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