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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

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Austin-Healey Sprite
5750 29950 GBP


    Frogeye Sprite...............1959 and all the hard work has been completed.......chassis work sorted and the steering and suspension has been reconditioned and new components fitted where required. The project is complete and has a choice of standard engine or a 1275cc unit ready to go.;A delightful little car making serious money when finished.

    For sale
    Villiers Classics
    07464 881 001 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Austin Healey Sprite Frogeye MK1 '59

    €24,950(£22,245.42) €24,950(£22,245.42)

    The Austin-Healey Sprite was announced to the press in Monaco, just before de 1958 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 in Abingdon. In 1961 the Sprite was joined by a badge-engineered version version, the Midget, reviving a model name used by MG from the late 1920s through to the mid 1950s. Enthusiasts often refer to Sprites and the later Midgets collectively as "Spridgets." 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, which Never happened. the problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey's chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell's floor pan. The Sprite's chassis desi

    • Year: 1959
    • Mileage: 1974 mi
    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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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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