Neil and Dianne Blaney live in New South Wales in Australia. They own a very smart red Frogeye as well as a couple of Mini-Coopers, and to their collection has now been added their replica Sprinzel Sebring Sprite Coupé. The following is taken from an article which Neil wrote quite some time ago for inclusion in Ray English's excellent magazine, Marque One :-
"The story really starts in February 1995, when my wife Dianne and I were returning home from a two-week holiday, - we had been touring Tasmania in our Bugeye Sprite along with a group of AHOC (Sydney) big Healey owners. When we got off the ferry in Melbourne we decided to stay a few days to have a look at some Mk 1 Sprites that Tony Pickard of Pickard's of Melbourne had for sale, the idea being to find a car that I could restore for racing, rallying, hillclimbing, etc. It was at their premises that we met Tony Bennetto, who invited us to visit his house in the nearby Dandenong Ranges. Tony then contacted Ray English who lived further up in the hills and organised a visit to look at his Sprite memorabilia collection. I was impressed with both the original Sprinzel Sebring of the 1960s and the Archers Garage replica brochures that Ray showed me, and I thought about how great it would be to own one of these very pretty coupés. Since that day Ray has given me a lot of valuable information on both the original cars as well as the replicas, whenever I have asked.
We visited the UK in 1997, where we had the pleasure of meeting up with Brian Archer of Archers Garage where these replica Sebring kits are made. As we were shown around the workshop I was becoming keener by the minute, and decided I wanted to build one of these cars. On our return to Oz I looked around for a donor car and, not long after, found one that filled the bill, so it was purchased and stowed away for the future project.
In 1998 Tony Bennetto was getting a group of Mk 1 owners together to enter the Lactos Heritage Rally which is held in Tasmania. This was an event not to be missed as John Sprinzel was to drive one of the Bugeye Barn cars. My son Stewart did the driving, while I did the hard work navigating, but our rally came to an abrupt halt when we rolled the Sprite on day two. I did, however, come away from the event with more knowledge about the 1960s rally scene. John Sprinzel was an absolute gentleman, and his stories about his exploits were really enjoyable to listen to.
We returned to the UK in 2000, and this time went to visit Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird who is restoring the original Sprinzel Sebring coupé 410 EAO. It is the ex-Andrew Hedges car and his restoration of it is just tremendous. This car will certainly be worth seeing when it is finished. From the Whitehouse-Bird residence it was not far to visit Archers Garage once again, and this time we had discussions with Brian Archer and Andrew Forster about purchasing the parts required to build the car. While there Brian and Andrew showed us S221, another of the original coupés, which was in the workshop receiving some attention".
Soon after returning to Oz, Neil ordered a Sebring kit from Archers and began building up his replica, which he painted in similar colours to Jonathan's EAO. For a time he was busy on other projects but was accumulating the necessary parts, including: lightweight seats, steering wheel, Girling calipers, straight-cut close-ratio gearbox, 3.9 limited slip differential, uprated front shock absorbers and Armstrong adjustable rear ones, 4½" wire wheels, Healey inlet manifold, and dual pedal box, to name but a few.
The local group of the Sprite Car Club of Australia recently went on a visit to Neil and Diane's home to view their cars, following which Keith Smith and Juliet Richardson reported: "Since the time that the Marque One article was written the car has gone from a rusty old Bugeye to the completion and painting of the body. In about 2009 the front and rear suspensions were fitted by Bob Rowntree and recently Bob fitted the engine and gearbox. During all this time Neil has continued to acquire all the parts necessary to finish his dream car".
April 2014: "all but finished, engine running, a few fiddly things to finish. Speedwell Weston Tacho and a 120 MPH speedometer from a 100/6 Healey to go in. Carpets??? "
Take a rusty Buggeye shell
preferably with floors in it,
(on the rotisserie)
(new floor panels)
mend it, prime it
put it on a trailer
to go for painting
in EAO's colours
and you have a Sebring
A Then just add a power plant to make it go! Nearing completion
Lovely colour scheme