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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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John Sprinzel talks to Stirling Moss before the start - Goodwood 2006. (photo: Mike Wylie)

PMO 200

Tom Coulthard says in "Spritely Years" that there were 6 Sprinzel Sebring Coupés with alloy bodywork fashioned by Williams & Pritchard. The first of these was a black car, which was displayed wearing the registration PMO 200 at the 1961 Racing Car Show. It featured a double-curvature windscreen rather like that of the Speedwell GT, and the roof line differed slightly to that on the subsequent 5 examples built. It is not known what happened to this particular car but it did not appear in competition during the '61 season.

Soon after the show the familiar PMO registration was applied to what is now regarded as the first of the alloy-bodied Sprinzel Coupés. The basis for the car was a Sprite which had already been re-built the previous year using a new black bodyshell fitted with parts salvaged PMO-RACrallyfrom Sprinzel's wrecked Sprite X221. This second re-build involved replacement of the steel rear wings and shroud in aluminium, the fitting of the new Costin-designed alloy bonnet together with, at this stage, a black 'works' (high sidescreen) hardtop. In this form Sprinzel took the car on the 1960 RAC Rally (right). It was later raced by Pat Moss in the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting, this time with a white 'works' hardtop.

PMO-6hr RelayOver the winter of 1960/1 this black car was converted by Williams & Pritchard Ltd., to full alloy coupé specification in readiness for the Sebring 4 hour event in Florida, USA, when Stirling Moss drove the car in the race having practiced in the similar car of Cyril Simson, S221. At this point PMO was repainted silver grey.PMO Brands

Following Sebring, PMO was prepared mainly for international rallying, but also raced with great success, made all the more impressive because it was 60kg heavier than most of its rivals which typically weighed less than 600kg. Halfway through the '61 season John had the car repainted Alfa red. PMO also doubled as John's road car and customer demonstrator.
(Picture right shows Sprinzel leading Andy Hedges in his own Sprinzel Coupé, 410 EAO at Brands Hatch.)

The 1962 Monte Carlo Rally was PMO's last international appearance, after which it was sold into PMO with bootlidprivate hands - by now it had a glass-fibre Sebring bonnet and a 'bootlid' let into the alloy rear. The PMO registration was retained by John Sprinzel & was subsequently seen on many different competition cars, the Williams & Pritchard coupe being re-registered 248 DXN.

John Aley says "I bought it from John Sprinzel who was a friend on mine at the time for a customer, a Cambridge undergraduate, [this was presumably Mike (aka Spike) Ducker] to run and then I bought it from him. I had thought I might change from the Mini (I was racing) but in that year I was very involved with starting the European Touring Car Challenge, 248 DXNand decided to stick with the Mini and so sold the Sprite.  I remember that one weekend I took it to Germany for the Eberbach Hillclimb (in which it is seen right) where I beat the works-supported Abarths, quite an achievement and (I) still have a plaque on my wall to say so. Also having a rollbar fitted as a result of its Sebring experience it was some of the reason for my turning to them in 1964".

The next owner (name unknown) must have carried out the extensive alterations to the rear of the car, giving it a chopped Kamm tail - perhaps as a result of accident damage to the alloy panels or maybe just with idea of making it more streamlined.

In 1966 or 7 the car was acquired by Michael Bradley, the son of the owner of the Apex Rubber Company, and employed there as Transport Manager/Head of Workshop, was Malcolm Sears whose family lived in the gate house on the wharf side of the Thames. Opposite the house was the "Watermans Arms" pub, a rough & ready favourite watering hole of Paul Hawkins, who is thought to have put them in touch with 248 DXN. Michael Bradley bought the car which arrived as a sad-looking rolling shell minus engine and gearbox and in a derelict state, full of hay and bird's nest's. The Kamm tail body was already fitted, it had the 248 DXN reg.no., and what Malcolm's son Paul describes as a rather ugly bonnet (seen in the photo above with John Aley driving). Michael had intended to race the car but his parents were against his racing, so Malcolm sold his Alpine and bought the Sprite, undertaking a major strip down and rebuild (complete with a new 248 DXNE type style front supplied by D & A Shells of Stratford, London). Re-sprayed in red, the car was then ready for the start of the 1968 season. Unfortunately he soon found the car to be un-competitive and unreliable, finishing only 12 races out of 26, so he moved on to race the Sunbeam Tiger for which he is well-known. The Sprite was then sold by D & A Shells who took it on a 'sale or return' basis. [For some reason the PMO reg.no. has been reversed perhaps as a joke in the middle photo below!]

248 DXN
200 PMO
248 DXN
PMO Sears
Revised bodywork
Reversed registration - 200 PMO - a joke perhaps?
Kamm tail
Malcolm Sears at Brands Hatch, 1968

 

Ted Walker of 'Ferret Fotographics' then bought the car from Alan Fowler of D & A Shells intending to use it as a road car. According to John Baggott's excellent book "Frogeye Sprite - the complete story" Ted soon sold the car to dealer Brian Classic after which, in 1972, it passed to Ted Hook who kept it for around five years. There were 2 or 3 more owners before the car was finally acquired by Tony Elshof who intended to rebuild it in its original form. He sold off the E-Type style bonnet and purchased a W & P Sebring-style one [from me, MEI], but sadly the work did not progress and during the following years the roof of the barn, in which PMO was stored, collapsed on to the car. Due to Tony's ill health the restoration never happened and after his death the car was consigned to auction in September 1999 along with most of his collection of Healey cars and parts.

