The lost Art of driving a ‘Slow car Fast’ when balance and handling win over power and torque

Driving at nine tenths the limit of your cars ability – and yours – is just about the most exhilarating experience, then you look down at the speedometer and your only doing 89mph = Brilliant!


The lost Art of driving a ‘Slow car Fast’ when balance and handling win over power and torque


Low down with your ass to the ground – bombing along the back lanes of the Cotswolds every drive becomes a time trial or hill climb when your in a 1960’s Austin-Healey Sprite.  Fettled by the great guys at Frontline Developments in Oxfordshire with a custom sport tuned A series engine matched to an LSD to make every one of those 75 classic British horses count

This is not just any old Sprite, no – this is my Dad’s painstakingly and lovingly restored Sprite and this is a very proud yet hard piece for me to write

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This is not his first Sprite, but it is a perfect facsimile of the original. After graduating from Cambridge, Dad was fortunate to be left a little money by a long lost loving relative. So like any red blooded male he went out and bought a Sports car. Not the most expensive one, but possibly the best handling and the prettiest. It was fettled even then with supercharger, Speedwell bonnet, sway bars and his own personal touch ‘The thief-proof switch’ – A basic but invincible piece of kit, way before engine immobilisers

Legend has it that no one ever stole the car, even though a few tried!

It was early one morning and Mum was off to a modelling assignment at Pinewood Studios, but she couldn’t find the car? After walking around a bit in a daze the car was found abandoned in an adjacent mews. The bloke opposite came out of his house to complain, “What the hell were you playing at? running your starter motor all through the night!” With the battery flat and a slightly put out neighbourhood the Sprite after being pushed around the block was never stolen. Dads little trick worked, and still does to this day

Sadly the original and much loved Sprite was traded in for a practical family estate car to accommodate their growing family

The Sprite lived on for too many decades as photos, stories and revered memories. They’ve owned many great cars between them – unique hand painted Minis, MKI V8 Range Rovers, TR Triumphs, Golf GTi’s and BMW’s – but always longed for their old Sprite

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Finally all the pieces came together with Tim and Ed at FrontLine Developments bringing the much needed fire power to the equation. The car was found, the exact same original factory cherry ‘lipstick‘ red bodywork – but, with an uprated 1275cc engine. The car was damaged with a front end collision, the frame rails were true – and Dad was always going to change the ‘Frog Eyes’ for the ‘Speedwell’ bonnet anyway. It was a great start, with Frontline doing the ‘heavy lifting’ whilst Dad did the ‘finishing touches‘ to finesse the Sprite into the pristine car you see here

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Its more than just an investment, its a time machine to a better time of motoring

Just having it tucked away in their garage would be worth it alone… Yet it’s worked on daily and driven all the time – it’s his escape, bless him as sometimes he does need too. As much as it pains me to say this our dear old mum is not in such good condition any more and her restoration is sadly not possible. The slow terminal decline that is dementia has taken our mum from us all. It is what it is, and we are as helpless to reverse this as she is unaware of her reality. Thankfully she’s very loved and cared for by all her family, heartbreaking yet humbling

They live life to the full, absolutely as one should – here they are in the Cote d’Azure in 1960

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They drove there without any motorways – hard core rally driving style all the way! Both of them taking it in turns as driver and navigator, heal and toe rev matching every shift… Stopping only for Aperitifs and petrol until they reached the ocean

We are but custodians of the things that will outlive us, I am currently restoring Mums old BMW with all the love and affection that can be bestowed on a car. I’ve replace so much and rebuilt the same again, the cost pales into insignificance as does the time involved – When I think of all I have learned and gained as its all that’s left of a very loved and much appreciated line of family cars

The decades in-between are lost now, but for Mum – it’s always been their car and because of her dementia thankfully she now can’t recall ever selling it…

So here’s to the little Sprite that brought back the 1960’s for them both – to a time where it was all possible – I am deeply proud of our parents, they are a very cool pair of cats indeed. I am especially pleased for them that such a fantastic symbolic part of their wonderful lives together at the beginning will now be with them again, until the end

dementiauk.org/donate

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