Austin-Healey Sprite (1958 – 1971) Review

Austin-Healey Sprite (1958 – 1971) At A Glance


+Cute (especially in Mk1 'Frogeye' form), cheap to run, easy to keep on the road thanks to MG commonality, fun to drive

-Its smallness can be worrying for people used to driving modern cars, rust is an ever-present issue, performance isn't great on unmodified cars

The original Frogeye Austin-Healey Sprite was a cheap and cheerful sports car that appealed to enthusiasts all over the world. Those ‘frogeye’ headlamps were initially planned to be retractable until it was realised that would put the price up - and retaining them in that positio proved to be an inspired decision.

Underneath the skin the car was mainly a blend of Austin A35 and Morris Minor. But sue to its low weight, it was still an entertaining car to drive with reasonable performance - and sold at a bargain price. But its austerity was a little too much for some customers - it didn't even have a bootlid, so more civilised versions would follow.

The first upgrade came in 1961 with the Mk2. It was an effort to modernise the Sprite and make it more practical. Unfortunately, it also took away some of the car's character and novelty. It was still affordable and enjoyable, and at least passengers now had an opening boot to put a limited amount of luggage in. Improvements same thick and fast - from 1962, there was a larger 1098cc engine plus front disc brakes, but buyers had to wait until the 1964 Mk3 of 1964 for door handles and winding windows.

In 1966 the ultimate Sprite was launched. The Mk4 now boasted a 1275cc engine giving 65bhp and near-100mph potential. A proper hood improved things still further. The 1969 styling update saw the introduction of black sills and Rostyle wheels, but the Sprite was sadly not long for this world: the end of BMC’s arrangement with Healey in 1971 meant the final few cars were badged Austin Sprite.

Its sibling, the MG Midget, sold well until 1979.

Ask Honest John

How complicated is it to export a British car from the UK to France?

"My brother who is French and lives in France would like to buy a right-hand drive classic car. He is torn between a Triumph Spitfire and a Healey Frogeye. Which one would be more reliable - he can spend a maximum of £25000. How complicated is it to export a British car from the UK to France?"
Both are fantastic models. I'd recommend he drives both to see which he prefers. Personally, we'd take the 'Frogeye' but the Spitfire is marginally easier to work on. Both have pretty good parts availability. As for reliability - by this point in its life, a car is really only as reliable as it's previous owner. If it's been looked after, regularly serviced and looked after, any classic will prove a reliable friend. But please do remember that these are old cars - as such they're not quite designed for the rigours of modern motoring and their parts are getting worn out and will need replacing. It's not that complicated to export a car from the UK to France, but it's always worth doing your research and talking to people who have done it to find out what issues they experienced. As for what impact a 'no deal' Brexit would have on this process, we'll have to wait and see...
Answered by Keith Moody

How do I apply for tax and MoT exemption on my SORN'd 1967 Austin Healey Sprite?

"I purchased a 1967 Austin Healey Sprite Mk4 in September 2017 and it has since been SORN'd. How do I apply for tax and MoT exemption when it comes into effect in May 2018 if I cannot get the relevant forms?"
To change the tax class of your vehicle, you'll need to apply at a post office (one that handles tax). You'll need the V5C in your name (if not, you'll need to complete a V62 form and pay £25). You should also take along form V11 if you have it. Your car is MoT exempt so you'll need to fill in a V112 form. You can download and print the forms from the DVLA website or request that they are posted out to you. If you don't have access to the internet at home, your local library or a family member should be able to help.
Answered by Keith Moody

Is a Smart Roadster a future classic?

"Is a Smart Roadster Brabus a future classic?"
Sure is. At its heart, this Smart is similar to roadsters from the late-1950s and 1960s, such as the Austin-Healey 'Frogeye' Sprite and the MG Midget where fun is a key component of its DNA. Its turbocharged 698cc three-cylinder is good for 82PS - Brabus versions get 17-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension, sports exhausts, and a few other bits and pieces. Oh, and power is up to 101PS... If you're serious about buying one, you'll need to spend about £5000 and do your homework - water can get into the ECU and the fusebox, calling all manner of problems.
Answered by Keith Moody
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