John Sprinzel, one of the best-known racing and rally drivers of his era, won the British Rally Championship and his class at the 12 Hours of Sebring behind the wheel of an Austin-Healey Sprite. This “spritely” British auto racer and tuner will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in Virginia next week.
Sprinzel was born in Berlin in October 1930. His family moved to England in 1933 and he was educated at Christ’s College, Finchley and at the Regent Street Poly. Initially apprenticed as a printer, he then went into the RAF for his National Service and trained as a pilot. He returned to become Production Manager in a printing firm until in 1957 he founded Speedwell with Len Adams and George Hulbert ~ modifying A.35s and Morris Minors before moving on to Sprites.
In 1959 he sold his share in the company to Graham Hill having been offered a job by the Donald Healey Motor Company as Manager of “Special Equipment” ~ modifying Sprites for race, rally and for fast-road use. When Healey decided the London end of the operation was not paying, John bought that part of their business and set up on his own as John Sprinzel Racing.
He went on to produce the successful Sebring Sprite Coupé with Paul Hawkins using Williams and Pritchard’s alloy bodywork. The car were raced by David Seigle-Morris, Ian Walker, Paul Hawkins, Vic Elford, Douglas Wilson-Spratt, Brian Culcheth, and others. Paddy Hopkirk, John Watson and many others were early Speedwell and Sprinzel Sprite winners.
John Sprinzel won the British Rally Championship with a Sprite in 1959 and Brian Harper followed suit in a Sprinzel-prepared car the following year. After competing John Sprinzel combined a successful career as a freelance journalist on motoring (with The Times, Mirror, Telegraph, Safety Fast, Motoring news, etc) until the demise of Collectors Car.
Sprinzel’s books, all out of print now unfortunately, include Spritely Years: Race and Rally Memories from the Classic Era Plus the Full History of the Sebring Sprite by Sprinzel with Tom Coulthard, Modified Motoring Improved Performance from a Production Car and Sleepless Knights: Rally Man’s Guide to Europe.
Much of the information for this short biography came by way of the Sebring Sprite website. Please check it out.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the 23 individuals who will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies on June 2nd, 2017, at the Hall of Fame in Petersburg, VA.