Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Here is a graphic example of the skill, subtlety and sophistication of Tom Tjaarda's design talents. The 'Bugeye' Austin Healey Sprite Mark 1 was introduced in 1958, designed by Donald Healey at his Cape Works outside Warwick.

Despite its somewhat pedestrian specification, using mostly Morris Minor mechanicals and powertrain, the Sprite was an instant success - I suggest mirroring the original success of the MG TC - as a basic, but fun, low-cost British sports car.

Then in 1962, using the same platform and mechanicals Tom Tjaarda designed the Tipo 950 as a contract for Italian company, Innocenti. What a huge difference a 'real' designer has made to a basically good idea, albeit with very primitive styling. 

I once owned a red Mk2a Sprite, which was something of an improvement in the design department.

However, the little Sprite went on to become something of a 'giant killer' in international sports car racing, with the development of the 'Sebring Sprite' by Donald Healey and John Sprinzel. The Healey Motor Company submitted an application to the FIA under new regulations which allowed 'special bodies' and modified mechanicals.

Their first appearance was at the 1960 Sebring 12 Hour Race, fitted with Girling disc brakes, Girling wire wheels, much improved performance and coupe bodywork made from aluminium and fibreglass, with a new nose designed by Frank Costin.

In this first outing, the Sebring Sprites finished first, second and third in their class, with none other than Sir Stirling Moss finishing fifth, after having led the class for most of the race.

In 1961 Stirling's sister Pat Moss finished 7th in a Sebring Sprite.

Here's Stirling and Pat 'before the off' at Sebring 1961.

Just between us girls, I think I would have rather liked to own an Innocenti 950, instead of my Mark 2a.

John Crawford

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