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Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite: review and buying guide (1958-1961)

Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite
There are few cars more distinctive and charming than the Frogeye Sprite. Its slightly gawky but undeniably cute face offers a unique character, a quality furthered by such dinky proportions. 
 
It remains a desirable classic today, and not just for the looks: whether your preference is for a weekend toy or for something to tinker with, it’ll be many enthusiasts’ ideal car – it’s fun to drive, cheap to run, and parts supplies remain plentiful. 
 
If it wasn’t for penny pinching at parent company BMC, its most distinguishing feature might not have come to be: those headlights were originally meant to fold backwards into the bonnet when not in use (much like a Porsche 928) but during its development it was decided the system would be too expensive. This, and other cost-cutting measures meant that it was incredibly cheap in its day, but subsequent versions of the Sprite (featuring completely revised styling and a larger, heavier body) lacked the desirability of the original. 
 
As many as 49,000 were produced, around a quarter of which were right-hand drive. Numbers have reduced since, though as classics go it's still fairly accessible – around 1000 MkI sprites are still present in the UK alone. 
 
Which one to buy? 
 
Over the Frogeye's three year life, very little changed in terms of performance and spec. However, many buyers have since tweaked the original formula either for cosmetic reasons or to update the driving experience. 
 
The most common modifications are centred around the engine. The standard 948cc A Series lump produced a tiny 43bhp – many buyers considered it underpowered even back in the fifties, leaving many searching for improvement. The simplest upgrade is to fit the larger carburettors from the MkII Sprite which liberates 3-4bhp, but slightly more comprehensive steps gain much greater performance. 
 
Engine swaps are common, with various later and more powerful versions of the A Series fitting easily under the bonnet. Often lifted from the MG Midget or MKIV Sprite, the 1275cc unit offers 65bhp and 72lb ft, boosting acceleration significantly. Due to the sheer number produced, the 1098cc lump is often used, too. 
 
Though neither disc brakes or wire wheels were available at launch, both are frequently poached from either the Midget or later Sprites. The brake disc upgrade is certainly a desirable feature – particularly if the engine has been upgraded. With the Sprite often used by motorsport enthusiasts back in the sixties, one of the most common weight saving measures was to replace the standard steel front clamshell for a fiberglass part. 
 
It’s worth remembering that the Sprite is tiny by modern standards – anyone over six foot tall will struggle to fit inside the cabin. The boot is only accessible from behind the seats – to improve rigidity (and reduce development costs) there is no bootlid. 
 
There were eight paint options available during the Sprite’s life, though not all of them at the same time. The most desirable shades now are Old English White (which remained throughout the full duration of production) and Iris Blue. 
 
Performance and specs 
 
Engine 948cc, Inline 4
Power 45bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 52lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 83mph
0-60mph 20.5secs
Fuel consumption approx 43mpg
Gearbox Four speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2032mm
Length 3493mm
Width 1346mm
Height 1264mm
Weight 664kg
 
Common problems
 
• Check for rust pretty much everywhere, but particularly on the sills, the floor and around the suspension mounting points. The Sprite’s advanced monocoque construction, the first mass-produced British car to feature this, does make repairs more difficult than its more simple rivals. 
 
• A lot of the the car’s potential value is in the body shell, so a thorough inspection is a must. An easy way to tell the general health of the body is to look carefully at the car’s panel gaps. Uneven gaps can mean that there are structural issues hiding beneath.
 
• If you can get the car on a ramp, a thorough inspection of the underneath would be extremely beneficial. One key area is the rear spring holder, which is quite difficult to repair. 
 
• Be cautious of thick underseal. This could be a sign of a fastidious owner, but it could also be hiding flaking paint and serious corrosion.
 
• Rust usually started attacking the Sprite just a few years after it was built, so almost all will have undergone restoration at some point. Inspect the quality of the workmanship, as a poor paint job could spell trouble in the near future. 
 
• Make sure that the bonnet, doors, and boot all open, close and generally feel positive when used. The large and relatively heavy front clamshell puts a lot of strain on the hinges, so check that these are in good shape.
 
• The Sprite is soon approaching its 60th birthday, so it isn't too surprising to see cars with worn or tired-looking interiors. Fortunately, both replacement and aftermarket parts are abundant and reasonably priced – a trim set including door cards, carpets and dashboard panel costs barely more than £150. The same applies to replacement hoods and seats. 
 
