‘FROGEYE’ SPRITE

Th­ese early, chirpy Sprites are as ir­re­sistible now as they ever were. But with the pound in the dol­drums, is it still worth im­port­ing them?

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - Theo Ford- Sagers

Of the 48,987 MkI Sprites pro­duced, fewer than 10,000 were built for the UK. Like many other Bri­tish road­sters of the post-war years (Sprite pro­duc­tion be­gan in 1958) the ‘Frogeye’ found its big­gest fan­base in the USA – where the name ‘Bug­eye’ is more of­ten used.

Like many other ex-pat cars from the era, many have al­ready been shipped to Euro­pean buyers look­ing for a rust-free ex­am­ple. But are there any left out there, and has our limp ex­change rate ru­ined the vi­a­bil­ity of im­port­ing?

There’ll still a mar­ket for im­ports, reck­ons Gor­don El­well of Clas­sic Re­vival, an es­tab­lished Frogeye spe­cial­ist in Not­ting­hamshire (fro­geye­sprite.co.uk, 0115 966 3762). ‘ We’re not see­ing as many be­ing im­ported from the States as there were 15 years ago, but I wouldn’t say they’ve dried up,’ he says. ‘Peo­ple are still do­ing it.’

The Sprite was a bud­get road­ster in its purest form, but mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions are com­mon, and many heav­ily-modded cars can be found in the USA. It’s not un­heard of for the wheel­base to be ex­tended to en­able their own­ers to ac­tu­ally fit in them, while more sub­tle tweaks in­clude glass­fi­bre bon­nets.

Head­line-grab­bing im­ports in­clude the orig­i­nal press car, PBL 75, from Australia (where a few RHD Sprites were orig­i­nally built from CKD kits, mainly dur­ing the later years of pro­duc­tion) and an ex-works car with a his­tory of rac­ing at Se­bring in 1959, com­plete with pro­to­type four-wheel disc brakes. Cars with such high-pro­file his­to­ries will al­ways be worth im­port­ing if you have the bud­get.

Closer to home, a few Sprites are sprin­kled around Europe, es­pe­cially in Ger­many, Italy and the Nether­lands. Of the 22 ex­am­ples listed on CCW’s web­site clas­s­ic­cars­for­sale.co.uk, most are either re­cently im­ported (from the USA or South Africa) or are re­cently-re­stored UK cars. A few project cars have been im­ported from Amer­ica in re­cent years, but for this to be worth­while, you re­ally need to know your Sprites in­side out, and have con­fi­dence that the car is struc­turally sound – oth­er­wise why bother?

Right-hand drive con­ver­sion can be per­formed at Clas­sic Re­vival, and re­quires orig­i­nal RHD com­po­nents such as the dash­board to be sourced (the steel dash has never been re­made).

‘It’s a small mar­ket, but there aren’t that many very good ones around,’ says Gor­don.

So if you have your eye on an over­seas stun­ner, it just might be worth bring­ing it home.

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