Austin-Healey Sprite


Austin-Healey Sprite

Infobox Automobile
name = Austin-Healey Sprite


assembly = Abingdon, England
manufacturer = Austin-Healey
parent_company = British Motor Corporation
production = 1958-1971
129,347 made
class = Sports car
layout = FR layout
body_style = 2-door roadster
related = MG Midget

The Austin-Healey Sprite is a small open sports car which was announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) on 20th May 1958, just before 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, which received a royalty payment from the manufacturers BMC. It first went on sale at a price of £669.

The Sprite used a mildly tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down.

Mark I

Infobox Automobile generation
name = Mark I
Frogeye/Bugeye


production = 1958-1961
48,987 madecite book |last=Sedgwick |first=M. |authorlink= |coauthors= Gillies.M|title=A-Z of Cars 1945-1970|year=1986 |publisher=Bay View Books |location=Devon, UK |id=ISBN 1-870979-39-7]
designer = Donald Healey
engine = 948 cc "A-Series" I4
related =
wheelbase = Auto mm|2032|1cite book |last=Culshaw |first= |authorlink= |coauthors=Horrobin |title=Complete Catalogue of British Cars |year=1974 |publisher=Macmillan |location=London |id=ISBN 0-333-16689-2]
length = Auto mm|3480|1
width = Auto mm|1346|1
height = convert|47.25|in|mm|abbr=on (with hood up)

The British Mark I Sprite was known as the "Frogeye" in the U.K. and the "Bugeye" in the U.S. because of its distinctive headlights mounted on top of the centre bonnet (hood). The mounted headlights were not actually part of the original car design; they were originally going to be mounted into the front of the car so they could "flip up" when they were in use, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use. However, mounting production costs lead to the flip-up headlight idea being abandoned and so the headlights were simply mounted in a permanent upright position giving rise to the car's most distinctive feature.

The front sheet-metal assembly – bonnet and wings – was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. Both the 43 bhp, 948 cc engine (coded 9CC), rack and pinion steering and suspension were derived from the Austin A35 & Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 1 1/8" inch SU carburettors. 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. There were no exterior door handles - you reached inside to open the door. There was also no boot (trunk) lid, and access to the spare wheel and rear storage was gained by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners.

The Sprite's chassis design is notable in that it was the world's first volume-production sports car to use integrated construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The two front 'chassis legs' which project forward from the passenger compartment, however, stop the shell being a full monocoque.

Engine:
* 1958–1961 - 948cc cc "A-Series" I4, 43 hp (32 kW) at 5200 rpm and 52 lbf·ft (71 Nm) at 3300 rpm

A car was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1958 had a top speed of convert|82.9|mph|km/h|abbr=on and could accelerate from 0-convert|60|mph|km/h|abbr=on in 20.5 seconds. A fuel consumption of convert|43|mpgimp|L/100 km mpgus was recorded. The test car cost £678 including taxes of £223. cite journal | authorlink = Unsigned |title = The Austin-Healey Sprite| journal =The Motor| volume = | pages = | date = May 21 1958]

The BMC Competition Department entered Austin Healey Sprites into major international races and rallies. Private competitors competed successfully in Austin Healey Sprites. Because of its affordability and practicality, the Austin Healey Sprite was developed into a formidable competition car, assuming many variants by John Sprinzel, Speedwell and WSMdn. The Sebring Sprite became the most iconic of the racing breed of Austin Healey Sprites. Many owners use their Austin Healey Sprites in competition today, fifty years after its introuction.

Mark II

Infobox Automobile generation
name = Mark II


production = 1961-1965
31,665 made
engine = 948 cc later 1098 cc "A-Series" I4
related = MG Midget MkI
wheelbase = Auto mm|2032|1
length = Auto mm|3305|1
width = Auto mm|1346|1
The Mark II used the same 948 cc engine (engine code 9CG) but with larger twin 1 1/4 inch SU carburettors and a close-ratio gearbox. The bodywork was completely revamped, with the headlights migrating to a more conventional position in the wings, either side of a full-width grille. At the rear, styling borrowed from the soon-to-be-announced MGB gave a similarly more modern look, with the added advantages of an opening boot lid and conventional rear bumper bar. The result was a far less eccentric-looking, but more attractive car which carried little extra weight. In contrast to the 'frogeye', they are sometimes referred to as 'square-bodied' Sprites by enthusiasts.

