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Austin Healey Sprite MkI

 

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By Beth Judd
February 14, 2017

A quirky sports car with a place in enthusiast's hearts we take a look at the Austin Healey Sprite

 

Austin Healey Sprite MkI


  • Production: 1958-61
  • Nickname: Frogeye or Bugeye in the USA
  • Top speed: 87mph
  • 0-60mph: 21 seconds
  • Engine: 948cc 4- cylinder, overhead valve
  • Price range: Average between £15,000 - £20,000

Apart from the MGB, no British sports car has ever achieved a place in people’s hearts like the Austin Healey Sprite. In the 1950s people wanted a small sports car but none were available. The most popular models at the time were much larger & longer such as the Jaguar XK120, the 1951 Chrysler New York, 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. There was the demand yet no one had designed one, it wasn’t until BMC approached Donald Healey in 1958 and asked him to design a small two-seater for Austin Healey. The result was the Sprite, a simple, cheerful, cheap to run, no-frills motor that became a trend setter for the smaller sports cars that followed. The Sprite remained the most popular model until 1971 when the MG Midget took over.

The Sprite’s creator Donald Healey used ordinary readily available parts from early Austin, MG & Morris models & the BMC parts bin. Thus creating a sort of cute Frankenstein’s monster with all of these borrowed parts. The result was a small, simple & affordable car with a great deal of sports car quality & capability that everyone fell in love with.

 

Frogeye Sprite Spotlights

 

The unmistakable look of the Sprite was not the original design. The headlamps that peep out on the top of the bonnet and what give the car its ‘Frogeye’ nickname were not supposed to be there. The original design had pop-up lights but they were dropped as they were deemed too expensive. However, this worked out for the best as the unforgettable, adorable & captivating look proved to be a great marketing advantage, giving it a nickname & making it easily recognisable.

The Sprite was an instant success, being very popular in North America where there was a great demand for British sports cars. Over the next few years the Mk I built up a reputation for itself as a nifty little racing car. It provided many people with an economical sports car & introduced many enthusiasts to sporting motoring that their place in automotive folklore became assured. In just three years almost 49,000 Mk I’s were built and in all nearly 356,000 Sprite & Midget cars were manufactured ensuring these models would be an affordable collector's classic for years to come.

 

Frogeye Sprite rear lights

 

In 1961 the Sprite Mk II was created with a more conventional look and then in 1971 the MG Midget was created with a near identical appearance. These cars then continued to sell at a phenomenal rate making them the most popular small British sports cars on the market. From the ‘Frogeye’ Sprite Mk I released in 1958 to the 1275cc Sprite Mk IV in 1966, these little cars are loved by everyone, and with a lot of spares in common with the MG Midget, these ‘Spridgets’ are still going strong.

If you have your own Sprite, then take a look at what parts we have on our website: http://www.moss-europe.co.uk/shop-by-model/austin-healey/sprite

 

 

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