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The_Fowler_Sprites

My Sprite(s) - John Fowler (Life Member no. 6)

I bought my ‘61Mark 1 Sprite (HMC 800) on the 31st October 1966, from a B.W. Mulligan of Brighton for $800, and I was the third owner. It was considered an ‘old’ model, but it was in perfect condition and still in its original colour of pale Aintree Green and was fitted with a J & S fastback hard top (plus soft-top), and still running the 948cc engine, which had been mildly tuned. It was not fast, but would ‘purr’ along at 4000rpm (60 mph) all day long, and the handling – well, it was exceptional! I actually sped up to go through corners, because it was so much fun!

I heard about a new Club that had just been formed for Sprites not long after I bought this car and so I joined the AHSDC in December of that year (’66), as a ‘green’ 21 year old. I used the Sprite for enjoyable commuting - from the Mallee where I worked on a farm (and later from Dookie Agrictultural College) - to Melbourne - for Car Club events on the weekends.

For almost 20 years I competed in most of the Competition events the Club ran. The Sprite went through many changes over those years. In the early Seventies, I competed in the ‘new’ Group ‘D’ Production Sportscar Open Race Series in my Mk 1 (“Gunge’). It was fabulous close competition, with big fields of ‘Spridgets’ early on.

I moved from McKinnon to Warragul as a TAFE teacher in 1975, but the travelling down to Club events never seemed a problem, because of the enjoyment these events provided.

By the early 80’s ‘Gunge’ looked a bit rough, so it finally got its bodywork re-build – after some encouragement from my wife, Jan soon after we were married. It got huge flared guards to cover the racing mags, a red re-spray, and an interior re-trim. It looked great, and I had managed to locate an Arden Alloy 8 port head, which gave it amazing power and flexibility. It handled fantastically, but the race suspension was now very hard on the road.

In 1990 I bought my cousin’s red Mark 111 Sprite. Once again, I was the third owner, but it was a bit tired mechanically. I drove it for a few years before I finally rebuilt the gearbox and fitted a 1275 motor, and it became our beaut ‘Touring Sprite’. After some years of happy touring, a couple of Interstate Challenges immediately ‘encouraged’ me to seriously upgrade the suspension and brakes. These upgrades meant that it was now more enjoyable for all the long distance Club touring events that followed.

I recently completed the refurbishment of the Mk 111, with the removal of all rust, a respray (red of course), new rubbers etc, and I had the seats rebuilt to make them more comfortable for long range touring. A new soft top was then fitted, as well as some 5 inch Minilight - style mag wheels with sticky tyres. Now it not only looks good, but it is great to drive and handles even better!
The Mk 1, ‘Gunge’, had finally received a tired 948 cc motor in the early 2000’s just to get it back on the road - some years after the old race engine went off to be reconditioned. More recently a mildly tuned 1275 cc motor was found and fitted to replace it, and it is now a lot of fun to drive – but still hard on the backside and low to the road! Our two sons now drive it more than me now that I am retired – but that is good too.

I was very fortunate to be able to win the Sprite Championship a couple of times, but perhaps the greatest thrill was when I was made a Life Member of this marvellous Club.
I have served on numerous Committees over the years, and on each of these times it has not only been a rewarding experience and a lot of fun, but it has been one way of putting something back into the Club.

The AHSDC has been fabulous for me to develop and grow up with. I have learnt so much and made many, many lifetime friends - and I still get a ‘buzz’ out of driving my Sprites.

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