The Story of The Little Red Frogeye…

February 2, 2021
The first ever Austin Healey Sprite, affectionately nicknamed as the Frogeye due to the positioning of it's headlights, commenced production on Monday 17th April 1958 and was first made public on 20th May 1958. A total of 48,987 were produced between 1958 and 1971.

The first chassis number used in production on 17th April 1958 was AN5/501. Our little red Frogeye has the Chassis number AN5L/737 so was the 237th produced. We don't know how many of the proceeding 236 Frogeyes are still in existence but we are trying to find out! This may well be the oldest left in the world, it will most certainly be one of the very best of the 9 stud early models left in the world!

The 'L' in the middle of the chassis number signifies left hand drive. Our car was destined for the west coast of America where it stayed until being Re-imported into the UK on the 24th January 2018.

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.

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