Classic Car Photography has a bit of a thing about Austin Healeys, both the baby Sprites and their bigger siblings, so it’s always interesting to learn about different and interesting examples of the marque. This Austin Healey Sprite Le Mans prototype for sale by Coys in the UK certainly fits the bill in that regard.
This particular car, Austin Healey Sprite chassis number HAN8/R/143, was registered by the Donald Healey Motor Co in March 1966 and featured a custom streamlined body fitted to a pretty much standard Sprite chassis.
The Sprite first raced at Sebring that year, painted Day-Glow orange bearing race No 67, driven by Paul Hawkins and Timo Makinen where it finished 1st in class, 18th overall, 53 laps behind the winning GT40 of Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby. From Sebring it went on to race at Le Mans, this time re-painted red and numbered 49, driven by Paddy Hopkirk and Andrew Hedges. Reports vary, but according to Geoff Healey’s book ‘More Healeys’, the car was classified 18th after going out with connecting rod failure after 19½ hours. The sister car, No 48, suffered a similar failure at about the same distance.
According to the Coys’ auction description for the car, following the 1966 running of Le Mans, chassis HAN8/R/143 is believed to have been sold to Royston Motors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its next appearance in competition, however, wasn’t until the 1970 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona, where drivers William Harris and Robert E. Lewis retired the car after 373 laps, finishing in 34th position.
The car was later owned by Stan Huntley of Portland, Oregon who then passed it on to Tom, Pat and Brian Cotter of Davidson, North Carolina in 2002. In 2009 the Cotters sold the car to the current owner, a vintage racer, who ran the car at a 2010 Sebring vintage event before returning it to England. He’s since restored the car to period-correct guise (including the orange livery used at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring), obtained new FIA HTP paperwork and has recovered its original registration number. The car has been actively run in the HRDC “Grand Touring Greats” series, and has participated in the Le Mans Classic and the Goodwood Revival.
To meet modern safety standards, it carries an FIA-approved roll cage, a contemporary fuel cell, an updated race seat and harness, a fire suppression system and modern instrumentation. Although the 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine has been converted to a wet sump, the car’s original dry sump components remain with the car. The same holds true for the original Healey magnesium wheels, which are reserved for display use only, while period-correct Minilite wheels are used for competition.
With the car weighing in at 650 kgms, the power to weight ratio is more than useful. Driven through its original Le Mans 5-speed gearbox, power is transferred via a sintered race clutch. The suspension benefits from new, but to original specification, front springs, front lever-arm shock absorbers and a race set-up with negative camber fitted. The rear suspension runs new, but compliant, double-adjustable shock absorbers.
Coys Auctions will offer this very special Austin Healey Sprite on April 27 2013 at its Ascot Racecourse UK auction with a pre-auction estimate ranging from £200,000 to £220,000 (about US$305,000 to US$335,000).
Click Here for more information.