WORDS: DANIEL ALLARD | PHOTOGRAPHY: JONNY SMITH
VIDEOGRAPHER: SCOTT PATTENDEN | OWNERS: Richard Woolmer & Amy Shelford
For years, modified British classic cars were far and few between but in recent years the numbers have been slowly increasing and we are big fans of this movement. For whatever reason, us Brits who like to tinker, tend to focus on car brands from all corners of the globe rather than our own crop? You could say that British classic cars were poorly built, rust buckets and maintenance heavy, but then so are some of their German and Japanese rivals built in the same era. Lucky for us growing up around Austin's, Richard and Amy stuck to their roots, built a pair of amazing British Classics to which I hope, make you look closer to home when sourcing your next project.
Now whilst Amy has built a clean, purposeful A30 with some very neat touches, Richard on the other hand has gone a bit mad with the Sprite, welded the diff, kept & added to the patina, and not forgetting the exhaust which now pokes out of the bonnet. We can honestly say, we have never had such much fun on a shoot and watching people's reactions to them both as we traveled through the Bedfordshire countryside. It was priceless, this cheeky pair look so small compared to anything modern you see on the road today!
Richard's 1962 Austin Healey Sprite MK2.
We first saw Woolmer's MK2 Sprite whilst scrolling through the applications for RollHard Cressing a few years back and it instantly put a smile on our faces. When it came to the show Richard pulled in, parked, threw some dust over the car, and then walked off to enjoy the rest of the show. Something that confused a lot of people on the day but we got it, this car was built to have fun and not worry about what others think.
Three years ago, Richard was contacted by a friend who had two Austin Sprites' for sale, and being Richard he bought both, later sold one, and got to work on his most fun project to date. The Sprite, is in fact one of a steady 20 car collection Woolmer currently owns, all in various states of restoration or disrepair. One day they will all get the Woolmer treatment.
With Richard being a Race Technician in the family business, he opted for a larger 1275cc A-series over the standard 1100cc engine, but also whilst he was there, the engine was lightened, better pistons fitted, balanced the bottom end, fast road camshaft, Verner timing gears fitted, lightened front pulley and flywheel, lightly ported head with bigger inlet valves fitted, Webber 45 carb and last but not least a custom exhaust. All that together helps push the Sprite's horsepower from the standard 47 to an all mightly 100hp.
Besides the exhaust sitting out the bonnet, the next big thing you notice about the Sprite is the ride height. The rear has been dropped and front lowering springs fitted, along with some camber top links to help tuck the front 7j Compomotive turbos. Due to Richard not wanting to alter the bodywork on the rear, the standard steels are staying, but this does mean the occasional impromptu tyre change is rather cheap..
With Richard being 6 foot plus in height and the car being only knee height, Richard removed the padding out the driver's seat to help keep his head down below the tilted windscreen, at points, it looked like nobody was driving the car but it did come in handy with a certain barrier on the shoot.
Amy's 1954 Austin A30.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend right? Wrong.
When Amy and Richard met, he had an Austin A35 on the road (a later version of Amy's A30) and she loved all 673kg of it. Fast forward on a few years and Amy mentioned that she didn't want an expensive engagement ring when the time came but instead wanted her own A30/A35. After a 2 month search, Richard found the perfect black 1954 Austin A30. Take a lesson out of this man's book.
With the car having a restoration/rebuild in the '80s, it was quite a tidy base to start with, the previous owner had also carried out a pedal box and front disc conversion. Richard and Amy got to work and more poke was needed so the standard 803cc A-series was swapped out for a 1098cc with twin SU carbs and a stainless custom exhaust system. The suspension lowered with 600lb Sprite racing springs on the front and custom leaf springs on the rear. The interior has mostly remained standard bar the reupholstered Recaro which helps keep Amy securely seated during the Bedfordshire country lane blasts.
For both Amy and Richard's future plans are sort of similar, bar a few small little improvements on the cars, they both want to finish other ongoing projects and achieve their dreams, Amy acquiring more projects which include something pre-war, a Quattro and a Skyline, whilst Richard has set the bar high and will work towards getting one of his cars into the largest automotive show in the world, Sema.
After the unprecedented hiatus brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was great to finally get back out doing what we enjoy most. Not only was this shoot a great opportunity to catch up with the pair, but it was undoubtedly, the most fun shoot so far that we have orchestrated.
It proves you don't need to look far & spend big to have fun in a classic.
Oh and Richard fix that bloody fuel gauge..
Behind the scenes of the shoot