• Thankfully, there is very little in the way of trim to worry about on the Sprite, but check for condition of the chrome grille, windscreen surround and front bumper (if fitted)
 
• Under the bonnet there shouldn’t be much cause for concern. The A Series engine is a doddle to work on, with cheap parts and endless online resources and specialists offering help if anything goes wrong. 
 
• To check the general health of the engine, look at the condition of the oil, coolant and other fluids. Oil leaks come with the territory, but anything excessive should be cause for concern. Keep an eye on the oil pressure when the car is both cold and warm.
 
Model history
 
May 1958: Unveiled to the press in Monte Carlo, just prior to that season’s Monaco Grand Prix. Prices started at £669 
1959: Three of the five paint options were changed. Whitehall Nevada Beige replaced Primrose Yellow, Iris Blue replaced Speedwell Blue and Leaf Green replaced Dark Green 
1961: MkI was replaced by the MkII, which brought significant styling changes, ending the Frogeye’s production run 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites 
 
• midgetandspriteclub.com – large owners’ club for the Sprite and Midget (or Spridget, as they’re affectionately known together).
• www.austinhealeyclub.com – owners’ club for the full Austin Healey range, including the Sprite 
• www.frogeyesprite.co.uk – specialists that cover parts, spares, servicing, tuning and race preparation 
• www.ahspares.co.uk/ – Parts specialist 
 
Summary and prices 
 
With a decent number of Sprites still in existence, there tends to be a reasonable amount of choice on the market at any one time. Prices vary wildly from rolling shells (£7000) to near-mint examples with engine and brake upgrades (£25,000). Clean, completely original models are now hard to come by. When they become available, prices range from £12-£18000 for good examples, and a little more for the best. 
Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite
Last updated: 29th Jun 2016
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Austin-Healey Sprite cars for sale

15 Search results
Austin-Healey Sprite
5750 29950 GBP
  • 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk. I 'Frogeye'

    POA POA

    We are pleased to present this rather interesting Austin Healey (Frogeye) Sprite Mk. I. According to the British Motoring Heritage Trust Certified Factory Record, this Sprite was manufactured as a righthand drive, UK, home-market car and was built on 10 th May 1960 and dispatched to Prynn and Stevens Limited on 12 th May 1960. Factory fitted equipment included front bumpers, toughened glass and a rev. counter. Today, 409 AXU, is presented in the original specification colours of Iris blue coachwork and blue trim, however, this Sprite has, in recent years, has undergone restoration works and upgrades that make it a very usable and fast. A photographic record shows that the car was stripped down to a shell and a lightweight rear end and bonnet fitted. Mechanically, the engine was replaced with a rebuilt 1,275cc unit that included, roller rockers, steel pushrods and Swiftune billet camshaft amongst the usual items required. Fuel is supplied by a single point Jenvey fuel injection system with an Emerald Management System, mapped ignition and a tubular 4-2-1 Stainless exhaust system. Extra items of note are an alternator and negative earth conversion, an oil cooler, aluminium radiator,

    • Year: 2016
    For sale
    Historics at Brooklands
  • 1959 Austin Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite

    £24,995 £24,995

    This is a unique opportunity to purchase a truly first class 'Frogeye' Sprite that has just completed a no expense spared, complete nut and bolt restoration. This Sprite MKI was purchased in the US in 2015 and on arrival in the UK was taken to pieces and completely rebuilt from the ground up. The car has been completed over the past few weeks and has so far covered around 70 running in miles. The restorer chose to upgrade specification with a fully rebuilt 1275cc engine and front brake discs that make this is a pretty quick, responsive 'Frogeye' that does stop efficiently. The car is truly magnificent in every respect and is beautiful in appearance. The body is outstanding with wonderful panel fit and car structurally as new with steel bonnet, straight panels and a wonderful straight underside. The paint finish is first class, chrome work is new, as are the Minilight style wheels. The underbody is painted like the top of the car and is beautifully detailed, just like the engine bay. The condition should be good enough to win shows and events. The upholstery has been superbly trimmed, the hood and frame are brand new and the car also has a new set of sidescreens. The spare wheel com

    • Year: 1959
    For sale
  • 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite MK1

    £12,995 £12,995

    The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small open top sports car that was announced in 1958, just prior to that years Monaco Grand Prix It was designed as a low cost model (it originally went on sale for just £669) and was the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. This particular example was supplied new on 12th July 1960 to H A Saunders Ltd, London. Finished in Goodwood Green, with 1275cc engine and has been the subject of a previous restoration. Recent new parts include: New Radiator New clutch New wiring harness New fuel pump brake overhaul Uprated suspension – MK2 spec Clean shim and refit kingpins Engine and engine bay detailed Gold Seal engine fitted a couple of years ago Full respray a couple of years ago Comes with soft top and side screens Fibreglass bonnet