An MG version of the car was introduced in May 1961 as 'the new Midget', reviving a model name which had been a great success for the MG Car Company in the 1930s. The Midget was to prove more popular with the public than the Sprite and by 1972 had completely supplanted it within the BMC range. In October 1962 both Sprites and Midgets were given a long-stroke 1098cc engine (engine code 10CG), which was also fitted in single carburettor form to the Austin A40 and Morris Minor 1000 (which nevertheless remained the Minor 1000). A strengthened gearbox with Porsche (baulk-ring) synchromesh was introduced to cope with the extra power - a heady 56 bhp. Front disc brakes were also introduced at the same time and wire wheels became an option.

Innocenti also produced their own version of the Sprite, using the standard production underframe (initially shipped out from England), but clothed in the sharpest of Italian suits, styled by the American Tom Tjaarda, then working at Carrozzeria Ghia. The Innocenti 950 Spider and later 1100 Spider were produced from 1961 until 1968.

Engines:
* 1961–1964 - 948 cc "A-Series" I4, 46 hp (34 kW) at 5500 rpm and 53 lbf·ft (72 Nm) at 3000 rpm
* 1962–1964 - 1098 cc "A-Series" I4, 56 hp (42 kW) at 5500 rpm and 62 lbf·ft (84 Nm) at 3250 rpm

Mark III

Infobox Automobile generation
name = Mark III


production = 1964-1966
25,905 made
engine = 1098 cc "A-Series" I4
related = MG Midget MkII
wheelbase = Auto mm|2032|1
length = Auto mm|3461|1
width = Auto mm|1397|1
The Mark III Sprite was also marketed as the Mark II MG Midget - differences between the two were again restricted to minor trim detailing. Though still 1098cc, 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. Though scarcely sybaritic, these changes helped the Sprite and Midget compete with the recently-released Triumph Spitfire.

There was a short run of vehicles (unknown number) in late 1963 with the Mk II body/interior but with the Mk III undercarriage/suspension modifications.

Engine:
* 1964–1966 - 1098 cc "A-Series" I4, 59 hp (44 kW) at 5750 rpm and 65 lbf·ft (88 Nm) at 3500 rpm

Mark IV

Infobox Automobile generation
name = Mark IV


production = 1966-1971
22,790 made
engine = 1275 cc "A-Series" I4
related = MG Midget MkIII
wheelbase = Auto mm|2032|1
length = Auto mm|3492|1
width = Auto mm|1397|1
Besides receiving the larger 1275 cc engine (which disappointed enthusiasts by being in a lower state of tune than that of the Mini-Cooper 'S'), the Mark IV and its cousin the Mark III MG Midget had several changes which were more than cosmetic. Most notable is the change from a removable convertible top, which had to be stowed in the boot, to a permanently-affixed, folding top of greatly improved design, which was much easier to use. Separate brake and clutch master cylinders were fitted, as car manufacturers' thoughts began to turn to making their products safer.cite book |last=Cardew|first=Basil |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show|year=1966 |publisher=Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd |location=London |id=] On US market versions the larger engine sacrificed some of its performance through the use of smog pumps and other modifications to comply with federal emission control requirements.

Engine:
* 1966–1971 - 1275 cc "A-Series" I4, 65 hp (48 kW) at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft (98 Nm) at 3000 rpm

The Sprite was cancelled in 1971, being sold as simply the Austin Sprite that final year. There was no direct successor, as BL's extensive range already contained the similar MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire roadsters. The later MG Midgets, built from 1975-79, used the 1500 cc Triumph Spitfire engine, which had already been re-engineered to meet US emission controls, and a gearbox from the Morris Marina. They also had large, ugly black bumpers which were designed to meet the American '5 mph' impact regulations. Enthusiasts often refer to Sprites and Midgets collectively as "Spridgets".

