Austin Healey Sprite MK1
The Austin Healey sprite Mk 1 was introduced in Monte Carlo on 20th May 1958 just before the Monaco Grand Prix. It was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company and produced at the MG factory in Abingdon. It was intended to be a low cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed “, it first went on sale for £669.00.
The Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the "Frogeye" in the UK and the “Bugeye“ in the US, because of the way it’s headlights were prominently mounted on the bonnet. They were originally designed to pop up, somewhat like the later Porsche’s, but accountancy cost cutting meant that the headlights were simply fixed in the open position, this ironically led to the sprite gaining one of it’s most distinctive features and much loved cute appearance.
The Body was styled by Gerry Coker with help from Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who solved the age old problem of providing rigid structure to an open topped sports car, by routing the rear suspension forces through the body shell’s floor-pan, thus making the Healey Sprite the worlds first volume production sports car to use unitary construction.
The concept of a low cost model was utilised by using as many components from existing cars as possible. The engine was a tuned 948cc derived from the Austin a35 and Morris Minor. It was upgraded by adding twin 1&1/8th inch SU carburettors. The rack & pinion steering was utilised from the Morris Minor, the suspension from the Austin A35. There was no exterior door handles, the driver and passenger were required to open the doors using a lever located on the inside of the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat backs forward and reaching into the rear storage area, (boot). This was referred to as potholing by many owners, but which seemed to add to the charm of the little Roadster.
Manufacturer – Austin Healey
Model – Sprite MK1
Year – 1958
Engine Size – 948cc
Transmission – Manual
Fuel – Petrol
All paint was completely removed from the shell and it was inspected for any damage and made good back to the original condition using British manufactured panels and repair sections seem-welded to form invisible repairs. The entire shell was then powder coated to ensure a rust-free future and painted in the original factory colour of Primrose Yellow.
All components were cleaned and inspected, all nuts, bolts and washers were discarded in favour of new. The back axle, differential and prop shaft were disassembled and inspected; all moving parts were replaced or re-engineered as required. The engine was stripped of all its components and sent away to specialist engineers, Ivor Searle, to be reconditioned and returned with a 12-month warranty. The gearbox was rebuilt using later generation parts to ensure a smoother gear change.
All the bumpers and other brightwork were sent off to Castle Chrome and the dashboard was rebuilt using recalibrated gauges. The carpets, seats and hood were all replaced with new. It was then converted to negative earth and a new wiring loom was fitted together with electronic ignition, electric fuel pump and alternator (in the guise of a dynamo) and the lights were improved to sealed beam halogen units. All brake components were replaced and the car was fitted with powder coated wheels and new tyres, including the spare.
The original nine stud windscreen was reconditioned and fitted with new glass and the side stanchions were painted in the body colour as per early specification cars. Full details of the restoration project can be found in the history file. Complete with UK V5C registration document, 12-month MoT test certificate and a Heritage Certificate.