|The Midget and Sprite Club (MASC) celebrated the Austin Healey Sprite’s 60th anniversary of its launch at Wroxall Abbey over the week-end of 24th – 26th August. The venue is about five miles north of Warwick, the County Town which was home to the Donald Healey Motor Company, where the Austin Healey Sprite was conceived as a younger sibling to the renowned Austin Healey 100 and 3000.
For those interested in history, as I am, Wroxall Priory (Abbey is a faux name given by a 16th century owner) was established in the 12th century and in the 16th century was subject to King Henry VIII’s abolition of Roman Catholic institutions. In the early 18th century it was purchased by Sir Christopher Wren (architect of many fine churches including London’s St Paul’s) for his country estate.
The present building, which is now a fine hotel and conference centre, was erected in the second half of the 19th century by a wealthy banker and mill owner from Liverpool, James Dugdale. Dugdale demolished the 16C. manor house and erected the current Victorian Gothic style building.
I am currently writing this on the evening of Saturday 25th August: the weather for Sunday 26th is forecast to be very wet indeed. This is a great shame particularly after experiencing such a hot and sunny couple of months in June and July. With the weather forecast in mind it occurred to me that I should go to the venue this afternoon to see if I could photograph some of the Sprites and Midgets as they returned from their Cotswolds trip, while the sun was shining. A good move I believe, the truth of which will be revealed tomorrow.
It was also worthwhile because I was able to meet all the Club officials that I have been corresponding with over the last few months – Stuart Watson of the Sprite 60th Organising Committee, Dave Warren, the very first person I contacted in April, he is the MASC Central Area rep. and Neil Thomas, editor of Mascot the club magazine. A great bunch of guys. I was also able to chat to a number of Dutch and German visitors. One of the latter was Sven Ekhardt, owner of a replica (Archer) Sebring Sprite. Sven was delighted to show me an article in a recent copy of ‘Revcounter’, the magazine of the Austin Healey Club, which features a story in which Jill Bowman recalls an incident involving Sven, thirty years ago! Even more evidence of how all involving the Healey World is.
Here are some of the photos that I took on Saturday 25th August –
Guests from across the Channel
Sunday 26th August
So, we got to Sunday 26th August and yes the weather was as awful as was forecast, incessant rain. Funnily enough I was more pleased with the photos that I took today than those taken in sunny conditions on Saturday.
Despite the poor weather two hundred and twenty cars turned up, a terrific result in the circumstances. And the cheerful, friendly spirit of owners that I encountered yesterday still prevailed today. Maybe it’s got something to do with the Mk I Sprite’s ‘smiley face’, you can’t help feeling good when you are around them. I have held this view for sometime.
Here are the photos that I took today –
And there was entertainment too – The Vintage Vixens
The Healey Guys
David Matthews, who is well known and respected in Healey circles, is writing a new book about the concept and history of the last of the Healey sports racing cars, the SR and XR37. Because a number of the men who worked on those cars at the Donald Healey Motor Company, Coten End, Warwick, still live in the area, David took the opportunity to invite them to the MASC Sprite 60th event. This was done with the permission and considerable assistance of the MASC event organising committee. The idea was to take a photograph of the ‘Healey team’ together with paintings, illustrations and a wonderful model of the SR. David also invited David Scothorn and myself to join the team as two of the many people who have given encouragement to him in writing his book over recent years. Here is the result –
It was a thoroughly enjoyable event in spite of the rain on Sunday; it’s a pity we can’t have a Sprite 60th Anniversary every year. But I expect the creative people at the MASC will find some excuse to have another mega get together sometime soon. If they do I hope to be there. Thank you for inviting me this time.