Austin-healey Sprite MKI

This nicely re­stored Fro­g­eye with a straight body and good me­chan­i­cals is al­most like a new one, says Paul Hardi­man

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This Fro­g­eye was given a baremetal restora­tion over an ex­tended pe­riod from 2002. The com­pre­hen­sive his­tory file in­cludes a photo-record of the re­build. To­day’s Cherry Red didn’t go on un­til 2011, since when the car has cov­ered only a few hun­dred miles. Ac­cord­ing to the Her­itage Cer­tifi­cate the car was specced from new with a tachome­ter, heater, screen wash­ers, front bumper and tough­ened win­screen.

The restora­tion kept as much of the orig­i­nal bodyshell as pos­si­ble; it’s very straight down the sides and the doors fit well. The car has had new sills and var­i­ous re­pair sec­tions but much of the floor­pan is orig­i­nal, as ev­i­denced by the fluted rear-fac­ing drain holes and the orig­i­nal jig brack­ets that pulled the bodyshell down the pro­duc­tion line.

The spring boxes are solid, the front cross­mem­ber only lightly dinged and there ap­pears to be no rot in the struc­ture. The paint is all good, with the in­evitable faint mark on the rear deck where the hood has rubbed (and which pol­ishes out) and a small sink mark on the other side.

Tyres are well-treaded Fire­stone F590s, and there are larger front brakes from an Austin A40. Front wish­bones are new, with lots of grease ev­i­dent about the front trun­nions and king­pin nip­ples. There are only a cou­ple of tiny oil weeps from the mo­tor and gear­box, and none from the axle. The fuel tank and ex­haust are new.

The bright­work is mostly good, though with some scrape/pol­ish marks on the alu­minium wind­screen pil­lars (the rub­ber seal is a bit per­ished too) and some light speck­ling on the left rear over­rider.

In­side, the car­pets and vinyl are new as is the hood. The side-screens are prob­a­bly orig­i­nal but in good con­di­tion.

The en­gine is a later 1098cc backed up by a match­ing stronger ribbed-case gear­box, but it looks iden­ti­cal to an orig­i­nal 948cc unit, with orig­i­nal Coop­ers air fil­ters, brass heater tap and tachome­ter ca­ble drive from the back of the dy­namo and a pe­riod-look­ing black bat­tery. It still sports its orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor too – re­pros have four flutes in the top tank and this has three. The oil is fresh and the coolant is full with a good green colour.

It starts in­stantly with lit­tle choke and drives nicely, with a use­ful bit more urge than the orig­i­nal 948cc. The ride is taut al­most to the point of bouncy, the gearchange is par­tic­u­larly nice and the brakes eas­ily pow­er­ful enough to squeal the front tyres, though it does pull slightly to the right when you lean on them hard. Oil pres­sure sits at 70psi at revs and temp at 180 deg F, but the am­me­ter doesn’t work. The seller is cor­rect­ing the slightly mis­aligned steer­ing wheel.

This is about as close to a new Fro­g­eye as it’s prac­ti­cally pos­si­ble to get and it will be sold with a new MOT.

Car­pets and vinyl are new

Big­ger 1098cc A-se­ries is fit­ted

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