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
  • Austin Healey Sprite MKIII '65

    £8,484 £8,484

    The Austin-Healey Sprite , a small open sports car,was produced in the UK from 1858 to 1971, in 4 successive versions. It was intended to be a low-cost model, yet the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The 2 first series was first produced at the MG factory at Abingdon The Mark III Sprite was also marketed as the Mark II MG Midget – differences between the two were again restricted to minor trim detailing. Although still 1098 cc, the engine had a stronger block casting, and the size of the crankshaft main bearings was increased to two inches (engine code 10CC). A new (slightly) curved-glass windscreen was introduced with hinged quarterlights and wind-up side windows. Exterior door handles were provided for the first time, with separate door locks. Though the car could now be secured, with a soft-top roof the added protection was limited. The rear suspension was modified from quarter-elliptic to semi-elliptic leaf springs, which gave a more comfortable ride for a near-negligible weight penalty as well as providing additional axle location, the upper links fitted to the quarter-elliptic models being deleted. Though scarcely sybaritic, these changes helped

    • Year: 1965
    • Mileage: 32501 mi
    For sale
  • 1960 Austin-Healey Bug Eye Sprite

    £7,637 £7,637

    1960 Austin Healey Bug Eye Sprite 1960 Austin Healey Bug Eye Sprite in red with black interior. Comes with the soft top, side curtains, solid wheels, manual transmission and rear luggage rack. Lots of patina. Excellent original California car. For $11,750 If you have any additional questions Please call 310-975-0272 or email with any questions! We also welcome all international buyers. We can help with shipping quotes and arrangements.

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
  • 1959 Austin-Healey Bug Eye

    £9,425 £9,425

    1959 Austin-Healey Bug Eye Sprite 1959 Austin-Healey Bug Eye Sprite in red with burgundy interior. Comes equipped with a 4 speed manual transmission, dual carburetors and 8 spoke wheels. Excellent original car. Same owner for many years. Mechanically sound. For $14,500 If you have any additional questions Please call 310-975-0272 or email with any questions! We also welcome all international buyers. We can help with shipping quotes and arrangements.

    • Year: 1959
    For sale
  • 1960 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite MK I

    POA POA

    (SOLD) Completed at the Austin-Healey Works in January of 1960, this Sprite MK I "Bugeye" was configured as a US market left hand drive example. Its early history remains unknown, but by the 1990s the Sprite was in Texas with an Austin-Healey enthusiast. Here it was treated to a meticulous restoration, and tastefully upgraded to a serious performance car. The original 948cc engine was removed in favor of a 1,275cc unit, and a supercharger installed to feed it, while Minilite-style alloy wheels, white-faced Smiths gauges, and a sports steering wheel were fitted to give the car an appropriately racy look. This beautifully presented Sprite offers much-improved performance, charming looks, and should be a fun companion on the backroads for a relatively modest investment.

    • Year: 1960
    • Mileage: 484 mi
    For sale
  • 1970 Austin Healey Sprite with Heritage Shell and 5 speed Gearbox

    £9,950 £9,950

    Supplied new in in September 1970 to Kennings of Ealing London Fully restored using a Heritage bodyshell and with little use since 1275cc Engine with Type 9 Conversion 5 Speed gearbox conversion Retrimmed in black with red piping and head restraints Full weather requirement with full tonneau and hood bag cover Minilite type alloy wheels Chrome bootrack BMHIT Heritage Certificate History file with all invoices from 1991 onwards

    • Year: 1970
    For sale
  • 1960 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite

    £29,950 £29,950

    A multiple concours winner recently imported from Florida this car was originally from Texas where it was bought after a 3 year search for a perfect rust free example . It was then subjected to a restoration over 5 years using only original new old stock parts. The body tub has had no welding at all with a perfect underside showing all the original factory spot welds Immaculate Iris blue coachwork with perfect panel gaps Complete with Factory Works Hardtop Correct grey millboard boot panels with the interior of the boot correctly painted red oxide as they were when they left the factory All UK taxes paid and now has full UK period correct registration ,V5 and fresh MOT It is possible to convert this car to Right Hand Drive in our workshops . We have done several conversions like this on similar vehicles .

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
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