The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small open sports car produced in the United Kingdom from 1958 until 1971. The Sprite was announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation on 20 May 1958, two days after that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”, yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven.
The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, with production being undertaken at the MG factory at Abingdon. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down.
When the Mk. II Sprite was introduced in 1961 it was joined by a badge-engineered MG version, the Midget, reviving a model name used by MG from the late 1920s through to the mid 1950s. Enthusiasts often refer to these later Sprites and Midgets collectively as “Spridgets.” The MG-badged version of the car continued in production for several years after the Austin-Healey brand ceased to exist.
The Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928.
The 43 bhp, 948 cc OHV engine (coded 9CC) was derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburettors. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. The road wheels were 13″ and all cars were invariably fitted with Dunlop crossply tyres, usually their Gold Seal model in the 5.20×13 size, although later frogeyes shipped to North America wore 5.60×13 Dunlop crossplies.
1958–1961: 948 cc A-Series I4, 43 hp (32 kW) at 5200 rpm and 52 lbf·ft (71 Nm) at 3300 rpm
This exhibit comes from The Salvador Claret Automobile Collection