Buying Classics Abroad
Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite
The monocoque body will be expensive to repair, especially as the front section is one piece of metal. Watch out for shoddy welds. The box-section strengthening pieces around the bulkhead are a hotspot for rust, as are the wheelarches and sills. Also check the metal is solid around the hinges.
Some have tuned Mini engines, but the originals are 948cc, 43bhp units from the Austin A35, with twin SU carbs. Look for blue smoke on the over-run (a sign of worn valve guides), and inspect the oil filler for emulsion (indicating water in the oil).
Ask the seller whether the halfshafts have been replaced. Oil leaks are often found coming from the differential, so make sure it’s fully topped. Work the four-speed manual gearbox hard.
RUNNING 4 GEAR
Although the suspension and running gear are derived from the Morris Minor, they were sharpened up for the Sprite, so be suspicious of flimsy handling. The kingpin bushes will wear if they haven’t been regularly greased, and the leaf springs can break.
The MkI Sprites lack a bootlid, so luggage tends to be piled behind the front seats, causing wear and tear. Carry out the usual checks for water ingress and functioning dials. The earliest cars also have fragile windscreen surrounds.