This photPMO remainso, below left, can best be described by Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird who was there at the time: "Sprinzel continues to maintain that PMO 200 retained steel rear panels, even when it was fitted with coupe bodywork, but contemporary, detail photos showing the rear of the car in both 1960 and 1961 clearly reveal a lack of rear wing beading and panels subtly different in shape to those produced by BMC. The Kamm tail bodywork, when fitted (exact date uncertain), was grafted on to the remaining front half of the original 1961 W&P coupe top; as to who produced the Kamm tail bodywork remains a mystery - as far as I'm aware.  Paul may know otherwise. Certainly, it was already in this guise by the time Ted Walker took ownership. When Tony Elshoff purcPMO remainshased PMO 200 in the 1980s, someone had, by this time, removed the Kamm tail rear section of the bodywork, refitted steel wings and rear centre panel - probably cut in one-piece, complete, from a scrap Frogeye - and then unsuccessfully attempted to create an 'invisible join' between the steel panels and the remains of the alloy top by cutting away a substantial part of the reardeck and rear wing tops.  The result was a complete abomination and looked awful!"

The current owners, Paul and Sharon Woolmer, acquired the car at the auction, still bearing the 248 DXN registration and they later re-united the car with its original PMO200 registration. The restoration took 6 years. Their main aim was to re-use every original component which could safely be salvaged, regardless of cost or time.

The re-built car, in rally trim, was reunited with John Sprinzel at his old base in Lancaster Mews in the West End of London, in November 2005, the first time he had seen the car since 1962. "Octane" magazine produced a feature article about John's reunion with PMO in their issue of February 2007.

Sir StirlinMoss in PMOg Moss was also re-united with the car he had driven 45 years earlier, at Sebring, and drove it in the Fordwater Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival race meeting in September, 2006. Despite his advancing years he did some respectable times around the Sussex track, bringing the car home 11th out of 19 finishers.

(The above text was put together using Paul Woolmer's own handout produced for the Goodwood Revival 2006, adapted slightly using Tom Coulthard's "Spritely Years" and with the advice of Sebring guru Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird. It has since been further modified with information provided by Malcolm and Paul Sears, and by John Baggott)

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Competition Results 1960 to 62:

Date

Event
Driver/Co-Driver
Result
21 to 26 Nov, 1960
RAC Rally
J.Sprinzel/R. Bensted-Smith
1st class, 2nd overall
26 December 1960
Brands Hatch
Pat Moss
9th overall

The car was fitted with Williams & Pritchard aluminium coupé bodywork over the winter of 1960/61.

24 March, 1961
Sebring 4 Hours
Stirling Moss
5th overall
2 to 6 May, 1961
Tulip Rally
J.Sprinzel/Mike Wood
2nd class, 17th o/a
24 to 28 Jun, 1961
Coupe des Alpes
J.Sprinzel/Willie Cave
2nd class, 17th o/a
7 Aug, 1961
Peco Tr,Silverstone
Paul Hawkins
3rd in class
12th Aug, 1961
6 Hour Relay S'stone
J.Sprinzel/Team Sprinzel
1st overall
6 to 10 Sept, 1961
Liege-Sofia-Liege
J.Sprinzel/Sam Actman
retired
16 to 17 Sept 1961
Godiva Trophy Rally
J.Sprinzel/John Brown
1st overall
22 to 23 sept, 1961
London Rally
J. Sprinzel/Mike Wood
5th overall
4 to 5 Nov, 1961
Regent Rally
J. Sprinzel/John Brown
12th overall
13 to 18 Nov, 1961
RAC Rally
Paul Hawkins/Vic Elford
retired
6 to 7 Jan, 1962
Welsh Rally
J.Sprinzel/Graham Robson
retired
20 to 27 Jan, 1962
Rally Monte Carlo
J.Sprinzel/C.Carlisle
4th class/94th o/a
9 to 10 feb, 1962
Yorkshire Rally
J.Sprinzel/Graham Robson
7th overall
3 to 4 March, 1962
Targa Rusticana
J.Sprinzel/Graham robson
1st class, 1st overall

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John Sprinzel's Comments:

J.S. tells the story of PMO the Second in his own words:

"I sold 'PMO the First' to Speedwell, as it had become their first GT prototype (all in alloy for the moulds*). It was on the champions’ display at the Horticultural Hall BRSCC Racing Car show, alongside the F1 and other winners – being the '59 RAC Rally Championship winning car. With the money, I bought a beige Sprite from Albon’s garage in East London.  Peter Albon was a good pal and the source of our Austins before we got a franchise. This was one of the three steel Sebrings we built to race while at Healeys. H221 for David Harris, S221 for Cyril (Simpson) and PMO 200 – which was raced as X221 ( as we entered under team 221) X221 was actually the number on my Lambretta which served as our parts vehicle in Grosvenor Street. (You would love the stories from our Oz mechanics back in the day!) The team had been started using Borgwards, where Cyril was sales manager. We used those Borg’s as tow cars for their racers! Cyril and I had been pals since we were about 16 or so.

