Austin-Healey Sprite

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Nick Larkin

EN­GINE 948cc/4-cyl/OHV POWER 43bhp@5200rpm TORQUE 52lb ft@3300rpm MAX SPEED 86mph 0-60MPH 20.5sec FUEL CONS 32-35mpg TRANS­MIS­SION RWD, four-speed man­ual MoT 12 months on sale ODOME­TER 5 miles (new speedo just fit­ted) WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

This left-hand drive car is prob­a­bly as close to driv­ing a new Austin-Healey Sprite as you can get, since most of its steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and brakes have been re­newed. The car feels ea­ger, pulls well, and han­dles a lot bet­ter than you might think, in view of the fact that it re­lies on Austin A35 com­po­nents. These cars aren’t that fast, re­ally, but that doesn’t seem so when you are be­hind the wheel. The gearchange is beau­ti­fully pre­cise and the Mount­ney steer­ing wheel has a re­as­sur­ing chunky feel to it, the steer­ing it­self free of play and sen­si­tive to even mi­nor driver in­puts. The clutch is light and the brakes cause no alarm, pulling the car up cleanly.

BODY­WORK CHECK

The Lo­tus-sourced red paint has been com­pleted to the high­est stan­dard – there’s not a sin­gle no­tice­able flaw any­where. Even a good look in the door shuts re­veals noth­ing un­to­ward. The vast curved bon­net/wing clamshell can’t be the eas­i­est thing to paint but again we could find noth­ing amiss. The car has new sills, and the rest

HOW’S THE IN­TE­RIOR?

The Sprite’s in­te­rior is nearim­mac­u­late – we al­most screamed with glee when we found a small scuff on the steer­ing wheel’s leather rim and a cou­ple of mi­nor chips on the spokes. The in­stru­ment panel and the in­stru­ments them­selves are as-new, right down to the la­bels ex­plain­ing what the var­i­ous switches are for. The car­pets, seat cov­er­ings and door­trims have all been re­newed and a new lam­i­nated wind­screen has re­cently been fit­ted, but we couldn’t get the Re­al­is­tic ra­dio to work.

UN­DER THE BON­NET

There’s very lit­tle to re­port in here. A pipe from one of the air fil­ters could do with a rag be­ing passed over it and the ra­di­a­tor – which looks like a re­con­di­tioned orig­i­nal – has a lit­tle white dis­coloura­tion on it, but shows no sign of leak­age or over­heat­ing. The oil and an­tifreeze are clean. Re­cent work in­cludes a re­place­ment cylin­der head and a re­con­di­tioned gear­box.

THE CCW VIEW

Just about every­thing on this car – which is be­lieved to have been im­ported from the USA around five years ago – has been re­newed or re­placed, ac­cord­ing to a writ­ten tes­ti­mo­nial and a hand­ful of bills within the his­tory file. It’s not quite con­cours but all the work that’s been done to the car has been com­pleted to an ex­tremely high stan­dard. Be­ing a left-hooker might put some off, but is any other car more fun to drive?

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