The History of the 1968 Le Mans / Sebring Sprite - HANR-9-238

Following Sebring, the Sprite was entered and raced in the 24 Hrs of Daytona in January of 1970 with drivers Bobby Rinzler and Charles Reynolds.  The car DNF'd after 178 laps with a blown a head gasket.

Notice the car paint has been altered somewhat, it is now #73, and the hood "Bump" has been modified.

In March of 1970, this Sprite returned to the 12 hours of Sebring with the continued sponsorship of Ring Free Oil and Baker Racing.  For this outing their guns were loaded with more experience and a new, famous driver team. This Team and Sprite placed 1st in class and 19th overall in a grid of more than 90 world class marques like Ferrari, Porsche, and Yenko and drivers such a Gurney, Andretti, Yenko and McQueen.  Who were these famous drivers?  They were...
 "Janet Guthrie and the All Girl Racing Team" 
Janet, Rosemary Smith, Judy Kondratieff, and Sharlene Seavey.

There were 12 Le Mans / Sebring Sprite Prototypes built by Goeff and DonaldHealey between 1960 and 1968.  A detailed  record of all these special oneoff Healey Sprite Prototypes can be found in:  "More Healeys - Frog-eyes,Sprites, and Midgets" by Geoffrey Healey, published in 1978 by Gentry Books, London England.  
 
This Le Mans Sprite (HAN9-R-238) was one of the last coupes built.  Before his passing, Geoff Healey identified this car as likely being 1968 Le Mans car and documented his conclusions in 6 letters.  Based on this owners and others research, it is most likely that the earlier - 237 car was the '68 Le Mans car, and - 238 was a second back up car...however,  Geoff himself was having difficulty sorting it out which makes for interesting reading.   ( read the letters) 
In 1968, the Healey Prototype Sprite placed 15th overall in the historic 24 hr international endurance event completing 255 Laps and over 2200 miles running the entire 24 hours...."with almost monotonous regularity
". 

The Beginning... The 24 Hrs of Le Mans 

The 1970 24 Hrs of Daytona 

A Return to Sebring - with an Historic Class Win!

The American Road Race of Champions and SCCA 

After the 1970 Sebring race, HAN9-R-238 found its way to "The American Road Race of Champions" (ARRC).  This race today is known as  "The Runnoffs" in the amateur racing venue of SCCA (Sports Car Club of America).

The upper left photo shows the Coupe, still retaining its Sebring race colors and conveniently re-numbered "78", driven by Dale Kreider from Florida in a SCCA national race in 1971(date ?).  The driver of the AH Bugeye (#27) is Mandy Alvarez, also from Florida, who later bought the Special Sprite that he was eyeballing in this photo! 

In 1973, Mandy and his best friend Robert Fine, Jr. raced together at ARRC.  Robert had purchsed TFR7, the last special Roadster Sprite built for the Targa Florio.  The lower left photo shows both cars in battle with each other at the '73 ARRC races.  While the Coupe did not race in the final race for the championship, the Roadster, Driven by Robert, placed 11th in the championship in the C Sports Racing class.

Lost and Found..."The Restoration" 

Unlike old race car drivers, old race cars never die...they just get rebuilt!  As you can see, HAN9-R-238 was in very sad shape when the long process of bringing her back to life began in the early 90's.  Many people and sprite enthusiasts have worked long and hard and countless dollars were expended along the way.  But, this author/owner considers it an honor and privilege to be the caretaker of this piece of history and bring this Special Sprite, the Last Austin Healey Sprite Coupe Prototype, back to where she was meant to be...
... on the race track.

The 12 Hrs of Sebring - 1969

After the '68 Le Mans race, HAN9-R-238 was brought to the US to be part of Baker's Ring Free Racing Team.  The Sprite, now wearing the Blue and Orange Ring Free colors and #71, was entered and raced in the 12 Hrs of Sebring in January of 1969 with drivers Jim Baker(Team Owner-US), Paul Richards (US), and Clive Baker (UK).  Clive had been a BMC Works sponsored driver for many of the Healeys Works cars.  The Sprite gridded 48th at the start of the race and finished 20th overall in a field of 98 world class drivers and cars.

An interesting and noticable feature of this Sprite was the "Bump" in the hood which was necessary to allow spae for the unique fuel injector throttle bodies.  Notice at this race the Baker Team had drilled holes in the "Bump" to allow for better air flow.  In later races, this "Bump" was redesigned to fit better without the need for holes.

What makes this car unique from all prior Le Mans Sprites is the engine and transmission package.  This car was fitted with Lucas mechanical fuel injection and a special head.  The gearbox was an MGB based transmission with a special housing for a 5th gear in a compartment behind the main box (a true 5 speed).  

1968 Austin Healey Prototype Sprite Coupe HAN9-R-238

Coupe Engine sans 1970's

Roadster Engine Today (w/o Generator)
New Coupe engine is still in assembly

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