The official designation for a works modified Austin Healey Sprite appears to be a “Happy” Sprite, all owners of cars so equipped being eligible for a lapel badge depicting a grinning Sprite.
The Assistant Editor’s Happy Sprite has now completed nearly 10,000 miles of converted motoring. The works conversion consists of high compression pistons (9.2:1), re-shaped and polished ports and combustion chambers and a higher lift camshaft. On the works conversion the standard 1 1/8-in. S.U. carburetters and valves are retained in the interests of better fuel consumption.
The high compression has naturally necessitated the use of 100 octane petrol and together with the high lift camshaft has left the car with little power below 3,000 r.p.m. From 4,000 r.p.m. onwards there is much more power available. In a “drag race” with a standard Sprite the modified model lost ground up to 50 m.p.h., but after 60 m.p.h. rapidly left the standard car behind. Maximum speed has been lifted from 81 m.p.h. to 92 m.p.h. (100 m.p.h. on the speedometer), but the greatest charm is in the cruising speed. Most cars seem to settle into a suitable cruising gait, which on the normal Sprite is about 60 m.p.h., but on the modified car 75 m.p.h. is very comfortably maintained.
Under rally conditions using 5,500 r.p.m. as a gear changing mark, fuel consumption naturally dropped to 30 m.p.g., but under normal fast motoring conditions 35 m.p.g. is possible and pottering along under 50 m.p.h. recently, four gallons of petrol lasted 160 miles.
Unfortunately, high performance has to be paid for in other directions and in the case of the Sprite the brakes were worn out in under 15,000 miles. The linings were replaced with Mintex M.20 which are much harder, requiring slightly heavier pedal pressures but having (we hope) much longer life. A Clayton Dewandre Mot-A-Vac servo system is shortly to be fitted in an effort to reduce braking distances to a minimum.
The Dunlop Durabands have advanced their mileage to 16,000 and are just beginning to show signs of wear on the outside edges. These soft wall tyres are rather more sensitive to pressures than the normal type, as much as 30 lb./sq. in. being necessary for high speed cruising while 14 lb./sq. in. is sufficient for wet weather motoring. They really do grip the road extremely well and considerable cornering forces are required to make them break away. Durabands are now being made in the 10 in. size for the Mini-Minor and Austin Seven, although at present their use is being restricted to rally cars.
Another modification made to the Sprite is the fitting of a panel at the rear to facilitate the removal of the spare wheel. Nothing can be more infuriating on a Sprite than to have to remove the spare wheel when the luggage space is full, especially when the wheel is wet and muddy. My local panel beater cut out the panel to which the number plate is attached. He then reinforced the edges with steel channelling and modified a spare wheel cover from a 1939 Ford Ten to fit. The wheel retaining strap needs slight modification so that it can be unbuckled from the rear, but this presents little difficulty. Apart from its usefulness for removing the spare wheel, small items which have rolled to the back of the compartment can be retrieved.
The Sprite has covered 22,000 miles in ten months and has shown only one or two minor faults. On a basis of initial price and running cost allied to superb steering and road-holding the Sprite can have few competitors amongst sports cars. – M.L.T.
The Annual Conference of R.A.C. recognised Clubs takes place on February 19th and promises to be a stormy affair. The rumblings of discontent which were apparent at last year’s meeting have now exploded into a resolution by the London Motor Club that the Clubs form what they term as a Steering Committee to govern all road competitions in this country although the committee would still be responsible to the R.A.C. Competitions Committee. They have also formulated another resolution that delegates from Clubs should have the right to vote at the Conference, which up till now they have been unable to do. The governing of the sport is done entirely by the Competitions Committee and they can ignore the wishes and ideas of the Clubs completely if they so desire although in practice much of the legislation is satisfactory to both sides.
Unfortunately when the Agenda for the Conference was received the London M.C. resolution had been severely pruned so that only the resolution on voting remained. This is hardly conducive to good relations between Clubs and the R.A.C. and promises for a wordy battle on the 19th.
Other resolutions placed on the Agenda include one from the M.G. Car Club that in National and Restricted rallies competition numbers shall be prominently displayed. Several Clubs have also requested that members of Clubs promoting a Restricted event should be able to participate in that particular event without a competition licence. The Sussex C.C. and the Stroud & D.M.C. are seeking a revision of the rule which limits the number of Clubs invited to Restricted events. The Sussex C.C. suggest the raising of the limit from 10 to 30, while the Stroud & D.M.C. advocate raising the limit to 15. The Sevenoaks & D.M.C. request that more than one copy of the R.A.C. monthly bulletin be sent to Clubs each month, and the Mid-Surrey A.C. ask that the maximum average speed of 30 m.p.h. in rallies be raised to at least 35 m.p.h. when traversing “A” roads or Motorways. (The R.A.C. has banned the Motorway to competitors in rallies.)
The Amilcar Register will be holding a meeting at Flat 18, Bray House, Duke of York Street, London, W.1, on February 25th from 7.30 p.m. onwards. Non-member Amilcar owners would receive a warm welcome.
The Mid-Surrey Automobile Club and the East Surrey M.C. will be co-promoting a Driving Test meeting at Park Road, Banstead, Surrey, on Sunday, February 14th, starting at 1 p.m. Motoring journalists have been invited to compete and, although the Editor has declined to damage his Mini-Minor at this early stage, the Assistant Editor has entered his Sprite.
The popular Cat’s Eyes Rally, organised by the Thames A.C., will take place on February 6/7th this year starting from Lamb’s Garage on the Southend Road, near Woodford Green, Essex.
SOUTH AFRICAN G.P. – JANUARY 1st
European drivers competing in the South African G.P. at East London were limited to cars of 1,500-c.c, capacity, while the locals had Formula Libre rules. This was an ingenious method of handicapping the superior driving and cars of the Europeans, but even so the Cooper brigade dominated the race. Equipe’ National Beige sent Frere and Bianchi with Cooper-Climax cars, Moss and Bristow had Cooper-Borgwards. and Halford had a Cooper-Climax. Moss dominated the race, followed by Frere, while Bristow made an excursion off the road and later went out with gearbox trouble, a malady that delayed Halford at the pits. Just before the end of the race when victory seemed certain a fuel-injection pipe split on the Borgward unit in the Moss car and he was slowed considerably, which let Frere pass him and win the race.
NEW ZEALAND G.P. – (January 9th)
After setting the pace with a 2 1/2-litre Cooper-Climax from the Walker stable, on the Ardmore airfield circuit, Moss was forced to retire when his clutch gave trouble. This let Brabliam and McLaren into the first two places and they gave a demonstration run, though Moss retained the satisfaction of making fastest lap.
FALSE BAY “100 ” – (January 8th)
In this race at Cape Town Bristow drove a Yeoman Credit Team Cooper-Borgward and won with ease, in spite of suffering from injuries received when he crashed in a production car race earlier in the meeting.