UK 50th Anniversary Celebration

On 24 May 2008, the Official UK Golden Anniversary of the introduction of the Austin Healey Sprite, "Spridget 50 - The Big Party" was held at the British Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, Warwickshire. Up to 1000 Sprites, Midgets and derivatives were in attendance - a record number. The event was jointly organised and promoted by the UK's Midget and Sprite Club, Healey Drivers Club, MG Owners Club, Austin Healey Club and MG Car Club - the first time an event of this size has been supported by all of the marque-representing clubs. More information and many photographs at http://spridget50.org/index.php

References

*cite book | author=John Heilig | title=MG Sports Cars | publisher=Motorbooks | year=1996 | id=ISBN 0-7603-0112-3
*cite book | author=Ray Bonds | title=The Illustrated Directory of Sports Cars | publisher=Motorbooks | year=2003 | id=ISBN 0-7603-1420-9

External links

* [http://www.austinmemories.com Austin Memories]
* [http://www.mgcars.org.uk/midget.html MG Midget Home Page]
* [http://www.mgcars.org.uk/midgetspriteclub/index.html Midget and Sprite Club]
* [http://www.Sprite-MidgetClub.org/ "50 Years of Spridgets" USA Celebration!]
* [http://www.Sprite-MidgetClub.org/ Sprite - Midget Club USA]
* [http://www.spritespot.com/ SpriteSpot.com]
* [http://www.healey.org/ Austin-Healey Club USA]
* [http://www.spriteparts.com.au/ Information and parts for Sprites and Midgets]
* [http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/bv/sprite.htm Excellent Sprite article]
* [http://www.geocities.com/austinterrot/ Ads, pictures, vintage articles...]
* [http://www.britishcarforum.com British Car Forum]
* [http://www.spridget50.co.uk Spridget 50th Birthday Party] Gaydon, UK, May 2008
* [http://www.healey-weekend.co.uk Sprite 50th Birthday Event] Goodwood, UK, May 2008
* [http://www.a-serious.com Forum For All A-Series Cars]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Austin-Healey Sprite — Mk I dite «frogeye» Constructeur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Austin-Healey Sprite — Der Austin Healey Sprite ist ein Roadster der britischen Automobilmarke Austin Healey. Der Sprite wurde 1958 von der British Motor Corporation vorgestellt und in vier Modellserien bis 1971 gebaut. In dieser Zeit entstanden 129.347 Exemplare. Das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Austin Healey Sprite — Der Austin Healey Sprite ist ein Roadster der britischen Automobilmarke Austin Healey. Der Sprite wurde 1958 von der British Motor Corporation vorgestellt und in vier Modellserien bis 1971 gebaut. In dieser Zeit entstanden 129.347 Exemplare. Das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Austin-Healey — Текущий владелец: Nanjing Aut …   Википедия

  • Austin Healey — Logo Austin Healey 3000 Austin Healey ist eine britische Automarke. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Austin-Healey — Logo Austin Healey 3000 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Austin-Healey — is a defunct British sports car maker. The marque was established through a joint venture arrangement, set up in 1952 between Leonard Lord of the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and Donald Healey, a renowned automotive… …   Wikipedia

  • Austin Healy — Austin Healey Logo Austin Healey 3000 Austin Healey ist eine britische Automarke. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Austin (Automobile) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Austin. Austin était un constructeur britannique, créé en 1906. La marque, abandonnée en 1988, fait aujourd hui partie du patrimoine de Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. Logo de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Austin Motor Company — Austin (automobile) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Austin. Austin était un constructeur britannique, créé en 1906. La marque, abandonnée en 1988, fait aujourd hui partie du patrimoine de Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. Logo de …   Wikipédia en Français


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.