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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

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Ed Leavens with the newly-built Falcon Sprite at Nassau in 1959.

The 1959 Falcon Sprite - ST401

[sometimes known as the Nassau Sprite]

When Roger Menadue was given the task of building a lighter and faster Sprite for the Healey team to race in the 12 Hour Race at Sebring in 1960, he acquired an unfinished "kit car" project (supposedly from an 'ad' in Exchange & Mart) in order to fit its Falcon fibreglass body on to a Sprite floor-pan. This was the first of the lightweight cars, preceding the rather more sophisticated all-alloy race cars which followed in later years. The body was originally designed for "special" builders to convert old Ford saloons into "sports" cars. (Top three B+W photos right, courtesy of "More Healeys" by Geoff Healey).

The car's first outing was at Nassau in 1959 in the hands of Ed Leavens in the Nassau TT race for cars up to 2 litres capacity in which he came 6th, and John Christy who was 24th in the Governors Trophy race. It was fitted with Girling disc brakes at the front and the larger than standard 8" drums at the rear, together with steel wheels.

At Sebring on 26th March 1960, the car had a full height and width Perspex windscreen. The story goes that John Sprinzel practiced the car but the Healeys felt he was using too many revs for the engine to last the distance. Stirling Moss was driving a Maserati in the 12 Hours but asked if he could try the Sprite during practice. He went out and did 3 laps, improving on Sprinzel's best time by some four seconds, and using lower revs. Moss was able to tell John where he could improve his speed through one or two of the corners, and save the engine at the same time. In the race Sprinzel and co-driver John Lumkin were delayed by a blown head gasket but continued, and succeeded in taking the class win. They finished 41st overall. (Photos thanks to Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird & Dave Nicholas)

The car was also entered for Le Mans that year when it had a faired-in headrest behind the driver and the Perspex screen had to be changed for a glass one in two pieces - which had an adverse effect on its top speed. It was also fitted with the Dunlop Light Car 4 wheel disc brake set-up andwire wheels (for this race only). John Colgate and John Dalton were the drivers, the car using an XSP engine bored out to 996 ccs. It ran as a special sports edition in the prototype class, which it won, displaying the UK registration number 5983AC ~ used subsequently by the DHMC on other racing Sprites. The car's best lap was 91.15 mph, and it covered 2,055 miles, in the 24 hours, coming in 20th overall (though a Corvette and the entire Triumph TRS team were later disqualified moving it up to 16th). It was also 11th in the Index of Performance and 12th in the sports car class. (Photo right courtesy of www.sebringsprite.de)

The car later returned to the US where it was raced as a 'works' entry for the 4th and final time, at Nassau, in the hands of John Colgate ~ once again winning its class. He was placed 18th in the Governors Trophy and 20th in the Nassau Trophy. After the race, in December 1960, the Healeys sold the car, in the States, to Leo Picard who subsequently had John Colgate race it for him at Thompson Raceway. Other local owners included Jake Kaplin and Bernie Symonds in Rhode Island and Kit Kettering in Brockton Massachussetts, before passing into the hands of Tom Bratten who ran a firm called Auto Technia in West Palm Beach Florida. The business went broke and Tom returned to Dayton Ohio and his engineering job with GM Delco. Tom's son believes the Sprite was sold to buy his mother's wedding ring and that person is probably responsible for the car's eventual abandonment in an Ohio farm field. This all had to have happened in the period of 1961-1965, since the car still had its GM class markings from racing during the period before SCCA changed the class to DSR.

In 1971 the Sprite was discovered, and acquired, by its current owner Roger Sieling, rusting away on an Ohio farm. It is currently in pieces under-going restoration. 

Roger has recently collected the restored chassis from a bodyshop in Indiana, where it was repaired and a new nose cone was moulded to replace the damaged original. He had hoped to be able to put the nose into a friend's Elva Mk 2 mould (which is almost the same except that the bonnet aperture was enlarged for the Sprite). In the end he was persuaded to have a new one which has now been completed. He has been busy repairing the remainder of the fibreglass body which had been crudely repaired with body filler following a street accident many years ago, and is now sorting out and restoring the original mechanical components and other fittings.

October 2012: In May 2011, Roger moved house and after carrying out repairs to the new house, he completed some repairs to his Lotus Elan. He was then able to return to working on the Falcon Sprite, mainly in the area of its boot interior and the boot lid. Roger is currently trying to discover whether the car took part in a race on the Island of South Bass in Lake Erie in 1963, as a re-union takes place there every year.

