Being Spritely and Gorgeous at 54
It has happened before and I dare say will repeat itself in the future when I see a machine that is so lovely, it’s more than just a car. The Prangnell family have one, a Healey Sebring Sprite from 1959; although that is not how it left the factory.
The Austin Healey Sprite (known affectionately as ‘frogeye’) first arrived on the scene in 1958 and was built by BMC as a low cost sports car ‘that a chap could keep in his bike shed’, as quoted by advertisers. Designed by Donald Healey and assembled at the Abingdon Works (MG), the car was a great success. This lovely looking, small car quickly found fame, which it still enjoys today. Powered originally by the BMC 948cc engine producing 43hp, it was nippy rather than fast but immediately became popular in motorsport circles and excelled in rallying.
The most legendary of the racing Sprites was to be the Sebring, named after the Florida race track that has hosted endurance races for many years. In 1959 for the 12 hour event at Sebring the competition department at Donald Healey Motor Co entered three special Sprites. Finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in their class they brought the Oxfordshire factory to the attention of the lucrative North American market. The race winning success continued on for years and the Sebring Sprites returned annually to Florida racing well into the swinging sixties.
Chichester based Mike Prangnell first acquired his ‘Frogeye’ 12 years ago, an ex-Californian rust free example that he could enjoy in competition and for fun. In 2009 a Sebring conversion proved very tempting and with a few suppliers around, the choice of Archers Garage for the replica parts was made. Archers have one of the original race Sebring’s, which is believed to have been driven by Stirling Moss and is the car that Mike took his inspiration and measurements from. The transformation took him a year and will stand up to any scrutiny. The lines and panel gaps are excellent and the interior is a great place to be unless you are over six foot. The paint work compliments the rest of the car; it is bold and bright and suits the little Sebring perfectly. Mike and Ros are members of the Sadcase Club and I thank them for their time, input and a Sebring Sprite.
The beauty of the Sprite can be admired in these images and the fun of owning one is well illustrated in the advert from the 1960s.
Everyone loves the E Type, from the earliest 1961 model to the last produced in 1974 it carried a status and fascination that a certain age group still feel to their bones. Revolutionary when designer Malcolm Sayer put pen to paper and created the space age look, outstanding performance and at a price that shocked other car manufacturers to their ‘winkle pickers’. Even Enzo Ferrari was quoted as saying the E type was ‘the most beautiful car ever made’ (through gritted teeth no doubt) on the cars launch. Jaguar produced the largest number of machines in the Series 1 version; with a Coupe, a 2+2 Coupe and the Roadster convertible from 1961 to 1968. Between 1969 and 1971 came Series 2 with some changes and modifications; the one most noted is the removal of the glass headlight covers. Finally, Series 3 from 1971 to 1974 saw the incredible V12 5.3L motor, unsurprising is the uprated brakes and steering that also came with this model. It is commonly believed in excess of 70,000 E Types were produced and the car is appreciated as much by the enthusiast today as it was 50 years ago. This was verified in 2008 when it was named No1 in the online survey of the 100 most beautiful cars ever made organised by the Daily Telegraph.
In May 2012 Tom Mould fulfilled his lifetime ambition and final acquired this 1972 Series 3 Coupe 2+2 V12. The car was in good order but not to the standard it is today. Tom has been around the motor trade most of his life and has lavished his time and knowledge on the Jaguar to achieve its stunning condition. I caught up with Tom at his local event ‘A Drive through Time’ in Bognor Regis last June. What happens now he has achieved his ambition I asked? A one word answer just ‘enjoy’ and this is not difficult with the most beautiful car ever made.