Sprite 1958- 67
BMC introduced the MkI Sprite in 1958 and this low-cost sports car was immediately nicknamed the Frogeye due a pair of reptile like headlight pods mounted on top of the car’s rear hinged one-piece bonnet assembly. The Sprite's styling had been carried out by the Donald Healey Motor Company. Designers Gerry Coker and Les Ireland originally intended the cheeky looking Sprite to be fitted with retractable headlights, but cost constraints imposed by BMC resulted in the complex flip-up mechanism being deleted.
Sprite production took place at the MG plant in Abingdon and this unitary constructed sports car utilised as many parts as possible from the expansive BMC parts bin; such as its A35 and Minor derived front suspension set up. At the rear, a pair of quarter-elliptic springs and lever arm top links soaked up the bumps and cleverly transferred all the rear suspension forces into the Sprite’s sturdy floor pan. Power came from an upgraded 948bhp A-Series engine fitted with a pair of 1” SU carburettors and the MkI Sprite’s one-piece bonnet made access to engine extremely easy.
Like its larger 100- 6 sibling, creature comforts were basic – there were no exterior door handles on the Sprite and the lack of an opening boot lid required the luggage area to be accessed from behind the seats. However, what the Sprite lacked in comfort it made up in the performance stakes, as with only 43bhp on tap the lightweight Sprite had a more than adequate top speed of nearly 83mph.
The MkII Sprite came on the scene in 1961 with the headlights positioned in a more conventional position at the end of each front wing. An opening boot lid in the restyled rear end was a huge improvement and mechanical updates included a pair of larger carburettors that increased power output to 46.5bhp. The badge-engineered MG Midget now joined the heavily revamped Sprite and in October 1962 the Sprite received a useful boost when the 1098cc A-Series engine was installed. Power was now up to 65bhp and a stronger gearbox was introduced to deal with the extra torque.
In 1964 the MkIII Sprite was introduced, with the main improvements being to the interior trim. Wind up windows and opening quarterlights now replaced the draughty removable side screens and the rear suspension was modified to include semi-elliptic leaf springs. The final incarnation of the Sprite was the 1966 introduced MkIV, the most notable change being the adoption of a folding soft top that could be stowed behind the rear seats. BL dropped the Healey connection in 1971 and the final batch of cars were badged as Austin Sprites.