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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On the Monte in 1962

WER 354 ~ William Franklin

owned by Tom Coulthard

(bought in 1969 by Tom’s now sadly late brother, Leonard H Coulthard)

In Tom's own words:

"Starting life on 31st March 1960, WER was supplied through main dealer Marshall’s of Cambridge and registered on 22nd April, when it was bought by William Franklin, a manufacturer of carpet underlay for the motor industry. He purchased it through his friend Denys Burgess, who ran a small car sales operation in the nearby village of Fulbourn, where had an Austin franchise as a ‘Stocking Trader’. This was the lowest form of retail life in the BMC food chain, but there was no shame in that – the same status was enjoyed by Healey Car Sales Ltd at The Cape works in Warwick.

WER was one of the last cars to be modified as a Sebring Sprite at the Donald Healey Motor Company’s Speed Equipment Division in Grosvenor Street, London W1, before it was hived off as a separate entity under the ownership of John Sprinzel. WER was the principal subject of a joint road test (with David Harris’ H 221) of “Two Snappy Sprites” by Motoring News editor John Blunsden in the issue of 25 August 1960. He also recalled the drive in “My Year at the Wheel” in the 29 December issue.

Sometime during that Summer, WER visited the incomparable tuner Don Moore’s Cambridge premises for work on its Healey Sebring cylinder head – these were copy-milled from an original specially modified by Harry Weslake’s own workshop in Rye. WER’s head, which survives, is stamped ‘SEBRING T’ (for touring) – Don Moore’s further attentions would bring it up to full race spec. The car was also fitted with a long-range fuel tank – but not the earlier Healey affair comprising two ‘bottom halves’ of a standard tank: this was a full-width rectangular design which required the fitting of a side exhaust.

Also that summer, Bill Franklin visited the Snetterton circuit in WER (see pic.) and may have raced or sprinted there. Denys Burgess would later claim that WER raced there many times and was once timed along the Norwich Straight at 114 mph – however, evidence of this has yet to be found. What has been confirmed, however, is that Bill met the young driver Julian Sutton, who was at the time leading his class in the Autosport championship in an ageing Austin-Healey 100, which he piloted with considerable verve.

As a result of this meeting, Bill invited Julian Sutton to drive WER with him on 4th September 1960 at the Nürburgring in the inaugural International 500 km race over the fearsome Nordschleife. (The entry in Janos Wimpffen’s usually definitive Time And Two Seats is mistaken in giving the co-driver as the other ‘J. Sutton’ in British club racing at the time – Marcos driver John Grenville Sutton.)

By lap four of the race, Julian Sutton was running 8th overall out of the 52 cars that had taken the start – including works teams from Abarth, BMW and Auto Union. WER was also lying a comfortable second in class to future F1 driver Paul Hawkins in S 221, who was in fifth place overall. However, as Janos Wimpffen puts it in his race description: “As the stops came due near the halfway mark, two of the key players retired. Kling’s [works Auto Union] engine broke and Sutton went off the road.”

 “It just got away from me” commented Julian recently “going round the right-hander that gives onto the main ‘straight’ – not that it is straight, of course!” The corner is named Galgenkopf (Gallows Head) and WER performed a neat half-pirouette and, hitting some freshly-chopped forestry by the side of the track, very gently rolled over onto the passenger side, one of the wooden stakes piercing the rear inner wheel arch. Thankfully Julian was completely unscathed, but WER’s race was run ... without its proud owner getting to compete".

(to be continued)

According to "Spritely Years", of which Tom Coulthard was co-author, WER was built in January 1960 and was the first Sprinzel road test car - an article published in Motoring News on 25th August that year. On the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally it went 'over the time limit' on deep, rutted snow near Le Puy, but the following year (Burgess/Daughtry) it finished 10th in class, and 223rd overall. The engine had a genuine Harry Weslake Sebring head, further modified by Don Moore, a friend of Denys Burgess, and there was also a 12 gallon fuel tank. Franklin and Burgess were regular Monte privateers.

Believed sold by Burgess in autumn 1962, the car disappeared until Brian Fisher acquired it in 1965 and used it for sprints, hillclimbs and autocross events, including winning the British National Autocross at Taunton in August, 1965.

From Tom Coulthard (on Facebook, July 2017):
"In June last year, WER's shell was ready and waiting in my ancient-but-venerable covered trailer, booked in for a full, professional restoration more than 40 years after it was last on the road. The DH MoCo boot rack (beautifully replicated by Peter Seamen) is shown adjacent to the surviving holes in the rear shroud. The shot of the rear wing shows the 1969 yellow ochre as well as some 1965 midnight blue - the diagonal stripe of rust is probably damage from the crash at the 1960 Nurburgring 500km ...".
I understand that the restoration is being WERproject-managed by Tom's good friend Jonathan Whitehouse-Bird so I think we can expect some fairly exacting standards. See attached photo of the car during the early stages of the restoration during October last year (2016).

Bill Franklin and WER at Snetterton in 1960
Julian Sutton
Julian Sutton - Motoring News May 1960
WER 354
1961 Monte Carlo Rally
[Spritely Years]
Monte 62
On the Monte in 1962 after collision with a telegraph pole
In 1965, when sold by Wild Goose Garages in Dursley.
WER model
a model of the car [TC]