Car News & Reviews

Austin-Healey Sprite: Mark I, Mark III And Mark III Models


Austin-Healey Sprite is an open sports car that was introduced on 20 May 1958 before the Monaco Grand Prix that was held later that year. Manufactured by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and designed by Donald Healey Motor Company , the small car was aimed to be a cheap model and successor of the Austin Seven’s Sporting Versions.

History of Austin Healey Sprite

Austin-Healey Sprite was first sold for £669 with the low price being made possible by the use of a modified version of the engine of the Austin Series and other components from already existing cars. This sports car was manufactured at Abingdon’s MG car factory which explains why an MG version called the Midget emerged later, following the huge success of Austin-Healey’s design. Sprites and MG Midgets are commonly called “Spridgets”.

Mark I

In the UK, the small Austin-Healey Sprite quickly became known as the Frogeye while US citizens called it the Bugeye since its headlights were fixed on top of its bonnet. Its designers had initially intended to have the headlights being retracted when not in use─ where the lenses would face skyward─ but the cost cutting by BMC resulted to the abandonment of the flip-up mechanism .Consequently, the headlights were fixed in a permanent upright position, giving the sprite a very unique feature.

Other features of Mark I

The bonnet and wings of this Austin-Healey Sprite model was a one-piece unit that swung up to provide access to the engine compartment. The sports car had a 948 cc OHV engine that was derived from two existing BMC models, Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000, with the only addition being twin 1⅛ inch SU carburetors .The pinion steering was also derived from the Model Minor 1000 model with the front suspension being obtained from Austin A35. Mark I did not have exterior door handles.

Austin Healey Sprite

Mark II

Mark II also had a 948 cc engine though with larger twin 1¼ inch SU carburetors, which is why it was more powerful the Mark I. The designers completely revamped the bodywork, with the headlights being placed at a conventional position on both sides of a full-width drill. The rear styling of this Austin-Healey Sprite model was heavily borrowed from MGB ─that was still under manufacture─ which gave it a modern look , with distinctive features such as a conventional rear bumper bar and an opening boot lid .

As a result, this sprite was a little less eccentric-looking car with 100 lbs additional weight. Later models of Mark II are called square-bodied Sprites.

Mark III

This Austin-Healey Sprite model was marketed as Mark II MG Midget with differences between them being only small trim detailing. It had a 1098 cc engine with a relatively strong block casting. The size of the crankshaft main bearings was two. Mark III had a slightly curved-glass windscreen, hinged quarter lights and wind-up side windows.

Differences between Mark III and previous models

Mark III had exterior handles as well as separate door locks. While this Austin-Healey Sprite model could be secured, the extra protection was still restricted due to the soft-top roof. The designers modified the rear suspension from quarter-elliptic to semi-elliptic leaf springs, giving a relatively more comfortable ride for a small additional weight, and providing extra axle location.

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Categories: Austin

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