austin_healey_sprite_ copy

The Austin-Healey Sprite was produced from 1958 through 1971 with 129,347 examples of the two-door, low-cost, open roadster being produced. The car was designed by the Healey Motor Company, more specifically Donald Healey, and produced in partnership with the British Motor Corporation. There were four types of AH Sprite, Mark I nicknamed as the ‘Frogeye’ in UK and ‘Bugeye’ in the US produced from 1958 to 1961, the Mark II produced from 1961 to 1965, Mark III produced from 1964 to 1966 and Mark IV produced from 1966 to 1971.

Austin Healey Sprite Mark I, the ‘Frogeye’, originally was designed with concealed flip-up headlamps. But the production cost was going to be high so the design was replaced with headlights mounted on the top of hood resembling a frog or bug! There were no door handles; to open the door, the inside handle would need to be operated. This meant that the doors could not be locked. The trunk did not open – to gain access to the trunk the back seats would need to be folded down. Housed inside the trunk was the spare tire. The entire front hood hinged upwards, allowing easy and convenient access to the engine. The suspension was from the Austin A-35 while the 948cc engine was courtesy of the Morris Minor using dual SU carburettors increasing the horsepower from 37 to 43bhp.

Austin Healey Sprite Mk II had two versions of engines, the 948cc and introduced the 1098cc A-series engine produced nearly 60 horsepower and had the same bore and stroke as the Morris Minor 1000. Front disc brakes were fitted on vehicles with the larger engine. Wire wheels were optional equipment. The lights were the largest change with the rear headlights sharing the same design as the soon to be produced MGB. The front headlights were repositioned causing controversy with their faithful supporters. Also controversial was the newly introduced rear bumper bar.

Austin Healey Sprite Mk III is also known as the Mark II MG Midget. There were little changes to this version in comparison to the prior versions. Wind-up windows and exterior door handles were much-welcomed luxury items. The rear suspension was changed to a fully elliptical leaf spring configuration. A new grille adorned the front while the body detailing changed slightly. The tried-and-true 1098cc engine remained, though it now had a stronger block casting and the size of the crankshaft main bearings was increased. The 1098 cc engine continued to be produced until 1966.

Austin Healey Sprite Mk IV had a production of 22,790. There were famous due that the engine was replaced with another 1275 cc four-cylinder engine and produced 65 horsepower. The MKIV’s cousin was the Mark III MG Midget; both saw cosmetic changes over the versions they replaced. Some were minor aesthetic updates and others were more substantial. Probably the most significant was the change to a permanently affixed roof, in place of the removable convertible top.

The Sprite was a popular vehicle because it was small, sporty, and very economical, with the original versions costing about $2000. They were easy to maintain and had superb handling. Though zero-to-sixty took about 21 seconds and top speed was just under 80 mph, this was respectable for a 1960’s vehicle. In fact they have been successful club level race cars.