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Lot 016: Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite

Classic & Vintage Cars & Motorcycles, Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers (13 July 2011)

Designed by Donald Healey in partnership with BMC, the MkI Sprite was launched in 1958 and proved such a hit that it spawned a whole generation of copycat sportscars from the likes of Triumph and MG. Based around humble A35 underpinnings it combined the A35's independent front suspension, four-speed gearbox and quarter elliptic leaf-sprung back axle with the Morris Minor's direct rack-and-pinion steering.

Powered by a twin-carb 948cc A-series four-cylinder engine developing some 43bhp and 52lb/ft of torque, it was capable of over 80mph. The Sprite inspired huge public affection due to its lively road manners and cute 'Frogeye' styling by Gerry Coker and Les Ireland  a happy accident that only came about because the pop-up headlights that the car was designed for proved too costly to mass produce and were changed at the last minute to the fixed pods that so define the car today.

Eminently tunable, the Sprite was developed into a formidable competition car and won many trophies in the hands of both works drivers and privateers. A supercharger kit was available from the Healey works which boosted power to 68bhp and top speed to 96mph. Some 49,987 examples were sold before it was replaced by the somewhat less characterful MkII in 1961.

First registered in October 1958, this particular Frogeye has been in the current ownership since 1989. A large number of bills on file show that the car was extensively restored in the early 1980s and came with many 'correct Healey works parts' including a Shorrocks supercharger, oil cooler, front disc brakes, wire wheels and a long range tank. It was described by the then owner as a 'supercharged Super Sprite', although in fact the supercharger appears never to have been fitted but is still with the car.

The engine was rebuilt in 1989 shortly after the vendor acquired the car, the brakes and suspension overhauled and a new fuel tank and exhaust fitted. Old MOTs show that between 1989 and 1992 the car only covered some 600 miles at which point it was put into storage where it was to remain until earlier this year (the vendor having emigrated). Appearing to remain in good sound condition throughout and said to start and run well with good oil pressure, it will doubtless need some precautionary recommissioning before it is put back into use although it is currently MOTd until February 2012.

It comes with a large amount of technical literature relating to the model; an original owner's handbook; a BMC tuning guide; a British Leyland 'Special Tuning for the Midget and Sprite' guide; an original hardback Healey Sprite workshop manual and spares catalogue; an original lubrication chart and a nice A3 original colour sales brochure. There is also a V5 and a buff log book from 1967 when it was owned by HWH Engineering of London SW12. Altogether an interesting car with some useful upgrades that should prove particularly exhilarating to drive or race should the new owner choose to fit the supercharger supplied.

Lot Details
Auction Classic & Vintage Cars & Motorcycles
Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers, Leominster, Herefordshire
TypeCar
Lot Number016
Estimate£7000-£9000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£8400
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1958
Condition rating0
Registration number112 HYM
Mileage-
Chassis numberANS/5533
Engine number9C/U/H5514
Engine capacity (cc)948
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2