Owned by: Terry Cowan of San Diego and always known Stateside as a "Speedwell"
When Terry's business partner George Simmons acquired this Sprite, along with 96 RPE way back in 1983 a misconception arose as to its origins and identity. They, perhaps justifiably - but wrongly as it turns out, gained the impression that this car was a Speedwell GT. It had at one time been owned by Speedwell employee Tim Conroy, was painted in the yellow livery used by Speedwell, an old photo of the car showed the company's name written on each of its front wings, and it was fitted with a Speedwell Monza bonnet. Also, the shape of the side windows with a squared-off rear corner is also similar to those of the few early Speedwell GTs built by Williams & Pritchard. However thorough research into the car's history by Speedwell GT owner/enthusiast Alistair Ross revealed that this car had been built for Sheridan Tynne by Yimkin Engineering of London. It has a Berlinetta-style aluminium fastback body probably produced by Peel Coachworks and very similar to that of RTL 304 but minus the small air intake 'ears' behind the doors. Other distinctive features are a radial slot for the door handle and a rain gutter which extends behind the side window so it can be fairly readily identified in old photos. Alistair had searched all the old Speedwell records and this car was no-where to be found. Another confusion arose over the car's original UK registration number. The photo (2nd down on right) shows it displaying 130 UML which was that of a car then owned by John Miles, apparently borrowed to enable the car to be taken on the public roads as its original number UUV 398 had been lost much earlier.
Current owner, Terry Cowan, has run a 'Big Healey' restoration business under the title Toy Shop Restorations since 1976 and also formed British Speedwell Racing in 1987 so to find that his second Sprite is not in fact a Speedwell GT no doubt came as a big disappointment.
Alistair's research had led him to
Roger Bunting who sent him the picture (top right) of himself sitting at the wheel of a car that had all the unusual details mentioned earlier. Roger told him that
the car had been bought by Tim Conroy of Speedwells from Sheridan Tynne who Alistair promptly contacted. Sheridan was then able to tell him that he had had the car built by Yimkin Engineering (but thought that the body may have been by Peels, though he couldn't really remember). He had been racing Mini's and fancied a Sprite-based racer so the car was built for him but he found he did not get on with the car at all, finding the handling very different from that of a Mini. He only practiced the car at a Goodwood race meeting on 9th March, 1963, and again retired after practice at Snetterton on 17th March. He finished 4th at Brands Hatch on March 24th before selling the car to Tim Conroy, who Alistair thinks may have shared the driving and costs with Roger Bunting. The car seems to have been haunted for much of its life by its poor handling, so what Yimkin did to the back end is something of a mystery.
The next owner (Mr 'X') seems to have also bought the John Miles car 130 UML and there are pictures of 'X' at the wheel of UUV 398 (? at Oulton Park) but displaying the 130 UML number. Miles has assured Alistair that this was not his car and someone had swapped the registrations (picture attached). Apparently It is this picture that confused Terry Cowan for a while.
The car was imported into California, USA where Jim Proffit of Racing Restorations, of Long Beach, later found it, and restored it to race in VARA. He then sold the car to Joel Naive and they (Jim, Joel and his son Greg) ran it together for several years. At one stage It had been heavily modified with the most enormous wheels, but Jim returned the car to something more reminiscent of a Sprite-based racer which he then raced for a while, after strengthening the chassis by fitting a pretty heavy roll cage - he told Alistair the car was very fast. It was Proffit who gave the car its yellow livery. The Naives were apparently still racing it in 1983 when George Simmons purchased it along with 96 RPE. Terry Cowan then took a share in both cars by maintaining George's car collection in San Diego, and though George moved to Tennesee in 1985 both cars remained in California and when he stopped racing in 1992 he signed them over to Terry.
[This page amended July 2014 - see letter from Jim Proffitt in "Your Comments" 10 July 2014]
Roger Bunting at the wheel (John Miles alongside)
The car racing with John Miles' reg no. 130 UML and Speedwell labels, possibly at Oulton Park.
As bought by Jim Proffit
with California plate
remains of original dash
Jim's chassis strengthening
The painting stage
in Speedwell yellow
Ready to race
Greg Naive at the wheel
(at ? Laguna Seca)
The car in Terry's workshop recently, alongside 96 RPE
Fastback bodywork thought
to be by Peel