SOLD 05/24

1959 Austin Healey
Speedwell Sprite GT

Well-documented early race history, easy to maintain BMC running gear, exotic styling.

  • VINAN530370
  • Exterior ColorWhite
  • Interior ColorBlack
  • MileageTMU
  • EngineInline 4 cylinder
  • Transmission4-Speed
  • StatusSold
  • StockFJ2864


1960 Austin Healey Speedwell Sprite GT
Chassis Number – AN530370
Exterior Color – White
Interior Color – Black
Engine Type –Inline 4-cylinder
Gearbox –Close Ratio 4-Speed Manual
Current Mileage – 49,800 (TMU)

- One of 25 originally constructed Speedwell Sprite GTs
- Known ownership history backed by extensive documentation
- Period racing including first owner Dan Margulies

History of the Speedwell Sprite GT

The Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite was produced from 1958-1971. The small yet capable two-seater sports car utilized unibody construction for both cost and manufacturing efficiency resulting in a compact and simple design. The capable Bugeye could achieve a top speed of 82 mph and deliver a thrifty 32 mpg. Over the years, the Bugeye evolved with numerous improvements attracting racers and privateers eager to tap the unique and endearing design. Such was the case in 1957 when performance entrepreneurs and racers George Hulber, Les Adams, and John Sprinzel established Speedwell Performance Conversions Ltd. Initially focused on high performance modifications for the 948cc Austin engine, Speedwell attracted both prominence and capable talent including aerodynamicist Frank Costin and driver Graham Hill to staff the endeavor. Under Speedwell's direction, Costin and Hill were tasked with the challenge to elevate the Austin-Healey Sprite into a competitive race car – one that could be a formidable contender in top racing events.

The team set about modifications for the engine, improvements to the chassis including Girling front disc brakes, and installed a close ratio 4-speed transmission. For the exterior, Costin shaped a closed fastback roofline with a curved windscreen and clean lines terminating the rear fenders – no easy feat considering the short wheelbase and short overhangs. The main body was lightened using aluminum construction and fiberglass for the clamshell hood, which helpfully tilted forward to allow easy access to the engine. The completed car, christened the Speedwell Sprite GT, was FIA homologated in September 1960 where the first cars began racing in international competition driven by notable drivers including John Sprinzel, Briggs Cunningham, Bruce McLaren, and others. Just 25 examples were produced including cars campaigned at Sebring in the early 1960s.

History of this Speedwell Sprite GT

This example was purchased new by noted racer Dan Margulies. Benefiting from the resources afforded to him as proprietor of his thriving London based Rolls Royce dealership, Margulies registered the car under UK registration number 2824 MV competing in numerous events including three notable international rallies – 1960 Alpine Rally (June) and 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege (September). Although the car failed to finish either event, in 1961 it was entered by American Lotus distributor Jay Chamberlain for a 1961 Nurburgring event when it spun and rolled during practice. Although damage was minimal to the body (as seen in the shop photo with Margulies and Chamberlain reviewing the car) they were unable to participate at that race. The car was repaired and prepared for the third international rally, the 1961 Tour de Course. Before the race, the car was loaned to Peter Jackson (Margulies’ co-driver for the upcoming event). Jackson, driving on his own in a local club rally, spun, resulting in damage to the “Monza” hood. Jackson, also a Speedwell Sprite GT owner, agreed to remove the fiberglass hood from his Sebring W&P GT as a suitable replacement in time to enter the Tour de Course.

In 1963 the car changed hands to the next documented owner remaining in the UK with a series of subsequent owners until it was sold to David Donley in 1977. Donley imported the car to the US and actively campaigned it at Sebring including his participation in the 1977 Sebring Silver Anniversary Classic and Palm Springs International Raceway events (photos included with documentation on this car) and later in 1981 to Bud Nixon. Under Nixon’s ownership, Jack Merriman restored the car including the installation of a new and correct Speedwell Monza hood as originally built for the car. Nixon raced and showed the car for many years in the Northeast region eventually selling the car to Dan Leonard (the documented 8th owner) who returned the car to Merriman for restoration once again, retaining the car until 2015. The current owner purchased the car in 2018. Over the past eight years of ownership various mechanical aspects of the car have been serviced and a new fuel bladder installed in 2022. Shortly before offering the car for sale, the current and consigning owner reports having replaced the clutch and improvement to the paint work on the rear portion of the car.

General Overview

Today this rare Speedwell Sprite GT presents in excellent condition. One of only a handful of Speedwell Sprite GTs in existence today, the history is known since new, and the condition is reflective of recent and ongoing care by current and former owners. Though some time has lapsed since the restoration was completed, the owners have maintained both mechanical and cosmetic features consistent with race cars of this vintage. The car reflects honest features, updates for vintage racing, and historically correct livery celebrating the 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege race. The paint is in very good condition and the streamlined alloy Costin body and steel doors have been expertly restored including the desirable lightweight fiberglass Monza hood and uniquely fitted front and rear glass. A set of plastic side windows are fixed in place with rotating air vents to aid cabin cooling. Per original specifications, a set of painted wire wheels with dual-ear chrome plated knockoffs are mounted wearing Dunlop Racing 4.50L-13 tires.

Vintage racing enthusiasts and Bugeye enthusiasts will appreciate the attention to detail Speedwell applied to this car during original construction, much of which remains today. Not merely a modified car, the construction is quite extensive and impressively so particularly in the interior where steel and alloy components come together to achieve the purposeful and necessary lightweight racing aesthetic. The black dashboard is filled with a combination of Smiths gauges and a Speedwell branded oil pressure gauge. The dashboard is fronted by a vintage wood rim steering wheel, flanked by the 4-speed gear lever. A set of matching black vinyl bucket seats are trimmed with off white piping and fitted with a competition seat belt harness.

Titling forward from the cowl, the lightweight fiberglass hood opens easily, revealing the signature of John Sprinzel preserved from the year he signed the car in 2008. The engine is finished in the correct green color, featuring twin SU carburetors, a custom air box with trumpet intakes, and a finned valve cover with a Speedwell plaque depicting the performance enhancements. The engine and engine compartment are tidy and clean with a few modern provisions including an electric fan, modern ignition wires, and a modern performance coil. The underside of the car is clean, refreshingly simple, and cleverly constructed including a smoothly formed aerodynamic front underside vented with internal cooling duct work. Other features include Girling front disc brakes, coil over shocks, and the close ratio alloy casing gearbox. Finishes are indicative of enjoyable miles driven since the restoration was completed under previous ownership. The main frame and unibody floor pans appear to be original, something rarely found in vintage race cars of this period.

The car starts, runs, stops, and drives with confidence. Though more at home driving on closed circuit events, the car is titled and could be made streetable with suitable upgrades should the next owner decide to do so. We also recommend that the next owner commission a thorough review with a professional vintage race shop before driving this car in a competition setting.

Included with this Car

This Speedwell Sprite GT is accompanied by numerous copies of original purchase documentation, a racing logbook covering numerous races from 2002-2012, photos of the car in various period racing events including the earliest races, restoration photos, and several written documents supporting the history and ownership of this rare Speedwell Sprite GT.

The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.

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Fantasy Junction  •  510-653-7555  •  1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608