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The Austin Healey Sprite

By Edited Jan 14, 2014 0 0

Despite it's monumental success among large sports cars, Austin Healey is likely remember most for it's smallest and most cost effective vehicle the Austin Healey Sprite. The Sprite introduced by the British Motor Corporation and began rolling off assembly lines in 1958. The compact version of the big Healey sports cars that made Austin Healey popular, the Sprite featured an incredibly affordable of sticker price of £699 or just over a $1000 in American currency.

After the introduction of the MG Midget, Sprites were lovingly nicknamed "Spridgets." These tiny compact cars were easily distinguishable by their two round bug-eye-like headlights that were permanently affixed to their hoods and came to also be known as "Bug Eyes" by Americans and "Frog Eyes" by Englanders.

Austin-Healey did everything in its power to keep production costs of the Sprite low but owners of the Sprite didn't mind that lack of exterior door handles or lack of an outside opening trunk. In order to enter the vehicle one would need to reach over the door and open it from the inside. The trunk was only accessible by folding down the rear seat and the process of retrieving the spare tire was often lovingly referred to as "potholing" by Austin-Healey enthusiasts. The Sprite was powered with a 48 horsepower A Series engine from 1958 to 1961. The design was later upgraded to include twin 1 1/8 inch SU carburetors for additional power.

The Austin Healey Sprite became popular on the racing circuit after winning its class in the 1958 Alpine Rally. The Sebring Sprite, named for the racetrack in Sebring, Florida was designed by saloon race car champ John Sprinzel and was introduced in 1960. The Sebring featured all wheel disc brakes and an aluminum alloy chassis. There were safety concerns over the speed and handling over larger and smaller race cars and the smaller 1000 cc engine cares were allowed to race in a separate four hour race and the Sebring went on to dominate in the smaller vehicle class.

Sprites are still very popular today amongst classic car collectors and race enthusiasts. Despite the short lived success of Austin Healey, which dissolved in 1972 after a 20 year run, the Sprite remains one of the most popular cars because of the sentimentality among Sprite owners.



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