Passing of John Sprinzel at 90

Unfortunately, we have learned via the MG Car Club that John Sprinzel, a racer, strong proponent of the A-series BMC engine, wizard of the Spridget community, and an original inductee into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame, passed away about two weeks ago. John passed away after a brief illness (not Covid-related) at the age of 90.

JOHN SPRINZEL in 1961 Alpine Rally, on the quais in Marseilles

John Sprinzel was born in Berlin, Germany, in October 1930 and made his name as a formidable rally driver, racing driver, event organizer engineer, businessman, author, commentator, and – windsurfer! A talented man indeed.

In 1934, the Sprinzel family moved to the UK, for obvious reasons and his parents started a fashion business in North London. As a child, he became ill and during recovery began reading books on sea exploration which gave him a lifelong passion for water sports and ultimately lead to his life after motorsport, as we’ll explain in a moment. 

John Sprinzel started work after school in his father’s silk screen printing business but used to work on cars in a local garage in his spare time and this is what sparked his love of motor racing and engineering. 

John entered numerous local motor club events, but his first rally came on the RAC Rally in 1955 when he entered with his Mum’s Austin A30! He finished 6th in class in a rally that saw some of the worst conditions in the history of the event. 

In 1957, John took part in his first international rally, the Sestriere, and was supported by the then BMC Competitions Manager at Abingdon, Marcus Chambers. 

John Sprinzel’s racing debut came later in 1957 when he entered the BARC national at Goodwood, which he won in an Austin A35. As a result of that incredible victory, John was interviewed for TV about the won, which he put down to the preparation on the car by a made-up company by the name of Speedwell.  

The phone began to ring and Speedwell materialized for real and John became as good a businessman as he was a driver.  PMO 200, his trusty Mk 1 Austin Healey Sprite in which he and Stuart Turner won the RAC British Rally Championship. Next, they won the 1959 BTRDA Rally Championship and during the next 18 years of racing and rallying, he drove a number of iconic cars from Triumph TRs, MGCs, Minis, HWM Jaguars, and even a Ferrari 250 GTO which he drove up the Mount Parnussus Hill Climb in Greece.

In 1959, John left Speedwell to join the Speed Equipment Division of the Donald Healey Motor Company based in London. Where, alongside Geoffrey Healey, he developed the legendary Sebring Sprite, which took a cheeky little sports car and through much re-engineering and tuning, turned it into an international race winner. 

In 1968 John led the organizing team and entered the famous London to Sydney Marathon Rally driving an MG Midget, but after weeks of competing, a broken front suspension ended his rally just days from the finish. John Sprinzel also organized the London – Mexico World Cup Rally. 

In 1973 John retired from motorsport to concentrate on his car dealership selling a whole host of high-performance brands including MG across the northern home counties. He retired to a life of windsurfing (remember those books he read?) to finally exercise his passion for water sports that he gained as a child recovering from illness. Typically for John, not content with merely enjoying it as a pastime, he gained qualifications, emigrated to Greece to teach the sport, represented them in the 1982 -1984 World Championships before then moving to Hawaii with his wife Caryl.  John also wrote a number of books on motorsport history, all of which serve as a lasting legacy to his incredible knowledge of the sport. 

John Sprinzel was one of motorsports’ most friendly personalities and to all those who knew him and competed with him, he will be sadly missed. 

From the MG Car Club
Staff

2 Comments

  1. Sad to hear. I’ve always wondered if he was somehow connected to my ’74 MGB-GT. When I bought it I was told that while it’s a US spec model that it was originally purchased by a US military member who took delivery in Europe and used it extensively there before bringing it home to the US. The rear of the car bears a Sprinzel dealership badge.

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