Pat Moss - Tour of Corsica
Ian Walker - Crystal Palace May 1961
6 Hour Relay Race
1968 repaint Day-Glow Green
Briefly - he thought of selling
From Classic & Sportscar Sept, 1990 this letter from Ian Walker about the car - kindly sent in by John Poulter.
Campaigned very successfully by Ian Walker in the 1961 season, this car was then sold into private hands and was bought by Stephen Bowen in 1966 and he still owns it to this day. The alloy bodywork was loaned to Brian Archer so that he and his team could take a mould for the replica top now marketed by Archers Garage, since which time WJB has been fully restored. The bodyshell was renovated by Brian Wheeler and was repainted in original metallic gun-metal grey. A lightweight replacement Sebring bonnet was supplied by Archers Garage. Stephen also has a replica Sebring Coupé which he uses for historic rallying.
According to a letter which Ian Walker wrote to Stephen back in 1967, the car was originally purchased from the BMC Competition Department, having been driven by Pat Moss in several continental rallies in standard Frogeye form. Ian had the original body removed and a complete new alloy body made by Williams & Pritchard. The base platform was lightened and the floors replaced in aluminium. Minor modifications were made to the front and rear suspension - the car already had the Girling disc brake/ wire wheel conversion. Ian had the car for just the one season, 1961, and managed to achieve class records at all the circuits at which it appeared. He also claims to have won 15 races in it. He raced it in the Nurburgring 500 kms finishing 5th and was one of the three Sprites which won the team prize (from Abarth). The car was also in the winning team of Sebring Sprites in the 750MC Six Hour Relay Race at Silverstone that year.
In August 1966, a previous owner, Alastair McHardy entered WJB in two races at the last race meeting to take place at Goodwood, before it closed its doors to racing for over 30 years. It was driven in two separate races, the special GT race in which it was driven by his friend Adrian (?) and he himself drove it in the marque race later the same day. Stephen Bowen purchased the car from Alastair McHardy in Southsea, and re-painted it in navy blue, fitting an 1100cc rally engine from his previous (wrecked) Sprite coupled to the car's close-ratio gearbox, (as WJB came with no motor in it). Stephen then worked for tuning firm Nerus and later for Weslake. He initially used it as his everyday road car but soon began entering rallies, rallycross events and sprints. In 1968 he again re-painted it, this time in Dayglow Lime Green (see right) with a pink stripe, and continued to campaign it himself until the following year when his friend Roger Bird shared the driving and the costs. At the end of 1969 Stephen took the car off the road and dismantled it with the intention of rebuilding it, but he was sent to work in Germany by Weslake so the work was shelved. Many years later, in 1987, he decided to have the car restored and left it with Brian Wheeler where it remained until last year, 2008 when Brian restored the shell and repainted it in dark blue (see below). It has since appeared at the Sprite 50th celebrations in May 2008, without engine or gearbox but in 2009 it is now complete and in running order.
Stephen makes regular business trips across the Channel from his home in Belgium, and on one visit in late 2007 called at Brian Wheeler's workshop, expecting the rusting remains of his car to be still hiding in a corner of the yard. Instead, the body-shell was in Brian's workshop, and restoration work had already commenced. As pictures below show the chassis was in quite poor condition with the underside of the "H" frame chassis rails completely rusted away and other areas needing Brian's skill in cutting out and stitching in replacement steel. The alloy hardtop and rear end bodywork were repaired and re-fitted. The somewhat crude Dexion rails across the boot floor are now believed to have been part of the original modifications which included a double fuel tank for long distance events, and have been retained. The car is now fully restored and repainted.
Race Results for 1960 and 1961
|Nov 1960||Tour of Corsica||Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom||Retired - gearbox. White, standard bodywork|
|25 Mar 1961||Snetterton (INT) Lombank Trophy||Ian Walker|
|15 Apr 1961||Oulton Park International||Ian Walker||1st in class and lap record|
|22 May 1961||Crystal Palace Whit Monday||Ian Walker||1st in class and lap record|
|3 Jun 1961||BRSCC Brands Hatch Int||Ian Walker||1st in class, 6th overall, and lap record|
|8 Jul 1961||Silverstone BRDC (INT) Brit Emp Trophy||Ian Walker||1st in class (1100cc) and class lap record|
|15 Jul 1961||Aintree RAC (INT) Brit GP meeting||Vic Preston||2nd in class|
|7 Aug 1961||Brands Hatch BRSCC (INT) Bank Hol Mtg||Ian Walker||2nd in class|
|12 Aug 1961||Silverstone 750MC 6 hr Relay Race||Ian Walker||Team Sebring win|
|31 Aug 1961||Brands Hatch BRSCC Bank Hol Guards mtg||Ian Walker||1st in class|
Despite lying out in the open for many years the shell was in remarkably good condition, but needed some new panels.
The car was restored in Wheeler & Davies's workshops and re-sprayed in its original gun-metal grey.
Above: the car is nearly ready for the road.
Rossmalen Show in Belgium
- and at the Antwerp Show
The restoration completed WJB shares her stable with Stephen's rally Sebring replica.