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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

 

Speedwell GT

[The above examples have their own web pages - click on each registration to view]

John Sprinzel, George Hulbert and Len Adams established Speedwell Tuning Conversions in June 1957, following John's success with an Austin A35. With the introduction of the Sprite the following year it was not long before they turned their attentions to tuning, modifying, racing and rallying these little sportscars. Towards the end of 1958 they decided to try and improve the aerodynamics of the Frogeye/Bugeye bonnet. They approached Frank Costin, then chief designer at Lister, with the idea of re-designing the front end, a project which luckily "took his fancy". A prototype bonnet was made in aluminium - as were 5 or so more before production was changed to fibreglass, and this subsequently became known as the Speedwell Monza bonnet.

To quote from John Baggott's recently published book "Frogeye Sprite - the complete story": "Frank also designed the coupé roof section with a windscreen that had a greater rake than a standard Sprite and was more curved. Like the bonnet, the prototype was formed in aluminium alloy and would later be used to make moulds (I presume this never happened) to enable them to be produced in fibreglass. Many regarded the finished article as a smaller version of the Costin-designed Lotus Elite. The Speedwell GT sales brochure highlighted the car's aerodynamic styling, all-round visibility, luxurious interior, perfect braking and 60 bhp engine. It was described as a true Grand Touring car designed to incorporate all the requirements of the fastidious motorist'. A particular feature was the curved side windows, which were handmade from Perspex sheet."

John's research has revealed that a total of around 25 Speedwell GTs were produced. Aluminium fabrication for the prototype which initially carried Sprinzel's personal number PMO 200, and two or 3 more cars was by Williams & Pritchard. However, the later cars all came from Classic Motor Crafts who were able to give the cars more time at a cheaper price.

John Sprinzel takes up the story (reproduced from his article in Mascot, March 2009) :

"With business continuing to grow, we hatched the idea of getting a special body for the Sprite, which - back in those days - received a great deal of scorn for those ridiculous headlamps. Even Gerry Coker, who had designed the Sprite with retractable lights, refused to take any credit back then, although he nowadays jokes that as the "Frogeyes" have become so popular, he is happy to do so today. Graham's [Hill] presence caused Mike Costin to drop in most mornings to our works in the Finchley Road with the prototype Elite that Lotus were about to release, and that is how we got to know his half-brother Frank, who was a serious aerodynamicist with many race car shapes for Lotus, Vanwall and others to his credit. Frank first designed a new streamlined front with a small Jaguar-like air intake, and Stuart Turner and I debuted this on the Liege-Rome-Liege four day and night road race, with a Class win, so obviously the airflow improvements were working".

CLASSIC MOTOR CRAFTS

Speedwell GT
AR Speedwell Gt

AR
AR 4
AR 5
AR

With the exception of the first 3 or 4 cars, all the Speedwell GTs were built by Classic Motor Crafts - Dad, Ernie Maul, is at the wheelling machine (above left), alongside 5447 HX (now owned by Alistair Ross). The tAR McLarenwo colour pictures show the five Maul brothers that worked at CMC with Ernie Maul standing on the right alongside the Mclaren M6 which also shows the quality of the cars these guys worked on. This shot was believed taken towards the end of CMC in the early 1970's. The other colour shot (above right) shows XYU 383 in the foreground and Alistair Ross's 5447 HX (identified by the indicator pods) in the background. [The photos were kindly provided by Alistair but the black and white ones were taken by Kevin Maul after he was given a camera for his birthday. Kevin is happy for us to use them to show off his Dad's business, of which he is very proud]


Sprinzel continues: "We then asked Frank to do his magic on a fixed top and after one not so attractive effort the Speedwell GT was born. The first Sprite to receive this full treatment was my hard-worked Abingdon car, which had completed two seasons of racing, rallying and demonstrating, winning both the RAC and BTRA Rally Championships for 1959. One of the perks of this win was for the car to be lined up with all the other Championship cars at the Racing Car Show, and being placed alongside the Formula One winner, made sure we got plenty of coverage. We had also begun to build a streamliner to tackle one litre records, and eventually Graham managed to top 130 mph in officially timed runs on the famous Jabekke Highway in Belgium. By this time I had left Speedwell as the firm seemed to be more interested in selling packaged 'goodies' than preparing cars for individuals, which was really my preferred idea.I sold my share to Graham Hill, and then joined the Donald Healey Motor Co to set up a Special Tuning division in their Grosvenor Street premises".

Some examples of the car:

 

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SY Monza
The Monza bonnet
SY proto
The prototype Speedwell GT (above photos courtesy of "Spritely Years")
Speedwell Cat
The Speedwell GT brochure
Speedwells
The comparison. On left is a W & P car with thicker screen pillars and squared off side windows while the CMC car has rain gutters and a rounded rear corner to its side window. [Photo courtesy of John Baggott]
RR screen comparison
Different screen angles

Speedwell
5755 MM, at Silverstone
Speedwell GT
when owned by Peter Preston, at Silverstone, -
Speedwell GT
now owned by David Groves

Speedwell Cartoon
Gary Lazarus found this cartoon on the web - from a French series called Starter
Speedwell letterClick to enlarge
Speedwell

An article about Speedwell Sprites
by Dennis E.Ortenberger

Speedwell GtA Speedwell Road Test
by David Phipps