Paul Bussey road tests and reviews the Austin-Healey Sprite Mk2
This particular Austin-Healey Sprite Mk2 we’re testing was supplied new back in 1961 by Car Mart Ltd of 320 Euston Road London NW1 to an owner living in Northolt for the princely sum of £633.7s.6d and represents a splendid example. It’s had only three owners from new, the last being for 31 years.
It’s finished in Signal paintwork with lovely straight bodywork and good door shuts. The car has had some restoration work in the mid 2000s which included fitting new sills, wings and front valance. If you look extremely closely the red paintwork doesn’t blend in 100% perfectly but it’s not far short and overall it really doesn’t detract one jot.
All of the car’s brightwork is very well presented and a really nice finishing touch is the very expensive white plastic period number plates. The original 948cc engine has been rebuilt with an unleaded cylinder head.
The interior features cherry red-coloured vinyl-trimmed seats with black piping which remain in excellent condition as are the black carpets and Britax seat belts with grey webbing. The black vinyl-covered dashboard is showing its age a little, while the original steering wheel has been replaced in favour of a three-spoke Moto-Lita wood rim wheel and to the far left is a rudimentary push-button radio.
Weather protection is courtesy of a set of side screens and a black vinyl soft top plus a full tonneau cover which are all in excellent condition.
On The Road
Actually getting into the Sprite requires a certain degree of agility but once inside, the ambience is comfortable and cosy with the steering wheel positioned quite close to your chest.
Applying full choke, the 948cc engine is started by turning the ignition key and pulling the starter knob. The engine fires up easily and I let it warm up for a few moments before pulling away. The one great difference between this particular Sprite and many others is that it has been fitted with a five-speed gearbox (costing £4000) which provides longer-legged cruising although the original gearbox is available if required.
If you’re a purist you may not be over-enamoured with this, but with today’s roads and traffic patterns I think it’s a most worthwhile upgrade. The small gearlever is positioned perfectly to aid slick changes up and down the box with relative ease and is slightly taller than a stock one. It has a mechanical action with a rather short throw and changing up from fourth to fifth requires hardly any movement at all.
If you like your sports cars to have a suitable exhaust sound then you’ll love this Sprite with its ever-present rorty note. The long, rounded front wings make for perfect reference points with which to pinpoint your progress on the road with great accuracy.
What becomes immediately evident is the extremely positive and very precise steering which proves a delight. The brakes are also nicely set up and pull the car up in a straight line without too much effort. All in all, a very positive and most satisfying test drive without a hint of any rattles or any other untoward noises.
This Mk2 Sprite is proof that you don’t have to have the most powerful or fastest sports car in which to derive maximum driving pleasure. A quick half-hour spin at virtually any time of the year is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, together with that five-speed gearbox, the superb steering and always that exhaust note.
There’s plenty of history with the car, documenting servicing and work completed plus an original service book and bill of sale. If you’re on a limited budget but still want to enjoy sports car motoring that won’t break the bank when it comes to fuel and maintenance costs, this car fits the bill admirably.
Top Speed: 86mph
0-60mph: 17.7 secs
Economy: 34.8 mpg
Gearbox: 5-spd manual