-create John Sprinzel's Sebring Sprite Coupé

 

5435 WD ~ chassis ST 456

As Tom Coulthard states in 'Spritely Years' back in 1994 : ".... 5435 WD, Ice Blue with dark stripe, reputed to be the 1961 practice car (Sebring 12 Hours). Loaned to the nineteen-year-old Clive Baker for the 1962 season, this car was bought in 1963 from Warwick by Nick Ramus, who campaigned it for some years before passing it on to Frank Tiedeman, who is still competing in it at hillclimb events. The car retains its original glass fibre back end."

However we have since discovered that between Nick's and Frank's ownerships was another owner, Tony Straker, who owned the car from late 1969 until 02 Oct 1976. Tony had another Sprite, 2791 MP, and seems to have swapped registrations when using the rally car on the road. His son, Mark believes it was his father who created the boot opening, added wheel arch flares and bonded the hardtop to the body. His mother confirms that Tony bought the car from Nick Ramus, and Dave Williamson remembers sharing an autocross drive with Tony in 1972 when the car sported registration GVV 432F, believed taken from the tow car. Dave also co-drove the car in August 1975 on the Farnborough DMC 'Summer Sort Out' stage rally but a “yump”(in Bagshot he believes) put the fan through the radiator!

In recent years, I understand the car was little used due to Frank's advancing years. The car was, at some time, fitted with a W & P Sebring bonnet which may account for the loss of the angled break point between bonnet and wing characteristic of the prototype 'works' cars. Engine No. is XSP 1736 (Bonhams).

From John Baggott's "Mighty Midgets & Special Sprites": 'He (Clive Baker) was awarded a contract in 1962 and drove '5435 WD' at most of the British circuits, rarely finishing outside the top three in his class. He also raced '5345 WD' at the Nürburgring 500km with team-mate Peter Jackson'.... 'Sussex driver Nick Ramus ran a variety of Sprites in autocross, scoring a surprise FTD at the Maidstone and Mid-Kent Car Club round of the Player's No. 6 Championship on 27th April 1969. The foul weather and muddy conditions favoured his 1.3 wire-wheeled, ex-Clive Baker Sebring Sprite, 5435 WD, enabling him to beat the likes of Barry Lee, Rod Chapman and John Taylor, who found their extra power to be an embarrassment.'

David Morys recently sent me a photo of a maroon Sprite fitted with a works Mark 2 hardtop and Williams & Pritchard Sebring bonnet. He was unsure of its identity but a display of the photo (at Prescott, right) on the 'Latest News' page immediately produced its identification by Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird and Ian Grainger. Gary Lazarus kindly supplied 4 more pictures. [The identity of the photographer(s) is unknown - if it's you please let me know]. Thanks guys.

This further photo 5435 WD was also kindly supplied by David Morys and comes from the Bugatti O.C. archive kept by Paul Gibbons. It shows Tiedeman driving 5435 WD through the Esses at the Prescott Hill Climb back in April 1990.

Soon after Frank Tiedeman's death, the car was sold at auction by Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on 12th July, 2013 - for £32,000 plus commission (to a Canadian collector, David Thomson, whose "inclination is to leave the machine in its present state, with all its distinctive modifications"). See also "Your Comments" Oct,2015.

5435 WD - 7
photos courtesy of Bonhams
5435 WD - 8


The car was said to have been a "Sebring practice car" in 1961. However in Geoff Healey's book "More Healeys" he states that 10 cars were flown out for the Sebring races that year: “two twin-cam MGAs plus one practice car and two of our Sprites for the twelve hour race, and three of our Sprites for the four hour race. In addition John Sprinzel produced two of his Sebring Sprites to run in both events”. So, from this there would appear to have been no practice Sprite. As we know the works Sprites were registered: 8423 UE; 8424 UE; and 8425 UE, these 3 with fibreglass bodywork; 8426 UE (the Roadster); and 8427 UE (the Walt Hansgen car with Les Ireland top). My little book on car registrations informs me that the UE plates with 4 figures in front were issued by Warwickshire from June 1960, while the WD plates with 4 figures in front were not issued until April 1961, after Sebring which was held on 24/25th March. This leaves us with a couple of possibilities: either 5435 WD was one of the 3 ‘works’ Sebring standard-shape race cars and the plate was changed after its return to the UK, or it was built to the Sebring spec after the event. Of course the Healeys invariably sold the cars to US dealers after Sebring so maybe they brought just one car home and re-numbered it before it was loaned to Clive Baker. However, Tom Coulthard tells me that one of the DHMC's junior employees was sent down to the Warwickshire County Council offices the day after the team's return from Sebring in 1961 to surrender all the UE registrations and so recover the full year's road tax on the cars, something which was possible in those days. This seems to have become common practice for them as we know it happened in 1965 and '66, after cars were sold on, while still overseas. So why build a 4th car and then lend it to Clive Baker for the '62 season? I suppose it's possible they had built 4 cars initially and only taken 3 to Sebring, only registering the 4th after the race. Tom also told me how the chassis plate on the "Roadster" had the same number as that on 1411 WD - all very strange!

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5435 WD 2
The car in its original form
2341UE
Clive Baker with his former race car and Ian Grainger's Sebring, 2341 UE
5435 WD -3
Auto-crossing
2791 MP
Tony Straker
5435WD
Tony's son Mark with the car
5435 WD
Tony's other Sprite
5435WD
At an autocross event
5435 WD
Tony Straker with the car
Morys PrescottAt Prescott hillclimb
[photo: David Morys]
5435 WD
? Thruxton 2002
5435 WD

5435 WD 10

5435 WD 9

Brands
March 1965 - the car in the hands of Nick Ramus at a Brands Hatch sprint