Size really is everything with the Austin-Healey Sprite because its diminutive proportions, tiny running costs and unambitious price tag are what continue to make it so appealing. Best of all, once you’ve bought one that is bodily solid, there are all manner of tweaks you can implement to hold your interest and make ownership even more rewarding.
Its origins, of course, date back to the distinctive ‘Frogeye’ Sprite from the late ‘Fifties and the more grown up MkII Sprite that appeared in 1961 offers the same seat-of-the-pants driving experience so it always feels faster than it really is.
The first cars featured the somewhat flaccid 948cc A Series unit but this was replaced by the 1098cc in 1962, giving the car a little more muchneeded extra poke.
To help cope with the extra power on tap, disc brakes were also fitted at around this time. The MkIII Sprite (and MkII Midget) with half-elliptic rear springs and wind-up windows broke cover in 1964 and as a welcome further boost to performance the MkIV Sprite (and MkIII Midget) from 1966 inherited the tuned BMC A Series 1275cc powerplant from the Mini Cooper, as well as a proper hood. Both cars received a facelift in late 1969 when they got a matt black grille and sills, slimmer bumpers and Rostyle wheels. The Austin-Healey Sprite was rebadged the Austin Sprite in late 1970 then dropped altogether in July 1971.
Needless to say all Sprites will have had some restoration work, so it’s a case of seeing whether it’s been done properly (and not stuffed with filler). If it’s got a new Heritage bodyshell then you’re home and dry – incidentally, these are available from Moss Europe priced a little over £8000, if you’re looking for the ultimate restoration, with Moss also providing a full catalogue of spares for these diminutive sports cars.
Of course, the huge joy with the Austin-Healey Sprite is that you can buy all the bits, and no job is too complicated for the home mechanic.
• Sill covers hide rust, so be wary of what’s underneath. Try removing the rubber bungs at the end to check condition inside.
• Excessive play when wiggling the doors could point to difficult to sort rot in the A-pillar, so beware.
• Check the floorpans, especially around the pedal area and behind the seats. Don’t forget to check the leaf spring front mounting points.
• A Series engines are bombproof, although blue smoke hints at the need for a rebuild. An erratic idle is probably due to a leaking inlet manifold gasket.
• See cars that have been treated to sympathetic upgrades, such as an overdrive, as a bonus.
• Ascertain the quality of previous restoration work – lots have been badly bodged in the past.
• The later Austin-Healey Sprite MkIV from 1966 with proper hoods are likely to be more appropriate for regular use.
MkII/III A-H Sprite – from £4000 (condition 3) to £10000 (condition 1)
MkIV A-H Sprite – from £2500 (condition 3) to £9000 (condition 1)
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