1965 Austin Healey Sprite Sebring Coupe
1965 Austin Healey Sprite Sebring CoupeSource: private party
Posted: 06 Oct 2009
The Austin-Healey team for the 1965 Sebring race consisted of two streamlined Sprite Coupes. One car was entirely new aerodynamic design with a body shape provided by research from Austin and construction by Donald Healey Motor Company’s Experimental Department. On this project Geoff Healey was the design leader, Roger Menadue performed the fabrication and assembly of mechanical components and Bill Buckingham constructed the body panels. The creation that resulted from their effort was a beautiful little coupe with a windscreen cut down from an Austin Mini and side windows and headlight covers of Perspex and visually was very similar to the Le Mans car for that year. The new Sprite Coupe was painted in a fluorescent day glow orange and carried race number 61, this is the car shown on this page. The interior of the car contained two form-fitting fiberglass bucket seats trimmed in black leather-like material and a five-point seat belt was provided for the driver. A small fire extinguisher was located in front of the passenger seat. All wiring was internal to the car, eliminating the possibility of electrical failure should something hit the bottom of the car. Instrumentation was contained in a binnacle directly in front of the driver with the gauges included a centrally located tachometer with oil-pressure/water-temperature combination gauge on one side and fuel gauge on the other side. The dashboard and centre console were lack with nice switches easily reached by the driver, one of these switches allowed the driver to switch from one of the twin petrol pumps installed to the other. Three engines were developed for Sebring. The special engine for number 61 stamped XSP24262 was a highly tuned BMC A-series running with a 4-speed transmission and close ratio gears. It was the second of three engines developed for Sebring and the car won its class at Sebring in 1965. The first engine in the series, XSP 24261, went into the Austin-Healey 3000 No. 34 that also won its class at Sebring in 1965. Installed in Sprite No. 62, XSP 24263 finished second in class behind the other Sprite, all three performed exceptionally well under these extreme-racing conditions. On the April 8th 1965, Geoff Healy summarized the Sebring race in a letter titled “Sebring 1965” sent to Stuart Turner of BMC Competition Department. “In this year’s event, objectives were achieved. Both the 3-litre GT and 1300cc Prototype classes were won”. Geoff went on to say, “One Sprite rear axle hub bearing failed and there was evidence of partial half-shaft failure. Increased strength of axle shafts and bearing is required. Prior to the race half-shafts were changed as a precaution”. A race like Sebring requires strategy as well as speed and reliability. Geoff explained his strategy as, it was decided to drive the cars to finish and try for class wins. Rev limits were set at 5,500 rpm for the 3000 and 6,700 rpm for the Sprites”. The final portion of the letter summarized the problems encountered during the race. “The Sprites ran well with moderate tire wear, being kept well below their maximum. Two headlamps came loose on car 61 and the wiper drive failed on car 62 (probably due to a loose tube nut on the drive). “A torrential rainstorm that flooded the pits and much of the track marked the 1965 Sebring race. During the rain, the Sprites performed better than the more powerful cars such as Ferrari, Cobra and Chaparral. In this period the Sprite was able to lap these cars, in part due to the narrow Dunlop rain tires that cut through the water as opposed to the wide tires on the big cars that tended to aquaplane. Geoff Healy’s comments on the rain were, “Waterproofing was excellent and was of advantage during the heavy rain”. The three Austin-Healey cars finished the 12-hour race on the same lap (175) and crossed the finish line three abreast. Because of starting positions on the grid, even though they were on the same lap they were classified as finishing 15th (No. 61 Sprite, drivers Aaltonen and Baker), 17th (no. 34 Austin-Healey 3000, driver Banks and Hawkins) and 18th (No. 62 Sprite, drivers Hopkirk and Makinen). The Austin-Healey cars of 1965 had speed, reliability and, as can be seen from the photos on this page, beauty. These cars were a tribute to the Warwick based Austin-Healey team. Specifications Name Sprite Coupe Year of Production 1965 Volume 2 Factory-prepared cars (HAN8-R65-5 shown on this page) Engine 1964 BMC A-Series Modified (XSP 24262) Cubic Capacity 1,293 cc Carburetion Single Weber 45 DCOE Power Output 105 bhp @ 7,200 rpm Transmission 4-speed with close ration gears Chassis Sprite Monocoque with Birmabright floor pan and steel roll cage Body All aluminum paneled 2-seater coupe Front Suspension Independent coil springs, wishbones, anti-roll bar and lever-arm dampers Rear Suspension Live axle, 4.2.1 ZF Limited slip, with half-eliptical leaf springs, Panhard rod and adjustable lever-arm dampers. Brakes F/R 8.25 in diameter Lockheed disc/8 in x 1.25 in Lockheed drum Wheels F/R 13 in x 5.5 in Cast Magnesium allow disc Tires F/R 5.00 x 13 Dunlop CR65 Length 11 ft 9 in Width 5 ft Height 3 ft 9.5 in Wheelbase 6 ft 9 in Track F/R 3 ft 9.25 in / 3 ft. 8.75 in Weight 1,322 lbs My first car was a 1961 leaf green bug eye Sprite. I worked two jobs going to school and when I got this car I said I would never sell it. I still have it. In 1965 I drove that car to the 12 Hours of Sebring where I saw this car kick the crap out of the big guys in the rain. It was lapping every car in the field including the Daytona Coupe Cobra, Ford GT, Chaparral, 330P Ferraris, Gran Sport Corvette…… This car has been clocked at 156mph. Fifteen years later to the day of that race I found and bought this car. I shipped it back to England and Geoff and Donald Healey restored the car to the original Sebring specs (including the crap Lucas coils). The car even has a new set of the original Dunlop rain tires it ran on. The car is original and as run at Sebring in 65. When the car was returned to me Geoff and Donald gave me their file for the car from Sebring. Entry form, tech inspection sheet and even the shipping documents from England to Sebring. I already had the program and poster for the race. And I had photos of the car in the rain. Shortly after that I got another package and in that envelop were pictures of the car being built. They even gave me their original line drawing of the car before they began construction. I have misplaced the line drawing but will find it and everything goes with the car. There is a spare windshield for the car and multiple rear diffs with different gear ratios. The paint has some cracks, but I left it this way as this is how it came from the Healey shop. This is a great piece of racing history from the greatest era of road racing…the 60’s.
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