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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

 

7140 RO ~ Speedwell GT

The life of this little car is pretty convoluted:

This Speedwell GT started life painted white with a British Racing Green nose, alloy roof, steel doors, a later fibreglass 3-vent Monza bonnet and a steel rear end and was raced by its owner, Jack Mathe, owner of Waypass Garage, West London. Jack already owned another Speedwell, registered XYU 383 which was BRG with a white nose, alloy roof, steel doors, aluminium Williams & Pritchard bonnet and a fibreglass rear end. This car was sometimes driven by Tom Pick, a director of Waypass Garage Racing who was also a salesman at Speedwell's showroom. Tom was very useful to Speedwell as he had gained considerable knowledge of fibreglass from having worked for Peerless Motors of Slough making laminated cars in 1959.

7140 RO was the most highly tuned of the two cars and competed through 1961 and '62, setting the fastest lap at the Silverstone 6 Hour Relay race in July 1962. The car was offered out on a rent-a-driver basis with Waypass Garage selling the derives and Tom Pick, the entries. It was one of these drivers, J. Matthews who rolled the car heavilyduring a race at Castle Combe in September 1962, crushing its roof.

In order to RO back racing they swapped all the best parts on to XYU 383 - the engine, gearbox, back axle, wire wheels and fibreglass bonnet and gave it RO's identity. The windscreen wiper rack was removed and a Land Rover motor used instead, part of the original windscreen scuttle was also removed resulting in just one wiper for the driver. Also removed was as much steel as possible from the chassis including the gearbox tunnel. A roll bar, long distance fuel tank and side exhaust were fitted. Side window gutters were removed to make the roof more aerodynamic, and the rear window was fitted flush with the body, dispensing with the rubber beading. The car was then repainted with a yellow nose and yellow wheels becoming a pure racing car.

Jack Mathe race the rebuilt car again in April 1963. From the start of the season Tom said it was no longer a great car having become rather unstable while looking very good. By July that year RO was up for sale at £625, or £700 with Jeep and trailer (see opposite). Tom Pick had resigned earlier in June, also leaving his position as Speedwell salesman so there were no more parts available from the Speedwell workshop from this point onwards. By 1964 RO was being offered for sale by Tim Conroy, Speedwell's renowned works manager.

The car's next owner was Bill Graham who already owned another Speedwell GT, 137 VMX, which he raced under the name Flintstone Racing. He, again, decided to swap some body panels and mechanical parts between his two Speedwells.

*** 7140 RO ended up with the usual aluminium hardtop plus an aluminium bonnet and utilised the bottom end of Bill's original engine with the ex-Mathe Speedwell eight-port head and four Amal carburettors. Jack had cut out the footwell sides and transmission tunnel, replacing them in aluminium. This was found to compromise the rigidity of the chassis so Bill reinstated the original steel panels.

In 1966 Bill Graham teamed up with Mick Gorman and two others to form Team Classic Service Station, all of the cars being painted in dark purple with a gold stripe.

The next owner of RO was Joseph Tassimer who competed with the car in hill-climbs and sprints. In September 1975 he blew the engine and sold the car as a non-runner to Brian Kenyon who intended rebuilding it for historic racing. However he later decided it would not be competitive and began to dismantle it.

[The above facts were gleaned from John Baggott's book "Frogeye Sprite, the Complete Story" to whom I extend my thanks.]

In July 2015, I heard from Speedwell guru Alistair Ross that 7140 RO had, for some years, been owned by Brian Kenyon who lived near Sheffield and was involved in running the Harewood Hill Climb.
"The car itself had a tough life having been rebuilt a number of times and had been owned by Jack Mathe (see photo below where the car is black and yellow), Tom Pick (former Speedwell salesman) and I think, Gerry Marshall. It was Bill Graham who got me on to the trail of this car as he had also owned it along with 137 VMX and raced it under his Flintstone Racing name. I 7140 ROunderstood he still has the side screens for the car although these may have by now been reunited with it. Attached (top right) is, I believe, a picture of 7140 RO in one of its racing incarnations later in its life when its livery was a striking purple and gold, with Bill Graham at the wheel".

In November 2016 I was approached by a Peter Hirst to advise on the value of "a Speedwell complete body in a friend's garage, comprising of aluminium bonnet, aluminium roof, and fibreglass back. No chassis, just bodywork. I believe this is one of the first ones produced". It would seem that Brian Kenyon had recently died. I didn't attempt to give an opinion but heard in that December that "The alloy top and bonnet of the Speedwell GT owned by the late Brian Kenyon has now been sold by his widow Pat and went to its new owner, Bill McDonnough of Hardy Engineering, soon after. The 'car' is believed to have one of the 6 alloy bonnets made, as well as the usual alloy hardtop".

Bill later advised me that he had decided to employ the services of Paul Woolmer of Woolmer Classic Engineering Ltd to restore the 'car' for him. Mrs Kenyon had recently found the driver's door which had been re-united with the rest of the car's components.

However, while Bill had the alloy top and bonnet, the bodyshell and other parts would seem to have been acquired by Peter Hirst who had then re-sold them to his brother-in-law Tony Shercliffe who was also planning to build it up as a Speedwell. Hopefully common sense will prevail and the two 'halves' of the car will eventually be re-united.

137 vmx
137 vmx
Repainted but still with its yellow wires


Any further information about the car's history would be welcome
via Feedback please

7140RO
Bill Graham at the wheel
Mathe
This shot of 7140 RO was
sent in by Alistair Ross and shows the Speedwell with Jack Mathe, of Waypass Garage at the wheel.
Combe
The late Mike Wylie passed me these pictures (above and below) featuring Mike Reid's 2214 UE and a Speedwell GT (7140 RO) at Castle Combe in 1962. He believed 7140 RO was driven by either Matthews or Fielden.
[By kind permission of Ted Walker © Ferret Fotographics]
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