Dedicated to the memory of the late Brian Archer who fulfilled his dream to re-create John Sprinzel's Sebring Sprite Coupé


458 STJ ~ An amazing 'barn find'.

Delivered new to John Nayler in January 1961, through Austin agents, Primrose Garage in Lancashire, this little Sprite was ordered complete with disc brakes, and was immediately further enhanced with a very long list of additional tuning parts including a Star Sprite bonnet. 

It passed through two more owners before being laid up in a garage late in 1973. Apparently it was initially equipped with a Shorrock supercharged engine but this was replaced by the second owner in 1963 who, through his job at Ford SVO, was reputedly able to get an experimental BMC engine. He sold the car to the late third owner a few months later and now, over 40 years on, Ben Tyer has purchased it (July 2016) on ebay from his son. It was listed at a very low 'Buy It Now' price and Ben snapped it up within an hour or so of it being listed. Lucky man!

When Ben collected the car the bonnet couldn't be opened and hadn't been raised since the early 1970's. Having eventually gained access it became clear the motor has a host of trick parts but unfortunately the engine number tag has been removed.

458 STJ
In Nov 1961 fitted with DHMC hardtop
Original invoice
Total mileage 56,800
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
Star Sprite bonnet and early fixed side-screens.
Unusually, the bonnet opens crocodile fashion. Last tax disc.
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
Faded headlamp cowls.
Front discs from new.
Nice wood-rim.
Boot area fitted with door.
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
458 STJ
8" rear drums
Weber and 3 branch
Organ pedal removed.
Sebring pedal box hiding.


Via his local Austin-Healey agents, Primrose Garage of Clitheroe, Lancashire, John Nayler ordered a MkI Sprite that was delivered to the dealership* with 60-spoke knock-off wheels, Girling front disc brakes, large Girling rear brake drums and the Sebring pedal box including separate clutch + brake master cylinders. Primrose Garage then fitted Dunlop Duraband tyres and re-balanced the wheels. Registered on 31st January 1961, the total price was £902, Mr Nayler part-exchanging his existing MkI Sprite (registration 522 JTD). John Nayler:

I traded in my first Sprite for the new car and all the add-ons were done before we took delivery, roughly taking a couple of weeks. They were: Shorrock supercharger with 1.5-inch SU carb giving about 5 PSI, anti-roll bar on the front, higher rate springs, Les Leston wood-rimmed steering wheel and the bonnet she still sports (made in Yorkshire and better looking than a standard Sebring Sprite!). All the work was done by Primrose Garage, being the local BMC agent and, like us, a family firm with good experience, some of it preparing Mini’s for rallying.

The car was spec’d to be an improvement on any similar car and to be one up on my chums. And it was!

Sourcing of the bits was a combination of me and Primrose. I bought the supercharger from Shorrocks in Blackburn and I’m fairly certain I bought the wheel from Moss in London and the oil cooler somewhat later from Kenlowe. The other specialist parts came from the Donald Healey Motor Company in Warwick. I certainly visited them once and Geoff Healey was very interested in the car.

At the end of July ’61 a pair of (Marchal) fog lamps and a reverse light were installed for a trip to Vienna for a six-week course at the university. The spots were fitted on a badge-type bar attached to the front of the chassis. They were never very effective but helped to put the French off.

The Donald Healey Motor Company hardtop (originally in white) was acquired from a pal (Gerald Newton) towards the end of November ‘61. To match the car I decided to have it repainted Cherry Red as a little Christmas present to myself.

At the time I was fairly active in the Austin-Healey Club (then run by Peter Browning) and we competed in various events such as Driving Tests, Reliability Tests, Treasure Hunts and the odd rally until I realised that this was my sole way of getting to work and I could not afford to bend the car. All the events I did in the car were either organised by the Austin-Healey Club or the Lancashire Automobile Club. To help with average speed and time keeping, a Halda Speedmaster was mounted on the dash in front of the navigator. It was driven by a mechanical connection from the speedo and wired in for the clock and illumination.

The last ‘proper’ rally we did was the Whittaker Trophy in December ’61 when we had a minor shunt. Someone left a gate half open for us to clip firmly with the offside front. I say minor but it meant that I was without the car for a week so getting to work was difficult and I had to own up to my father as to why my car was off the road.

John Sprinzel fitted a balanced crank having broken the original just north of London on the way to Spain in the summer of ’62. At the time Christobel Carlisle (who raced Mini’s etc.) was John’s secretary and I think she signed the invoice – it’s a shame it’s not there! Over the next five weeks we travelled through Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium etc. taking in many mountain passes and interesting roads.  

I traded 458 STJ to Henly’s of Manchester for my first ‘Big Healey’ which was followed by further 3000’s".

On May 6th, 1963, 458 STJ was registered to its second owner, Rowland Janes of Hutton, Essex. Through his contacts as an engineer at Ford Special Vehicle Operations, Mr Janes was able to secure an experimental BMC engine that is reputedly one of only three built. Equipped with a modified head, the engine also features a finned alloy rocker cover, an AEA 604 inlet manifold, a Howe 3-1 exhaust manifold and what looks to be a Weber 45 DCOE twin choke carburettor.

Soon after completing the conversion, Mr Janes sold the car to his friend, Peter Lilley of Wilmington Square, London, who became the next registered keeper on July 19th 1963. Having covered some 56,800 miles, the car was laid up sometime in 1973 with a view to being put back on the road but never was.

Ben now plans a full restoration to 'Concours' standard, and I hope to be able to display more photos when this is underway**.

*N.B. If the Sprite was supplied to the dealership with the disc brake/wire wheel conversion it must, I believe, have come through Donald Healey Motor Company as I don't think BMC would have made those modifications. 

**Nov 2016: Ben presumably had a change of mind as the car was offered for sale briefly on ebay, and I have since learned that it has been acquired by the Bugatti specialist, Ivan Dutton.

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