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

HAN9-R-202 Lime Rock 1985

Owners have been:
Fred Royston
Bill & Lynn Wood
Jeff Brenner
Emilio Cruz
(Current owner: as yet unknown)


Recently sold at auction (Jan 2020)

Jeff bought this car, which is clearly a genuine DHMC lightweight 'race' car, in about 1996, from Bill Wood, the editor at the time of the Austin Healey Club of America's newsletter. When he took delivery Jeff apparently received no documentation regarding its past history, though it came with the No.67 painted on its doors. He was however told that the car had been sold “after the Sebring race” to the East Coast BMC importer, Fred Royston of Philadelphia, New Jersey. Fred and Geoff Healey had become good friends as indicated by Geoff's line in "More Healeys" ~ 'Sebring was not all hard work, the proceedings being enlivened by Fred Royston’s annual party at the Kenilworth Hotel and the light-hearted horseplay by the drivers'. When Royston went out of business with the ending of MG Midget and MGB production in the early 80's, according to what Bill Wood told Brenner the car was sold to a Florida man who had acquired the remains of the Royston business. It was then re-sold to Bill Wood some time later. However the name of the man from Florida has never been discovered.

Jeff was also told that after buying the car Fred Royston made it 'streetable' for his wife to use as a shopping car, painting it in its current British Racing Green ~ though there is still some original orange paint on some of its front suspension parts. The engine (XSP 26041) is normally aspirated with a 45 DCOE Weber carb, and is mated to a 4-speed MGB gearbox, without overdrive ~ both marked with the year, 1966. Unlike most other post-1965 streamliners there is no rear roof vent. Having the special XSP engine it seems likely the car was built with a race, or races, in mind but it doesn't seem to have been driven 'in anger' by the Healeys themselves. Amazingly, the car has done just 1,100 miles during its life, clearly not proving to be the ideal shopping car!

A fuel-injected engine (XSP 306326) and a 5 speed gearbox also came with the car ~ these marked 1968. The injected engine has a finned alloy sump, while the motor in Jeff's car has a smooth one like that on Joe Armour’s car.

In carrying out my research on this car with the help of Neil Anderson, and with contributions from many others, we were initially confused by the presence of the race number '67' painted on its doors. This seemed to suggest it had been DHMC's Sebring entry which was driven by Makinen and Hawkins to win the class in the 12 Hours in 1966. It was recorded as such in Bill Emerson's book, "The Healey Book", but the lack of any roof vent surely proves otherwise. The true Makinen/Hawkins car was registered in the UK as HNX 455D and had a visible rear roof vent. Jeff checked his car over and it never had a vent there. HNX 455D was also one of the 1966 Le Mans cars and was registered there with Chassis No: HAN8-R-143. We know, of course, that number plates were swapped around but, for me, there is no evidence that this happened in this case. See also Works Register 1965 to 1969 .

29 Dec 2013 - Since preparing the above notes, the black and white photo dated 1968 (top right) has come to light. The car shown is clearly the Jeff Brenner car with the same race number and decals, standing in what maybe a showroom or motor show in the company of a new left-hand-drive E type Jaguar, confirming it to have been taken in the 1960s. So, I would suggest, the dark paintwork, race number and decals all seem to have been been on the car for a very long time. Is it possible that Royston put that race number on the car to give it a racing identity and so use it as publicity for his car sales operation, I wonder? Subsequent owners must surely have had an inkling as to its lack of true racing history and perpetuated the myth by keeping quiet about it.

26 Mar 2014 - I was sent a copy of a registration sheet for the Sprite Registry in the USA and completed by Lynn Wood (Bill's wife) back in 1985 which helps to confirm some details of the car's history [courtesy of Bob Kemp].

2019: Jeff Brenner sold the car to Emilio Cruz, a dealer in Mexico.

16th Jan 2020 - The car was offered for auction by Bonhams with a guide price of US$100,000 to 140,000, and sold for US$123,200 (£93,827) inc. premium.

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The car was sold at their recent auction at Scottsdale (Arizona, USA) and I was interested to see a Facebook post on 23rd Jan from Bob Fisher who worked for Royston Distributors from 1972 until they closed in 1980. He says: "This Le Mans Sprite just sold at Scottsdale. It was (once) owned by Royston Distributors. I worked for Royston until they were bought out in 1980. I would often eat my lunch on the 3rd floor where Mr Royston kept his car collection.... I've had lunch in this car....." He probably imagined what it would be like to drive the car down the Mulsanne Straight at 150 mph - while eating his sandwiches!


The car in its early days, perhaps in Fred Royston's showroom (dated Mar 1968)
[photo: Bruno Verstraete]

Confusing race number
No sign of a roof vent
Road-going interior
XSP motor with Weber
(The above 4 shots from Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird)
HNX 455D Sebring
The Sebring race car, HNX 455D, with roof vent.
Sebring '67
The sole Sebring streamliner in '67, also with roof vent. (photo: Chris Harvey)
Brenner Steamliner
Photo: Jeff Brenner
Blaney Photo: Neil Blaney
More useful info from Rick Moses' Sprite Registry of USA- [supplied by Bob Kemp, AHC (UK) Sprite Registrar]
NA Article
Article on Bill Wood's cars published January 1991