A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Sold for: £15,980
The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small, open sports car which was announced to the press in Monte Carlo on 20th May, 1958, just before the Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that 'a chap could keep in his bike shed', yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, which received a royalty payment from the manufacturers, BMC. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a mildly tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and it shared many other components from existing cars to keep costs down. The little Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the 'Frogeye' in the UK and the 'Bugeye' in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. Originally the designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; but cost-cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. The 43bhp, 948cc engine was upgraded with twin 1 1/8" inch SU carburettors. The rack and pinion steering and suspension were derived from the Morris Minor with the front suspension made up of a coil spring and wishbone arrangement with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seatbacks forward and reaching under the rear deck. Presented here is an original right-hand drive, home market supplied, Mk1 Austin-Healey Sprite despatched from the factory on 21st June 1958. The Heritage certificate in the file shows that the car left the production line fitted with toughened glass, a heater, rev counter, windscreen washers, front bumpers and a miles-per-hour speedometer. Our vendor, a chartered mechanical engineer, purchased the car two years ago as a classic in need of a full restoration. The body was totally stripped and media blasted, before having new floors, new sills and new 1/4 elliptical mounts. The shell was then returned to its original colour and painted professionally in Speedwell Blue. To provide a more spirited drive, a fully rebuilt 1275cc A-Series engine has been slotted into place, with fast road cams, new pistons, valves, new radiator and fully rebuilt 1 1/4 SU Carbs, with breathing via a 3-branch manifold. Mated to the engine is a professionally rebuilt gearbox and differential, and with the added power, a disc brake conversion was decided upon. A new wiring harness, integrating the Lucas spot lamps with the main headlights (Lucas P700 'Tripods') was fitted. All the original gauges were reconditioned, making the dashboard look sharp and the rest of the interior was trimmed in dark blue with a light blue piping to complement the colour of the paint and an Avanti steering wheel fitted. Nice period accessories such as a Speedwell pedal, BARC club badge and lap belts complete the look of this lovely 'Frogeye' Sprite. Having covered minimal mileage since the restoration, any potential buyers would be advised that a period of running-in of the engine would be advisable. Supplied with a recent MoT and a V5c, this beautifully finished Frogeye Sprite will certainly put a smile on your face and will charm onlookers wherever it goes.