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

 

7140 RO ~ Speedwell GT

The life of this little car is pretty convoluted:

Raced in the early 60's by Jack Mathe, owner of Waypass Garage in West London, this Speedwell was initially painted green. Jack had earlier competed in another Speedwell, registered XYU 383 and continued to own both cars. One of them was occasionally driven by Jack's fellow director at Waypass, Tom Pick.

7140 RO was a regular in the Silverstone Six-Hour Relay race and both cars were entered in the 750MC Silverstone race meeting in July 1962 when Jack set fastest lap.

Tom Pick rolled RO at Castle Combe and it was badly damaged. In order to get back racing again without delay the identities of the two cars was swapped, the "new" 7140 RO using the best parts from both cars.

The history is further confused by the fact that a subsequent owner, Bill Graham already owned Speedwell 137 VMX when he bought the accident damaged 7140 RO from Jack Mathe. For a second time two cars were cannibalised, this time by Bill, in an attempt to achieve the ultimate Speedwell GT (137 VMX). 7140 RO ended up with the usual aluminium hardtop plus an aluminium bonnet and utilised the bottom end of Bill's original engine with the ex-Mathe Speedwell eight-port head and four Amal carburettors. Jack had cut out the footwell sides and transmission tunnel, replacing them in aluminium. This was found to compromise the rigidity of the chassis so Bill reinstated the original steel panels.

In 1966 Bill Graham teamed up with Mick Gorman and two others to form Team Classic Service Station, all of the cars being painted in dark purple with a gold stripe.

The next owner of RO was Joseph Tassimer who competed with the car in hill-climbs and sprints. In September 1975 he blew the engine and sold the car as a non-runner to Brian Kenyon who intended rebuilding it for historic racing. However he later decided it would not be competitive and began to dismantle it.

[The above facts were gleaned from John Baggott's book "Frogeye Sprite, the Complete Story" to whom I extend my thanks.]

In July 2015, I heard from Speedwell guru Alistair Ross that 7140 RO had, for some years, been owned by Brian Kenyon who lived near Sheffield and was involved in running the Harewood Hill Climb.
"The car itself had a tough life having been rebuilt a number of times and had been owned by Jack Mathe (see photo below where the car is black and yellow), Tom Pick (former Speedwell salesman) and I think, Gerry Marshall. It was Bill Graham who got me on to the trail of this car as he had also owned it along with 137 VMX and raced it under his Flintstone Racing name. I 7140 ROunderstood he still has the side screens for the car although these may have by now been reunited with it. Attached (top right) is, I believe, a picture of 7140 RO in one of its racing incarnations later in its life when its livery was a striking purple and gold, with Bill Graham at the wheel".

In November 2016 I was approached by a Peter Hirst to advise on the value of "a Speedwell complete body in a friend's garage, comprising of aluminium bonnet, aluminium roof, and fibreglass back. No chassis, just bodywork. I believe this is one of the first ones produced". It would seem that Brian Kenyon had recently died. I didn't attempt to give an opinion but heard in that December that "The alloy top and bonnet of the Speedwell GT owned by the late Brian Kenyon has now been sold by his widow Pat and went to its new owner, Bill McDonnough of Hardy Engineering, soon after. The 'car' is believed to have one of the 6 alloy bonnets made, as well as the usual alloy hardtop".

Bill later advised me that he had decided to employ the services of Paul Woolmer of Woolmer Classic Engineering Ltd to restore the 'car' for him. Mrs Kenyon had recently found the driver's door which had been re-united with the rest of the car's components.

However, while Bill had the alloy top and bonnet, the bodyshell and other parts would seem to have been acquired by Peter Hirst who had then re-sold them to his brother-in-law Tony Shercliffe who was also planning to build it up as a Speedwell. Hopefully common sense will prevail and the two 'halves' of the car will eventually be re-united.

137 vmx
137 vmx
Repainted but still with its yellow wires


Any further information about the car's history would be welcome
via Feedback please

5447 HX

7140RO
Bill Graham at the wheel
Mathe
This shot of 7140 RO was
sent in by Alistair Ross and shows the Speedwell with Jack Mathe, of Waypass Garage at the wheel.
Combe
The late Mike Wylie passed me these pictures (above and below) featuring Mike Reid's 2214 UE and a Speedwell GT (7140 RO) at Castle Combe in 1962. He believed 7140 RO was driven by either Matthews or Fielden.
[By kind permission of Ted Walker © Ferret Fotographics]
Combe