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

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Ladies FirstAbove: 2 articles in which the car features
Entry list
Sebring '69 entry list
Daytona entry
Daytona '70 entry list
Vintage Racer 2009

Letter & reply in Vintage RaceCar 2009 (Ian Turner)
Safety Fast Safety Fast, Feb 1968
(refers to 2 Le Mans cars)


The last of the Donald Healey Motor Co 'works' Coupés

~ which, it is believed, was intended (see Safety Fast article at foot of left-hand column) to take part in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in September 1968 alongside its sister car, HAN9-R-237. It may be that the car was not finished in time, or perhaps it was financial constraints that led to the team entering only one Sprite HAN9-R-237 alongside their new mid-engined SR Climax. It was at the celebrations after that race that Peter Browning announced BMC would be supporting no further racing with the Sprites. So, on 9th October, Geoff Healey wrote to all those who had previously bought his ex-works Sprites offering them the remaining Sprite racing cars and spares. Jim Baker (already the owner of TFR 5) must then have decided to buy this second car, HAN9-R-238, which was shipped out to New York in mid-December (see shipping tags, pictured right).

Is it surprising that subsequent owners of this car believed it to be the '68 Le Mans works entry when you read a number of Geoff Healey's letters? One shown on the right here, dated March 1969 addressed to Jim Baker could easily be mis-construed as offering Jim Baker the Targa Florio car, HAN9-R-250, and the coupé HAN9-R-238, these being the two cars owned by 3 consecutive owners in the States. However we now realise that in fact Geoff is offering Jim the ex-Le Mans car, HAN9-R-237, as Baker already owned chassis 238. On Steve Coleman's website you can read a number of further letters which Geoff wrote to the then owner of the car, Dan Miller, between 1991 and '93 in which he concludes that he is "almost certain his car is the '68 Le Mans car". This, of course has added to the confusion. Clearly Geoff had 'forgotten' that the Le Mans car had been sold to Speed Sport Publications in the Spring of 1970 and after a brief period during which it was owned by Charles Dawkins, it had passed on to Ian Polley in 1976. Polley was still racing it in the early 90's. On 15th November, 1976 Geoff Healey had written to Ian Polley confirming that ‘HNX 456D is the ’67 Le Mans car’, and 4 years later in May 1980, he signed Polley’s copy of “More Healeys” congratulating him on his "restoration of the ‘68 Le Mans car". All very puzzling. I can only think that in propping up Dan Miller's idea he was perhaps humouring a sick man - as Dan passed away just a few years later.

Jim Baker entered the coupé '238' in its first race, the Sebring 12 Hours on 22nd March, 1969 (#71) with himself, Paul Richards and former 'works' driver, Clive Baker, as drivers. As I have said earlier, Jim also owned the ex-Targa Florio Sprite LWD 959E and he ran that car in the same race with a team of three lady drivers - both cars being sponsored by Ring Free Oils. They were also joined by a 3rd ex-works prototype DAC 952C owned then by Arthur Tuckerman. The Jim Baker car (238) was 48th on the grid of 70 cars and came home 20th overall and 5th in class, with the ladies team coming in 23rd.

Jim Baker also drove '238' in a SCCA event at the Savannah Raceway (now renamed as the Roebling Road course) during 1969.

The coupé was next entered by Baker’s Ring Free Racing Team in the 24 Hrs of Daytona on January 2nd,  1970  using the #73 and Ring Free Racing colors with drivers Bobby Rinzler and Charles Reynolds.  The car gridded 47 out of a field of 66 but stopped after 178 laps with a blown head gasket.

Back again at Sebring, for the 1970 12 Hours, the Jim Baker car, again running #73, had Ring Free Oils sponsorship and an even more colourful blue and orange livery. With Jim driving his newly acquired Chevron B16, the Sprite was this time entered for another ladies' team which again included Janet Guthrie, accompanied by Judy Kondratieff (Ganley), Sharlene Seavey and the experienced British rally driver, Rosemary Smith. After qualifying 50th, the team went on to finish 1st in class and 19th overall in a grid of more than 90 world class marques like Ferrari, Porsche, and drivers such a Gurney, Andretti, Yenko and McQueen.  Janet Guthrie would later become famous for many significant races and became one of the few female drivers to be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame as well as the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Soon after the 1970 Sebring race, the car was sold by the Baker team (to Mandy Alvarez) who competed with it in a number of races over the following seasons, in the Sports Car Club of America series, and twice ran it in the American Road Race of Champions.  Then followed numerous amateur events with the car passing through several owners until the worn and abused HAN9-R-238 was retired from racing. Both this car and the roadster HAN9-R-250 ended up in La Porte, Texas with Dan Miller who commenced the coupés restoration. His friend Roger Williams was shown the cars in his warehouse in the late 80's. Sadly Dan contracted cancer and when he died Roger helped his widow sell them to Scott Hensel who Roger then assisted with the restoration process. Scott also died, quite suddenly, and Roger then brokered the sale of the cars to Steve Coleman who completed the rebuild of both the cars.

Starting in 1999, thirty years after the car's initial race at Sebring, its rather battered and sad remains were the subject of a long and meticulous restoration by Coleman and his team to brColeman Coupeing it back to its 1970 Sebring specification and original high standard of finish. Steve has his own website which includes his other car, the last of the (intended) 'works' Targa Florio cars, HAN9-R-250.

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Kemp 13
The Healey workshop, with probably chassis 238 under construction and 2 fuel-injected engines and 5 speed gearboxes on the floor.
[photo courtesy: Bob Kemp]
SC- Baker letter
The letter from Geoff Healey to Jim Baker, March 1969. Shipping tag
Shipping tag
The shipping tags attached to the car on delivery to New York in December, 1968.
HAN9 R 238
In the pits at Sebring for the 12 Hours in March, 1969Jim Baker etc
Jim Baker, Clive Baker, and Paul Richards
Coleman Coupe
1970: Judy Kondratieff (Ganley), Janet Guthrie, Sharlene Seavey and
Rosemary Smith..... Coleman Coupe

Classic Car 93

The car as initially restored and in Le Mans colours at Roger Williams of Texas, later repainted in the Ring Free Oils colour scheme.
Sebring 1970
An article taken from a magazine produced by British Leyland called HIGH ROAD for July 1970

Photos below kindly supplied by Steve Coleman

SC 17
SC 16
SC 15
SC 7
SCCA (Florida) log book - the car then painted red with a yellow stripe
Sebring startline
SC 8
SC 5
SC 6
SC 9
At Sebring in 1969
SC 22
SC 12
SC 18
Sebring 1970 (?)
Dicing with the Targa car
With a Bugyeye at Holywood

The photos below were kindly supplied by Bruno Verstraete from his archive

BV 39
BV 27
BV 34
BV 26
This is the start of the car's first major event, Sebring 1969, where it was driven by Jim Baker, Clive Baker and Paul Richards
BV 36
BV 33
BV 24
and here is the car in action the following year, again at Sebring, Florida
BV 29
BV 35
BV 32
I think this may be a later event, the car's lights having solid covers and a different style of race numbers
Jim Baker
Ladies Team
Jim & Girls
Coming under pressure
Owner/Driver: Jim Baker
The Ladies' Team
Jim celebrates with the team

and more pictures below courtesy of Steve Coleman

SC 11
SC 13
SC 19
SC 23
Above, the car as purchased, and below as it is now after Steve's full rebuild/restoration.
One of the '65 Le Mans cars as found in Scotland
N.B. Fuel cap position
SC Coupe
SC Coupe
SC Coupe
SC Coupe

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