The Sebring Sprite. A proud member of that select club of small British cars that turn up at events and ruthlessly trash the opposition. Sebring 1959 was such a year; disc brakes, a close ratio gearbox, large carbs and a competition clutch – a simple but effective concoction.
Initially, in the hands of early owner Adrian Andrew, RTL 304 competed in club racing in 1960/61 as a standard Sprite with steel wheels. However, Andrews had ambitions for the Sprite, and engaged Alec and Fred of Peels of Kingston to build an alloy body to his own design. Thus RTL, with a lower-height windscreen and side windows is considered the original ‘berlinetta’ fastback lightweight Sebring Sprite.
Featured in John Sprinzel’s book ‘Spritely Years’, there are detailed accounts by Andrew’s. He records the specification in around 1964, by which time it was an exceptionally well developed racer. There is also correspondence in the file from Andrew’s about his racing adventures. Although exaggerated and hard to confirm, RTL was clearly a fast, effective little car.
Following Adrian’s ownership, it passed through a handful of owners including John (Hans) Hugenholz, the Zandvoort Circuit Director. Hugenholtz reports: “I brought RTL 304 back from the UK to Holland in the 80s having bought the car in South London for Dutch dealer Tonio Hildebrandt. I drove it on the road with an open exhaust to Sheerness for the ferry to Vlissingen….It had a 1293 Cooper S engine at the time.”
Further owners include Peter Ecury (who raced at Monthlery, Nurburgring, Monthlery, Zolder throughout the 1979-80 seasons), Peter Warne (Brighton Speed Trials and Silverstone 1975 – Peter also owned WJB 707) and Meico Koudstaal (Zandvoort, Zolder, Le Mans short circuit, Croix Enternois 1981-84). There is a history file with supporting letters, photographs, invoices as well as a complete list of all previous owners. The current owner bought it in 1988.
In 1986 it returned from Holland to the UK when it was sympathetically restored by Brown & Gammons between 1986/7, with the engine built by Oselli – there are copious engine build specifications. In 1998 Gerry Brown of Merton Motorsport completed further detail work including a cold air duct to the footwell, under-bonnet wiring and a new period master cylinder from Holland. Further specifications are available upon request.
Finished in Gunmetal with red leather seats and carpet, and fresh back from the rolling road it drives very well – quick, light, responsive, fun. An historic car with 25 years of European race history – and the original fastback.