I actually raced the car at Goodwood in the Fordwater Trophy, in 1960. Bob Domey crashed this car while my co-driver on the Acropolis Rally, and Car Mart of Hendon ( to become our  Austin Distributors at the Mews) rebuilt her with a new black body shell (yes, you could get them from BMC in black) and fitted all the original bits except radiator, carbs and manifolds which had been damaged by the tree which Bob placed neatly alongside the motor, It was Bob’s Left Hand drive Sprite that we used as a pretend PM0 200, on the Alpine rally as PMO was still en route back from Greece by Russian tramp steamer. On completion, the black car had the prototype alloy bonnet (again, used as the mould*) and came 2nd on the RAC Rally. Pat Moss raced this car at Boxing Day Brands, and the next day it went to W & P to get the full alloy top as the first Sebring, sprayed metallic silver to match S221, and shortly the same colour as the cars of Ian Walker and David Seigle Morris. I think Andy Hedges car was also this grey. This PMO, Stirling drove in the '61 four hour race at Sebring.

After Sebring, Paul drove it a couple of times, as did I, including winning the six hours at Silverstone with the car now sprayed red. After its last win on the 62 Targa in March – I sold the car to Mike “Spike” Ducker, who raced it a bit before selling it on, but obviously without the reg. number. I did rally a couple of other cars during that period with the PMO reg – at times when the original was being prepared for another event, which is where the tales of “many” Sebring PMO’S comes from. One was Eric Davis’s yellow and black car - others I don’t really remember. We were not really wealthy enough to have more than one car at a time – so I fear that the stories which have grown up were not really very accurate.

I then bought a TR3A to rally, as I had joined Triumphs, and couldn’t really rally a Sprite any more, could I?"

* I presume JS's first reference above to 'moulds' was for the Speedwell Monza bonnet, and the second, a year later, for the Sebring bonnet used on the Sprinzel Coupes. Both styles were included in Speedwell catalogues of the period, and both came from Williams & Pritchard who had added a fibreglass department to their business. (MEI)

*  *  *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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PMO today: A class win at Silverstone in 2007

In June 2007 Paul Woolmer was invited to enter PMO in the MG Car Club's International race meeting at Silverstone, which included two 30 minute races for FIA Historic Sports Cars. PMO was in the 1300cc class, up against 2 WSM’s, the James Willis (ex-John Milne) Midget coupe, an alloy bodied works Midget, several Spitfires & a Lotus Elite. It was a full 44 car grid for both races, with a wide variety of cars including MGA’s, MGB’s, TVR’s, Elva Courier’s, Triumph TR’s & a few other assorted machines.

The first race took place on the Saturday when it was dry. Paul qualified 18th and, in the race, finished a creditable 17th overall & second in class - behind the very rapid works Midget, which had an all- steel engine which could allegedly reach amazing revs…..! Paul was pleased that his best lap was only 1.2 seconds off that of the lightweight Midget. He had some great dices with the MGBs and  a TVR, climbing all over them under braking and through the corners but with no chance on the straights.

PMO Silverstone 3 PMO Silverstone 4 PMO Silverstone 5 PMO Silverstone 6
  PMO Silverstone 7 PMO Silverstone 8  

On Sunday it was wet….very very wet. By the time the second race started the rain had stopped and it was just a case of coping with some standing water, and as the race progressed the track began to dry making every lap an adventure. Whilst the track was still wet Paul climbed from 17th overall up to 9th, but once the bigger cars got traction they breezed past him down the straights. However he still finished 14th overall & again second in class after a spin, this time behind James Willis in the Milne Midget.  "James drove an excellent race & deserved the class win". Interestingly both James & Paul lapped the rapid works Midget this time.

When the results of both races were amalgamated Paul and PMO found themselves with the overall class win - "not bad for a car which only 2 weeks before had covered over 200 miles in 2 days, too and from car club meetings and all Paul had done since was to swap the engine & front springs, and remove the carpets and passenger seat….  Over the following week or so he put the road bits back and continued to use the car when the weather was a little more pleasant".                  

PMO at Cholmondeley Pageant of Power (July 2009)
PMO Sharon 1 Sharon Woolmer recently drove PMO at this second running of the event, in changeable weather conditions. She was quicker than much of the more exotic machinery ~ but it took Paul a whole afternoon to clean off all the mud! PMO Sharon 2

 

PMO bonnet

October 2012 ~ Jonathan Peck brings news of the bonnet fitted to the car when it was registered 248 DXN. Originally produced by D & A Shells of Stratford, London.

September 2015: Jonathan has now repaired the bonnet and produced a new mould from which copies can be supplied.

PMO bonnet
Jon Peck bonnet
Jon Peck bonnet

 

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