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With split screen, Le Mans,'60
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The Falcon cockpit.
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Passing the pits at Le Mans
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John Colgate, Nassau, 1960
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The start at....
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Sebring
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Sprinzel at Sebring 1960
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Another shot at Le Mans,1960
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The car in 1977 much as..
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it was when Roger Sieling..
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purchased it, complete ..
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...with seized motor
Falcon at Sebring 1960
The Falcon Sprite in the pits at Sebring in 1960 showing clearly its large Perspex windshield, as now acknowledged by Sprinzel.
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Falcon 61
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The Falcon when purchased
Hanging in Roger's workshop
Fronts, old & new
The scuttle,
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boot-lid
and rear body section
The new nose section
Work being carried out on the new front bodywork
Falcon article
Recent work (2012) has been in area of the boot lid and compartment.

 

9th November 2014: A MAJOR SETBACK - "Well, I made the decision earlier this year to get the Sprite into Butch's shop to get the aluminum body panels properly repaired. He had done a wonderful job on the intake bubble and had smoothed the boot lid till it fitted very well. He had started making a new bonnet to solve the problem caused by cutting away such a large area of the original that overlapped the edge for the intake blister. Butch called the other day to say he had a rush job of a 60's indy car and could not store the Sprite over the winter. So I went to his shop yesterday to bring it home where it would store in the trailer. On the way home,  I was hit from behind, one exit south of downtown Columbus. I hit the RH guardrail, then spun the whole rig into the LH guardrail. The trailer impacted very heavily on the right rear. Both right side wheels were broken off. There doesn't appear to be any damage to the Explorer, but if you look underneath, the frame and traiier hitch is bent. The trailer is destroyed. Both right wheels are gone and the whole right side is slashed open and badly bent. I had the trailer towed on a roll-back to Rocks. and we pried open the doors. The Sprite is a mess. The new nose is broken on the RF corner, the tail Fglass is broken in two right in the center. The RH frame rail that holds the fuel tank and back of the body is bent and proken, the RH rocker panel is badly bent and will need to be replaced and the tub inside the rocker panel (inner rocker) is bent and the floor is buckeled in that area . The boot and bonnet are both bent into rolls. Each door is bent at the top corner where they are suppose to merge into the dash and even the dash (which was perfect) is now bent. I will be going back down to Rocks to take more photos and clean up some more.Thankfully, I appear to have escaped unharmed. When it was happening, I was afraid I was going to go over the edge and end up on Greenlawn Ave below and probably dead. Thank you Lord. More and photos to follow. Roger."

7th Dec 2015: Latest - "Hi Martin, The car has been moved down to Tsikuris Classics in Lakeland Florida who will repair the tub. He specialises in Healeys and Jags. Moved there on Nov 20. Roger". Pete Taylor reports re: PAUL TSIKURIS Hi Martin , I was interested to see Paul's name mentioned. I have met Paul on lots of occasions, his workshops and home are nestled in a heavily wooded area of Lakeland, Florida. His work is of a very high standard and he is responsible for many of his customers winning concours events. In the past  Donald  Healey visited him. The Falcon Sprite is in good hands. regards Pete (Taylor).

23rd May, 2016: Roger Sieling "The (damaged) Falcon (Sprite) was taken to Tsikires Classics in November 2015 and Paul completed the chassis tub repair and had an associate make a new bonnet and boot lid. There was still lots of  fiberglass work and a good bit of prep work on existing aluminum panels (outstanding). I've pretty much given up on Allstate insurance. Since I had committed to the Cincy ConclCinave to have the Falcon at their event, we loaded it up and brought it back to Ohio (on) May 1st. We are making  progress, but we know Colegateit will not be running or painted. But, it will be rolling on its own wheels. John Colgate has already committed to the event too. I don't know if they've invited Sprinzel".
[Conclave photos above show Roger with son, Brent, and (right) John Colegate with Skip Jackson]

12 March 2017 - RE: XSP engine numbers.
When I visited Geoffrey, March 1990, he pulled out his little note book and gave me some tidbits of information. ST401 had two different XSP motors, I believe an earlier one used for Nassau '59 and Sebring, then a new unit for LeMans and retained for Nassau '60. The later engine is the one I have and the one listed in the book. GH informed me of the number and I wrote it down. That info is in my file cabinet in Ohio and I will let you know the number when I return.
In the John Christy Nassau article, he mentions in a photo caption that the engine was fitted w/ 1-1/4 carbs. The XSP engine I have has a unique manifold and 1-1/2 carbs. The manifold has cast into it an AEA BMC part number, one or two numbers off the unique head casting number, so I'm pretty sure it is correct and original.
The late XSP engine is mocked up in the Falcon and the air horns of the carbs do extend out over the bonnet edge. The later carb bonnet bulge does extend over the edge of the bonnet opening and is first seen on the car for LeMans. When they installed this bulge and cut away the edge of the bonnet, severely weekened the bonnet and this is part of the reason the bonnet has been remade and re-inforced the way it has been done. The bulge is the original that has been nicely repaired, then damaged in THE accident"

 

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