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

Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite: review and buying guide (1958-1961) Classic and Performance Car
Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite
Few cars look quite as happy as the Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite, and thanks to its hugely lovable nature – owning one has been known to give any owner an equally large grin! On modern roads the Sprite looks absolutely tiny too, adding to its almost toy-like appearance.
While it’s fundamentally the same car as the later MG Midget, the Frogeye Sprite offers a unique character that is simply charming, not to mention a whole lot more distinctive. While values are higher, the Sprite remains a very strong proposition for the DIY enthusiast – which means it’s actually one of the cheapest classic cars to run and maintain.
Then of course there’s the fun that can be found sitting behind the wheel. This is not by any means the ultimate performance machine, but it’s low, lightweight and extremely direct. Its small size also makes brilliant on the UK’s smaller back lanes that can often feel too narrow in anything more moderna and powerful.
While the history of the model is interesting, you can thank the penny pinching at parent company BMC for its most distinguishing feature. 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, in-line four-cylinder
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 

• www.midgetandspriteclub.com – Large owners’ club for the Sprite and Midget
• 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 at about £7000 to near-mint examples with engine and brake upgrades for £25,000. Clean, completely original models are now hard to come by. When they become available, prices range from £12,000-£18,000 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: 16th Feb 2017
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Austin-Healey Sprite cars for sale

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Austin-Healey Sprite
5750 29995 GBP
  • Austin Healey Sprite Cabriolet 1966


    *** THIS CAR HAS BEEN SOLD *** Please contact us if you were interested in this car. Our inventory is constantly changing and we will have similar examples of this model becoming available soon. ----------------------------- Austin Healey Sprite 1966 black in good condition 1966 Austin Healey Sprite. The car is in a beautiful and well maintained condition. Colour black in combination with the red interior, very chic. Paint, chrome, interior, soft top etc are very neat. The car has the original engine, drives excellent. The car has wire wheels, wooden steering wheel and chrome luggagerack. Since 1978 in Holland and only 2 owners since then. A very beautiful and nice Austin Healey Sprite. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1966
    For sale
    E&R Classic Cars
    +31 416 751393 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Austin Healey Sprite Mk 1 948cc

    £22,995 £22,995

    About this Austin Healey Sprite Mk 1 948cc The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small open sports car which was produced in the United Kingdom from 1958 to 1971. 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. Our Mark 1 'Frogeye' was first registered on 07/07/1959 and according to the registration document has had 3 owners since. Photos detail a full bare metal rebuild where the car was stripped back to its bare components and fully restored. Now looking splendid in Old English White with contrasting red interior and red tonneau, the car is ready for a new keeper....

    • Mileage: 27000 mi
    For sale
  • 1959 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite

    £29,995 £29,995

    This stunning original RHD UK supplied Austin Healey ‘Frogeye' Sprite MKI was first registered on the 10th July 1959 and has had just four owners from new. The Frogeye spent many years off the road and in 2015 was subject of a total nut and bolt restoration. Since completion the car has covered just 775 miles, 150 of these on the rolling road and it was driven to us from the Wakefield area without hesitation. WXX 707 has had an absolute fortune spent on rebuild; £20,000 has been spent alone on parts before labour. Invoices and photographs are available to support this. £9,000 alone was spent having a brand new Wheeler and Davis Stage 3 bodyshell which includes a new steel bonnet, doors and rear wings. The engine was rebuilt by a race engine builder, John Toovey of Toovey Racing. The gearbox was stripped down and rebuilt by a South Yorkshire specialist and the car built up with a brand new interior, brand new weather equipment, new wiring and electrics. The Frogeye was painted in the ever popular Iris Blue and Dark Blue upholstery has been used offering a lovely combination. The Sprite MKI has a perfect, as new underside that has been professionally clear waxoyled at Rustbusters and

    • Year: 1959
    • Mileage: 775 mi
    For sale
  • Austin Healey Sprite

    £24,990 £24,990

    Variant name:SPRITE ,Variant: (Sprinzel Sebring Replica) ANDY CHAFFEY’S SPRINZEL SEBRING SPRITE PROJECT: After purchasing a new bodyshell from Wheeler & Davies, Andy fitted an Archers' fibreglass rear body section, with a Sebring Coupé top and bonnet. A roll-cage was installed along with some new bonnet hinges and battery box. Next stage was the painting of the bodywork in gun-metal grey similar to that of Paul Woolmer's PMO200. The garage that carried out the bodywork (John Brooker of Leeds near Maidstone, Kent) also fitted the aluminium front wheel arches into the car, these were also purchased from Archers Garage. Peter Caldwell front adjustable shock absorbers were fitted along with original Armstrong ‘22’ adjustable lever rear shock absorbers. Then the powder coated rear axle with 3.9 Limited Slip Diff mated to uprated Peter May wire wheel halfshafts, and new MWS wheels all round. Wolseley 1500 backplates for 9" drums were also fitted. The front brake calipers are KAD billet 4 pots using mintex metro turbo pads. The Next jobs were to fit the handbrake after it had been re-chromed and the main brake/fuel lines inside the car, like 410EAO. The Gauges were refurbished and the wiring loom made by Autosparks. Next was the 1380cc fast road engine built by the famous Bill Richards (Ex BMC works technician based in Ashford, Kent) with a single DCOE45 side draught webber carb. A 7.5" racing clutch on a lightened, balanced flywheel has been fitted with a straight-cut gearbox built by Hardy engineering using a straight cut gear set supplied by Magic Midget along with a fast road clutch supplied by MED engineering. PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW FOR FOR LOTS MORE INFORMATION ON THIS FASCINATING VEHICLE

    • Year: 1965
    • Mileage: 800 mi
    • Engine size: 1.4
    For sale
  • 1960 Austin Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite

    £18,995 £18,995

    757 BOJ was first registered on the 18th May 1960 and spent much of its early life in the Greater London area, based in Eltham, SE9 and later Bushey in Hertfordshire. By 1976 the 'Frogeye' was registered in the North West where it has spent the majority of the past 40 years, moving between Lancaster, Carnforth and the Lake District. We initially brought the 'Frogeye' in through part exchange for a Triumph TR6 in May 2015, collecting it up in the Lake District. We sold the car immediately to one of our regular customers in South Yorkshire and carried out a high level of preparation work to include new track rod ends, new radius arms, rebuilt brake calipers, new rear wheel cylinders, rebuilt rev counter and replacement ammeter, top hose, ignition switch and choke cable.

    • Year: 1960
    • Mileage: 4000 mi
    For sale


    1961 AUSTIN HEALEY SPRITE MK1 (FROGEYE) Superb example in Iris blue,with dark blue interior.Fresh from professional,marque specialist restoration to an exacting standard of originality. More details to follow shortly. Please enquire for further details.

    For sale
  • Austin Healey Sprite MKI Frogeye 1959


    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Austin Healey Sprite MKI Frogeye 1959 in good condition 1959 Austin Healey Sprite MKI. Interior and body are both in a beautiful and well maintained condition. Its round headlights gave it the nickname Frogeye or Bugeye. The 948 cc 43 hp engine is in a very good condition, runs and drives superb. The car has a new interior, new softtop, new chrome and new tires. When you are looking for a nice english roadster, this one is a good choice. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

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


    (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
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